(Image credit: Google)

First demoed last month, and due for release in the autumn, Android 12 is already finding favour with users and experts. It’s a release with some really significant changes. Here are a few…

UI refresh

It’s always exciting when a new look and feel is unveiled, and though it’s always looked pretty fresh, Android hasn’t actually changed its appearance much in the last few years. This latest version makes some pretty dramatic changes.
This is Google’s demonstration of their latest UI system, which they call Material You:

Personalisation has always been a strength of Android. Here, via a technique Google calls Colour Extraction, your entire phone’s colour palette can be switched to tone beautifully with, say, your photo backdrop.

Widgets have a redesign with nice rounded corners. Buttons, too, are more rounded. Animations are smooth. The tray at the top of the screen integrates things like Google Pay for immediate access.

A challenge with prior versions of Android has been that its flexibility has led different parts of your phone to look and feel slightly dissimilar, with a mish-mash of colours and fonts for example. This time Google is at pains to point out that Android 12 will be more unified. It remains to be seen how that might be affected by manufacturers’ customised versions of the OS, or indeed whether it might limit the creativity of app developers; however, the focus on unity is a good one.

 

Third party app stores

I have previously written on TechJuice about Apple’s app store monopoly on their iOS devices; Google has recently been caught up in similar accusations when it comes to Android. With Android 12, Google is looking to address that criticism.

Google correctly points out that Android has always supported multiple app stores. You can install Fortnite for example directly from Epic by installing the Epic Store on your Android device, and Google doesn’t need to be involved in the transaction. And doesn’t need to be given its 30% cut of the proceeds.
Android 12 adds weight to that support by further smoothing the way for third party app stores. A particular problem was that in previous versions of Android, users had to manually update their apps. Now third party app stores will be able to perform updates in the background.

It’s perhaps a little cynical of Google to only be offering this feature now that their practices are starting to be investigated, but these are nonetheless significant developments.

 

Privacy

New privacy controls in Android 12 will allow users to see what features of their phone their apps are using. If an app is silently gathering location information in the background, the notification centre will tell you about it.

New options allow single-use permissions. So if you don’t fully trust an app, you can give it permission to access your camera just once, and if it wants to do so again it will have to ask again.

Global camera and microphone controls in the system tray allow those devices to be switched on and off globally, a bit like NFC, Bluetooth and GPS.

Overall, Android 12 looks to be an exciting update and I am really looking forward to its final release later in the year.