Unofficial Android 12 changelog: Every new feature spotted (so far) in Developer Preview 1 – Android Police

Unofficial Android 12 changelog: Every new feature spotted (so far) in Developer Preview 1

Android 12 is now upon us — or, at least, the first Developer Preview is. We’ve seen all the in-your-face easily visible changes, the subtle tweaks, the deeply hidden features, and everything in between. There’s still plenty left to discover between changes still in development and upcoming releases. In some cases, not even Google fully knows how things will turn out later this year. But, in the meantime, here’s everything we’ve spotted in Android 12 so far.

For a bit of context, Android 12 DP1 is merely our first and earliest glimpse at Google’s upcoming adjustments for the platform. At least 7-8 more builds are planned before the final release, so we’ve barely touched the surface of what to expect when Android 12 lands later this year, and everything we’ve seen is subject to change. Although we can pick out the direction certain features may be heading in, our understanding is incomplete. Much of our current knowledge is based on “hidden” features (presumably, still in development) that have been manually enabled, and they even have a whole section just below. In short: It’s very early, and everything we know could change at the drop of a hat.

Note that the organizational logic for the features listed below is also subject to change. As new releases land, different categories may ultimately be more appropriate. Expect to see individual features shuffled around between sections over time — the “Hidden” features probably won’t stay hidden forever.

One last thing. Before we jump in, I’d like to thank you, our readers, for your regular tips and support. Covering all the changes in Android 12 would be much, much harder without your help, and we ❤️ you.

What’s new?

The list below is currently up to date as of Android 12 DP1. Note that some sections are a little lean on content. That’s primarily because the things that will plump them out are still hidden — and, therefore, listed in the “Hidden” category until they make an official appearance. Still, depending on how you count, there are over 70 features as of DP1, which is more than usual for the first preview.

In the future, we’ll be noting new additions to our changelog up here in this section, letting you quickly and easily parse changes between releases. But as of now, everything on the list is new. To keep things brief in the meantime, changes are simply listed below.

The Android 12 feature list

Entirely new Android 12 features

Most of the big headlining changes are still “hidden,” so expect this section to be plumped out later.

“Hidden” and upcoming Android 12 features

  • Android 12’s big visual redesign
    • “Material NEXT:” The evolution of Google’s Material Design language apparently going to debut with Android 12.
    • Theming
      • An early report alleged that Android 12 would be adding a new theming system that would even modify the appearance of other apps (if they supported it).
      • Later mockups showed off what may have been a themed interface and other UI changes that could potentially be Pixel-specific as part of a new “Silk” or “Silky” theme.
      • Wallpaper-based themes in Android 12 were then spotted in testing and manually enabled. The system, called “Monet,” can pull colors from your wallpaper and dynamically create a theme that works with it, covering both the Settings app, notifications, subtle elements in the lock screen, and more.
    • Lock screen adjustments 
    • Notifications
    • Widgets
      • New Conversations Widget: Spotted first in a leaked mockup, Android 12 has a hidden “Conversation” widget, in development under the “People Space” name that can pull things like communications from the Google Messages app.
      • Widget stacks: Hidden and disabled by default in DP1 is a new feature to enable side-scrolling widgets — at least, for Google’s own At a Glance smart space.
    • “Silky Home” settings layout: Android 12 has a hidden “Silky Home” mode, which can be enabled via ADB and adjusts how the Settings app looks to resemble Samsung’s OneUI. It could be a Pixel-exclusive change, something tied to Android 12’s theming system, or part of the larger Material NEXT redesign.
  • Privacy, including privacy indicators and toggles
    • New privacy indicators: Android 12 may show dots or icons in the corner of your screen at certain times, indicating when apps are accessing your camera or microphone. Yes, it sounds just like the iOS feature that debuted last year, but Google’s actually been working on this since Android Q, and a leaked Android 10 GSI from 2019 even had the feature. Now, with Android 12 in 2021, we might finally get it.
    • New explicit warnings that the camera and mic are about to be turned on: It’s currently hidden, but Android 12 may ask you every time you want to turn your camera or mic on for an app.
    • New quick settings toggles to disable Camera and Mic: Potentially related to the new privacy indicators still in development, Android 12 also has hidden dedicated quick settings toggles to control both the microphone and camera.
    • Permissions Usage dashboard: Spotted all the way back in Android Q, this feature gives an overview of which apps are using permissions. It has appeared again in Android 12 DP1, though it’s hidden, disabled, and labeled as “internal only.”
    • App tracking crackdown: Google says it may match Apple’s commitment to app-based tracking and customer privacy, popularized by the recent Apple vs. Facebook drama, but there aren’t any signs of changes in Android 12 (outside minor things like the MAC ID lockdown, etc.).
  • App pairs: Cloning a feature from Samsung phones, Google has been working on the ability to manage a pair of apps together as one while multitasking with multi-window mode, which could come in handy for both tablets and Android foldables.
  • Improvements to third-party app stores: We haven’t seen any changes live just yet, but Google promised last year that it would make it easier for folks to install third-party app stores on Android, without compromising on user security.
  • “Hibernation” for unused apps: A new system in Android 12 can optimize apps for storage in a “hibernated” state — seemingly if they go too long without being used, but it could be a manual process.
  • Restricted networking mode: Spotted in development earlier this year, Android 12 may get a feature that locks down networking permissions to just a handful of privileged system apps, though we aren’t sure how it will manifest in a user-facing way.
  • Fonts and emoji decoupled from the system: Android 12 may let us finally update fonts and emoji separately from the system itself. That means you wouldn’t have to wait on a manufacturer update to enjoy the latest emoji.
  • One-handed mode: First spotted in development before Android 12 actually landed, DP1 includes the hidden feature, which clones Apple’s Reachability with a vertical height adjustment for one-handed use — this is in contrast to most other Android solutions which scale things both vertically and horizontally.
  • Picture-in-picture tweaks
    • Picture-in-picture “stashing:” A new feature in Android 12 may let you “stash” a picture-in-picture window partly offscreen as needed.
    • Picture-in-picture resizing: Google is adjusting how picture-in-picture resizing works on Android 12. Instead of the corner drag, things like a double-tap and pinch will be able to adjust dimensions.
  • “Letterbox” feature: We don’t know how it will work or what it will look like, but Google is working on a method to place an app inside a frame or window with adjustable colors and corners.
  • Better Dark Theme support for app splash screens: If apps support it, Android 12 may be able to generate better Dark Theme-compatible splash screens when they’re launched to help prevent you from being suddenly blinded at night.
  • Runtime resource overlay improvements: Android 12 allows for on-the-fly generation of RROs. For end-users, this could be what powers Android 12’s upcoming theme system, but developers may find other applications.
  • Game Mode: Android 12 may finally add a first-party Game Mode similar to that already implemented by other smartphone manufacturers, with things like an automatically-engaged Do Not Disturb mode, locked screen brightness/auto-rotation, and more.
    • This will likely include a dedicated toolbar, which was spotted in development in DP1, though it could be Pixel-exclusive.
  • Face-based auto-rotate: An AI/camera-powered feature that may debut with Android 12 (or potentially land as part of a Feature Drop update — we aren’t sure) will be able to adjust auto-rotation to take into account the angle of your face as you look at your phone. So even if you’re on your side, your phone won’t blindly accept gyroscope data and rotate to landscape unless that’s how you’re holding it.
  • Scrolling screenshots: After years and Google’s mercurial attitudes, scrolling screenshots are in Android 12 — hidden and broken, but they’re there.
  • Machine learning-augmented gestures: Android 12 has a new on-device machine learning model that seems to be tuned to refining how gesture navigation is triggered — currently and specifically, with variable tolerances for the back gesture.
  • Rear double-tap gesture: First rearing its head all the way back with Android 11, the long-awaited rear double-tap gesture for Pixels may finally land with Android 12.

Visual changes

  • New blue Settings: Potentially tied to Android 12’s theming system (and, therefore, it could be subject to change), but Android 12 has a new blue-ish look to the Settings menu.
  • New toggles: Android 12 rolled out a visual redesign for big top-of-list category toggles that include a secondary icon indicator for their state beyond color and position — potentially useful for accessibility, especially if the upcoming theme system doesn’t play nice with colorblind-confusable colors.
  • Custom notifications can no longer theme the entire notification: Android 12 changes the customizable area for notifications to be a little smaller, ensuring greater consistency with other visual elements like app name/header and expanding/collapsing indicators.
  • Android 12 lets you hide/mask the hole punch on the Pixel 5: Pretty self-explanatory, but Android 12 allows you set the display cutout setting in developer options to “Hide” for the Pixel 5, 4a, and 4a 5G, making the status bar black and solid in a way that hides it.
  • Dark theme is no longer AMOLED black: Android 12 makes things gray again, perfect for emphasizing every inconsistency in your smartphone’s OLED display at minimum brightness at night. (Not a fan, if you can’t tell.)

Privacy and security changes

Modifications to existing features

Developer-facing changes

  • Apps will open faster from notifications: Android 12 will force developers to use a better system when calling their apps from a notification which should be much faster.
  • Better support for rich content: A new unified API allows you to pull content from a clipboard, keyboard, or even just drag and drop. There’s more to it than that, but in short, users can move content like photos or videos between apps even more easily in Android 12.
  • HEVC and HDR transcoding: Android 12 will allow apps to work with the new format, even if they don’t directly support them, converting between HEVC or HDR and AVC on the fly, and it’s easy for developers to implement. For you, that means fewer issues playing back content recorded on other devices.
  • Android 12 is also coming to Android TV: Probably to be expected.
  • AVIF image support: Android 12 adds support for the new container format, which can hit a higher quality at lower sizes compared to older formats.
  • New Mainline modules
    • Android Runtime is a Project Mainline module now: Google has further broken out system components into Play Store-updatable modules in Android 12, including the core Android Runtime (ART). This means more system bits can be updated for security once your phone stops getting regular updates, and critical updates for related components can be deployed more quickly than once per month.
    • Transcoding is a mainline module now, too.
  • Peer-to-peer connections coexist with an existing Wi-Fi connection: As long as your hardware supports it, Android 12 can maintain a peer-to-peer connection together with your existing Wi-Fi connection, which could be a boon for things like smart home device setup.
  • Ultra-wideband APIs: System-only for now, but Android 12 will have support for the new ultra-wideband hardware popularized by Samsung and Apple.
  • Improved Binder IPC calls: This means potentially faster performance for certain apps doing certain things.
  • Native ImageDecoder can decode GIF and WebP: Cutting down reliance on third-party libraries, ImageDecoder can pull all frames from animation files now.
  • Foreground service restrictions: Apps targeting Android 12 that are running in the background can no longer start foreground services outside a handful of special cases.
  • SDK lockdown: As with each Android release, Google is deprecating a handful of undocumented SDK interfaces/APIs.

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