Android 12's huge design revamp and more revealed at Google IO 2021
Android 12 has already arrived in the form of an early developer preview, but at today's Google IO 2021 event we learned a lot more about some of the major changes coming with the software, as it enters its public beta stage.
From what Google has shown off so far, version 12 appears to usher in the biggest visual overhaul of Android in quite some time. Animations and menus are getting more fluidity and movement, and key areas like the notification drawer and the Quick Settings panel have been modernized and simplified.
There's also a feature called color extraction which Google says is "starting" on Pixel devices and may come to other phones later on: it looks at the colors of your phone's wallpaper and adjusts on-screen elements like widgets, menus, and buttons to make the same hues. The video below gives you some idea of how it works.
Away from the visual adjustments, Google says Android 12 has been optimized through some under-the-hood adjustments, and that key processor tasks will take up to 22 percent less time than before. There's a new Privacy Dashboard for an at-a-glance view of app permissions and data access, and some features we've seen in iOS 14 (like status bar indicators when the microphone or camera are in use).
Another nod to protecting user data comes with the Private Compute Core: it's a way for Android to use Google's powerful AI processing while keeping all the personalization information on the local device rather than in the cloud. It'll be deployed in features such as Smart Reply and Now Playing.
The first Android 12 public beta is available now for Pixel phones and other selected devices – head to the official beta site to see if your device is eligible. Not all of the features Google has shown off today will be available immediately, but they should start appearing as we approach the full release of the mobile operating system later in the year.
Google had plenty more to talk about at IO 2021. It's developing new ways for its devices to work together, making its Fast Pair technology available on more hardware, and improving the integration between Android and Google TV, so you can control what's happening on the big screen from your phone.
At long last the much-neglected Wear OS is getting some updates too – and it's now just called Wear, by the way. Samsung and Google are joining forces to add some of the best parts of Tizen (used on recent Galaxy smartwatches) to Wear. Performance, power efficiency and visual improvements are on the way, as well as health and fitness upgrades bought over from Fitbit (which Google now owns).
New Google Maps features are on the way, including more help at difficult intersections and indicators for how busy particular areas are in real time, and the other app Google highlighted today was Google Photos – it will start surfacing your old photos in the Memories section in a more intelligent way, and the service is also getting a locked, passcode-protected folder so you can keep your most private photos safe.