Best Android 12 features announced at Google I/O 2021

With over 3 billion active Android devices worldwide, new details of the Android 12 operating system at Google I/O 2021 naturally grabbed people’s attention. From a fresh design to better privacy, Google showcased what new big features users can expect when Android 12 lands this fall.

Google said during the presentation yesterday that it based the UI elements around feelings, which led to the creation of Material You. Material You builds upon Google’s material design and alters how the system looks according to user interactions. The operating system will dynamically customize the system’s colour palettes by sampling personal elements like wallpapers, and respond to touches with animations. For the latter, Google demonstrated a new ripple effect when the user picked up the phone or when the power button is pressed.

Android 12 lockscreen clock size with notification

Android 12 lockscreen clock size without notification
This is one example of how apps better take advantage of the screen space. Notice how the lock screen clock expands when there’s no notification to display.

Moreover, Google has improved animations by reducing resource background tasks, mainly lock contention in key system services like activity window and package manager. Also, apps now scale better across different display formats and sizes, better utilizing free space.

Beyond the facelift, Google has also redesigned settings access. The pulldown notification shade will be more intuitive with bigger buttons. Google Pay and smart home controls will have their own spaces in Quick Settings. Long holding the power button will summon the Google Assistant.

Google Androd 12's big quick settings menu
No more tiny icons: Android 12 will bring a bigger, bolder Quick Settings menu.

Android 12 will feature a new Privacy Dashboard. Within, users will find a summary of permission settings and adjust them accordingly. No more bouncing between multiple menus to change permissions for different apps. The Privacy dashboard will also present sensor access per app with a timestamp, adding a bit more transparency into what the phone’s doing when the user’s looking away.

Google Android 12 Privacy Dashboard's sensor timeline function
The new Privacy Dashboard presents a timeline of what apps accessed which sensor.

The microphone and camera–two of the most sensitive parts of any smartphone–will be better monitored. When they’re active, Android 12 will display a persistent icon in the top status bar. Users can revoke microphone and camera access for all apps from Quick Settings as well.

Google Android 12 mic/camera indicator
Android 12 will let you know when your mic and camera are on in the background.

Location detection will be split into precise and approximate. While navigation apps like Citymapper need precise location, others, like weather apps, work just fine with approximated locations.

Google Android 12 location precision preferences.
Users can better anonymize their whereabouts by choosing approximate location rather than precise.

Private Compute Core is another big new feature coming in Android 12. Google didn’t delve into its specifics in its keynote, but it’s clear that Private Compute Core isn’t a new security processor like Microsoft Pluton. Instead, it looks to be a software solution that isolates sensitive user data used for local AI processing. Google has made the code for Private Compute Core open source and freely inspectable by the security community.

Up until Android 10, all Android releases corresponded to a dessert. Android 11 didn’t have a public codename, but it was called “Red Velvet Cake” by its dev Team. Android 12 will follow suit. Although it’s just called Android 12 to the public, it’s supposedly known as “Snow Cone” internally.

Android 12 will release this fall, but Google Pixel phones and 11 brands including OnePlus, Xiaomi and TCL already have access to the beta version.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Tom Li
Tom Li
Telecommunication and consumer hardware are Tom's main beats at IT World Canada. He loves to talk about Canada's network infrastructure, semiconductor products, and of course, anything hot and new in the consumer technology space. You'll also occasionally see his name appended to articles on cloud, security, and SaaS-related news. If you're ever up for a lengthy discussion about the nuances of each of the above sectors or have an upcoming product that people will love, feel free to drop him a line at [email protected]

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