The Biggest and Best New Features in Android 12 (and How to Use Them)
The full version of Android 12 was released last week for Pixel devices , and we’ve spent the last few days testing the OS, getting to know its new interface, features and settings. It’s not a huge departure from Android 11, but there are a few changes and new features worth talking about.
New look thanks to the new Material You design
Let’s start with the most obvious change in Android 12: the new theme. Android 12 “Material You” has a completely new look, with larger icons, rounded menus and windows, and smoother animations than Android 11. It also shuffles the layout and builds new features directly into the main user interface. Here are some highlights:
- Custom themes: The content you edit allows users to create their own themes. Go to Settings> Wallpaper & Style to change your phone wallpaper and customize the color of fonts, menus, widgets, and phone icons.
- New widgets and conversation pinning. Speaking of widgets, Android 12 adds several new widgets, including the ability to pin a text conversation to the home screen for easier access. Press and hold an empty space on your home screen, then select Widgets to open the menu.
- Search on the device. Google search bar can now search for files, folders, contacts, text conversations and apps on your phone.
- New emojis: There are new emojis, including updated images for nearly 400 Android emoji .
Best quick settings, notifications and shortcuts
Along with the big changes to Android 12’s user interface in general, Google has redesigned and reorganized the quick settings menu and notification drawer, adding several new shortcuts, a new layout, and several improvements.
To see the new quick settings menu, swipe down from the top screen to open the main shortcuts and the notification panel. From here you can:
- Tap Internet to open Internet connection settings, where you can quickly switch between Wi-Fi networks and enable or disable mobile data.
- Click GPay to access your Google Pay wallet.
- Turn on Do Not Disturb.
- Turn on / off Bluetooth.
Swipe down again to expand the full quick settings screen. You can also swipe down with two fingers to open the full quick settings screen. The full menu includes additional shortcuts and media playback controls.
- Tap the pencil icon to customize quick setting shortcuts. Several new options are available, such as switches for dark theme, super dark mode, data save mode, and more.
- Tap the Settings icon to go to your device’s settings menu.
- Tap the power icon to display the on / off and restart buttons.
There are several new shortcuts available here, so be sure to take a few minutes to customize the layout to your liking.
Take scrolling screenshots
Now for the larger functions besides the interface. First, there is the new Scrolling Screenshot feature. When you take a screenshot on an Android 12 device (press the power button + volume down button), you can now tap “Capture More” to take a screenshot of most of the screen as a scrolling screenshot.
One-handed mode is an accessibility feature that changes certain gesture controls, menus, and screen layout for better one-handed use. It is available under Settings> System> One-handed Mode.
Game mode for increased productivity and concentration
Android 12 includes a new “game mode” that tweaks your system and hardware settings to improve game performance. Game mode also blocks notifications, as does Do Not Disturb. You can turn on Game Mode in Settings> Notifications> Do Not Disturb and Schedules> Games . You can also add a dedicated game mode switch in the quick settings menu.
Multi-window support for Google Chrome app
The Google Chrome browser mobile app gets a unique feature of Android 12: multi-window support. While you can already have multiple tabs and tab groups open in Chrome Mobile, you can also have multiple windows open at the same time. They act as separate instances of the app on your phone.
Analog clock display
While it’s not a highlight feature, Google has added a neat Easter egg to Android 12’s settings menu that opens up the clock’s “analog” display. Go to Settings> About Phone and tap Android Version several times in a row until the clock appears. While it’s not much – it’s literally just a clock – you can move the hands of the clock, and if you set it to 12:00, something will happen. Try it.
New privacy controls
Google has also added new privacy controls in Android 12 to help you restrict the permissions and types of data your apps can access.
- Microphone / camera on / off shortcuts and indicators: If you are using an app with microphone or camera permissions, you can now quickly turn these features on or off in the quick settings menu. The notification icon is also displayed whenever the camera or microphone is in use.
- Privacy Panel: Google has added a new privacy panel that shows the permissions apps have used in the last 24 hours. It’s available in Settings> Privacy> Privacy.
- More options for location data: You now have the ability to provide apps with “accurate” or “rough” location data. Accuracy is naturally more accurate, but few applications really require accurate geographic positioning to work. You can choose which type of location data to use when an app first requests permission for location data, or you can adjust settings for apps you’re already using in Settings> Privacy> Permission Manager> Location “.
- Login Credential Management: You can view and manage all saved login information on your phone in Settings> Passwords & Accounts . This includes login credentials stored by Google and third-party password managers.
New gesture controls
Finally, Android 12 modifies several pre-existing gesture controls and adds several new ones. Please note that some of these are only available for Pixel devices.
- View open apps: You now swipe up from the bottom-right corner of the screen to see all currently open apps.
- Google Assistant Power Button Toggle: Press and hold the Power button to bring up Google Assistant. You can change or disable this in Settings> System> Gestures> Press and hold the power button.
- Quick Tap (Pixel phones only): Double-tap the back of your Pixel phone to perform a specified action, such as invoking Google Assistant or launching a specific app. You can customize it in Settings> System> Gestures.
- Auto-rotate with camera (Pixel 4 and newer only): Auto-rotate uses your phone’s camera to determine the correct orientation for your current situation (this happens locally on your device and no data is saved or transmitted to Google).
- Haptic feedback for media: While not a gesture, in essence, you can enable haptic feedback for media such as music and games, system sounds, and ringtones. You will be prompted to enable haptic feedback if your media, app, and your phone support it.
How to download Android 12
Android 12 is available now, and you can try out all the features we’ve covered above (and those we might have missed) right now. At least you can if you have a Pixel 3 or newer. Google says Android One devices will be next in line for the update, and it is slated to roll out to the latest OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Samsung, Tecno, Vivo and Xiaomi devices in late 2021 and 2022.
Google Pixel owners who are ready to update can check if Android 12 is available for your device and run the update in Settings> System> Advanced> System Update> Check for Updates.
[ Gizmodo ]