Android 12 review: Google’s updated operating system with many changes

A year has passed since the release of the Android 11 operating system from Google, so the time has come for the release of the new version – Android 12. There are no more sweets in the names, but the set of new functions is truly “tasty” – there are even more of them than usual. Android 12 is already available to try out on the latest Google Pixel models, and many more smartphones will be updated soon.

Android 12 features the largest design rethink in years. The interface has completely changed, and many elements depend on the wallpaper you choose. The animations are now smoother and smoother, with the Privacy Panel, scrolling screenshots, a new notification panel, and more.
True, while all these functions are available only on Pixel smartphones – it is not known which of them other manufacturers will decide to keep. This is always the case with Android updates, so be prepared if anything is missing on your Android 12 version. This mainly concerns the interface – internal and main functions should migrate to all phones.

Android 12 review

Smart themes

Themes have long been one of the main ways to change the Android interface. But the approach is the same on all shells, including Android 12.

There is a store for topics where programmers post their developments, and users download them. This is a normal decision if you are ready to scroll for a long time and choose the most suitable from hundreds of options. But what if there was a way in which it was enough to set the wallpaper, and the system would somehow adjust the rest of the interface itself?

Android 12 review


This is exactly what Google did in Android 12. The OS determines the dominant and complementary colors of your wallpaper and creates a theme for the entire interface on the fly. Everything changes: colors, widgets, notification panel, volume sliders, settings menu, and so on.

Google called this approach Material you… Material Design appeared on Android many years ago and has evolved a lot. Now the appearance of the operating system is not only attractive, but also customizable. Also, Google slightly updated the fonts, appearance of windows and sections in the menu, making them more modern. Android 12 probably has the nicest design in OS history.


Interface customization

While Android 12 is capable of automatically configuring the entire interface, you can do it manually if you want.

Android 12 review

In the Settings for this there is a whole section “Wallpaper and style”, which is integrated with the Wallpaper application from Google. You will be presented with many categories, each with a huge selection of images for home screens. And if you don’t want to choose, click on the button in the upper right corner – the operating system will install new wallpapers from this category every day.
The default colors are Wallpaper Colors, where, depending on the image, one to four color palettes are offered. You can choose and Base colors with four options, after which this shade will become the main color in the automatically created theme.
In the same section, there is the Theme Based Icons option. So far, only in beta, as indicated by the icon next to the setting. The appearance of the icons will change in accordance with the theme, but so far this applies mainly to standard applications from Google. This feature has a lot of potential, but right now the beta label is fully justified.
The Dark mode also remains – it also matches the automatically created theme and makes the interface light or dark. For some reason, this setting can be found in three places at once: in the sections Wallpaper and style, Display and Accessibility. In the first, the Dark mode is simply turned on, and in the other two, you can set a schedule.


Theme-based apps

The auto-generated themes in Android 12 extend beyond the operating system interface.

Google’s standard apps also slightly change their appearance. For example, when you set a new wallpaper, the Gboard keyboard will be the same color as the rest of the system. The same goes for Calendar, Docs, Drive, Gmail, Chrome, and other Google services.


Thanks to this, the design of the entire operating system is unified, and it is pleasant to use it. However, third-party apps look a little foreign – until the developers update them. Whether this will happen is unknown, because a lot will depend on which smartphone manufacturers add automatic themes to their skins.
It is curious that the action button “+” in Google applications is now square with rounded corners, and its color is less contrasting relative to the background. The same goes for the bottom panel – the current section is outlined with an oval in a slightly different shade.

New widgets

Widgets in Android 12 also change according to themes – but again, this is only for Google apps right now.

The API for widgets has been improved so you can interact with checkboxes, radio buttons, and buttons, rather than just open the app on click. When choosing widgets, a preview is available in all sizes.
For standard Google apps, the widgets have been updated to match the Material You design – rounded corners, more modern fonts, and the same colors as the main theme. The most interesting widget is in Messages – you can pin any dialog to your desktop and instantly see a new message.

Android 12 review

Notification panel and quick settings

The new version of Android does not come out without changing the notification bar – this has already become a tradition. Android 12 is no exception.

Surprisingly, the quick settings panel has also become different – now you can find the inclusion of Google Pay and control of the Smart Home in it. The panel itself has become huge, and the first time you swipe down, you will see only four icons. In terms of design, this solution looks nicer, but in terms of functionality, it is a step backward. Even with the full disclosure of the panel, you will see only eight icons – and after all, on some shells, the first swipe opens access to six functions.

Android 12 review


Wi-Fi on Android 12 is simply called the Internet, and this is where the mobile network and Wi-Fi settings are brought together. Since each icon now occupies half of the horizontal space on the screen, you will see an icon to the left of the name showing the connection method. When the quick setting panel is fully opened, the name of the network appears under the icon. Clicking on the icon below will display a menu with all available networks, as well as a network disconnect button.
The notification bar has slightly differently rounded corners, and the type of each notification is easy to spot at a glance. Some dialogs can be given the highest priority, after which Pixel Launcher will ask you if you would like to add a widget with this dialog to your home screen. Notifications now show animated images, and you can send a picture in a message directly from the notification bar.

Lock screen

In terms of functionality, the lock screen on Android 12 hasn’t changed, but the interface is slightly different.

If there are no notifications, almost the entire screen takes up huge hours. If there is an unread message, the hours are a little less – so you can instantly determine if something new has arrived.
The same approach is implemented in the always-on display. Here you will see the current date, day of the week and weather above the clock. Below is the charge level, which for some reason is not on the lock screen.


Improved search

Search in the updated Android 12 has also changed, now the search bar is in the app drawer.

Moreover, now the operating system searches not only among the names of applications, but also from contacts, dialogs, widgets and even settings. Moreover, in some cases, access to certain functions is given – for example, when you search for the word “camera”, you can immediately take a video or a selfie.
This all works thanks to a new API called AppSearch, a high-performance offline library that can be used by third-party developers. If the search on your smartphone did not give the desired results, in the same window you can click on the bottom panel, which will continue the search in Google. This is very convenient, although many users may not even be aware of the presence of an Internet search here at first.

Android 12 review


It’s strange that the standard Google search bar on the home screen can’t do the same – it immediately searches the internet. As a result, Android 12 has two similar search bars that perform completely different functions. It would be much more convenient to have one common panel, but for now you have to remember each time which of the two searches you need.

Recent apps and hibernation

On Android 12, there are also innovations in the Recent Apps menu.

If the focus is on an application with an open web page (for example, a browser), a Share button appears in the upper right corner. It allows you to copy the URL and send it somewhere. If there are videos or images on the page, you can quickly share those too. It is also possible to pass the name of the Wi-Fi network and the password to whoever is near you. Go to Wi-Fi settings, select a network and click Share.

Android 12 review


Another new feature in Android 12 is App Hibernation. If you have not used it for a long time, you can put the application into “deep sleep”, after which it will take up less space in the internal storage. All permissions are also revoked at this point. You can manually put the application into hibernation or let the operating system do it after a certain time after the last launch of the application. To return the application from this state, you just need to go into it. In Settings, you can disable hibernation altogether.

Display functions

If your smartphone screen seems too light at night even at minimum brightness, you will definitely be delighted with the new feature of Android 12.

It is called Extra Dim – Extremely low brightness, and is located in the quick settings panel. Press, and the brightness will fall below the minimum possible value that the normal slider offers.
If you hold this icon for a while, a window with function settings will open. Here you can change the intensity and make the Extra Dim option turn on after you restart your smartphone. You can also assign activation to pressing and holding both volume keys. The function is very convenient, and I would like other manufacturers to leave it.

Android 12 review

For people with vision problems, Android 12 has a Magnifier – it enlarges the desired part of the screen, while other elements remain the same.
The auto-rotate display has become more thoughtful. Now it is not easy to enable and disable this function – you can make it work with face detection. The front camera is used for this, and this solution is ideal when you are lying on your side in bed. On previous versions of Android, landscape orientation is activated in this situation, but thanks to the new feature, the screen will remain in portrait mode.
Google promises that photos of your face are never saved or sent anywhere. The function itself is not new – some shells from other manufacturers have it for a long time.

Screenshots and picture-in-picture

Another feature that has long appeared on many Android skins is now available on Android 12 – scrolling screenshots.

Finally, they became part of the official version of the OS from Google. The essence of this function is clear from the name – when you save the screenshot, the button “Continue” will appear at the bottom, allowing you to scroll down the window and save everything in one image.
Picture-in-picture mode on Android 12 has also become more convenient – there are now controls in the video window. Previously, to do this, you had to first click on the window, after which it expanded and showed all the buttons. Double-clicking on the video will switch between the current size and the maximum possible for the screen. On previous versions of Android, this action would put it in full screen mode.
You can resize the window with a standard gesture, two fingers to zoom in and out. In addition, part of the video window in Picture-in-Picture mode can be moved off-screen. To return, simply click on any remaining area of ​​the window.

Virtual car key

Like Apple, Google wants you to use your smartphone to open your car doors. This feature appeared in Android 12.

Android 12 review

Google has partnered with a number of smartphone and car manufacturers. Now, to open the car, you just need to put your smartphone with NFC to the car door. You can also use UWB technology for this.
If UWB supports your smartphone, then you won’t have to take out the phone at all. You can share virtual keys with friends and family. BMW cars will be the first to support this function.

Power menu and Google Assistant

All unnecessary functions from the power menu on Android 12 have moved to the quick settings panel.

Now, holding down the power button will show only four options: Emergency call, Screen lock, Power off and Restart. You can also make it so that when you press it for a long time, the Google Assistant is called up.
On previous versions of Android, swiping from the bottom corners of the display triggered the voice assistant, which can now be disabled in the gesture settings. If you frequently call the virtual assistant by mistake, this problem can be solved on Android 12.
Android 12 power menu and assistant

Games, Easter eggs and emojis

On Android 12, some games can be launched even before they are fully downloaded, which is convenient if the game weighs a lot.

True, the function will only be available in games where the developers have implemented it. Google has also added two game modes: Maximum Performance and Battery Saver.
Android 12 also did not do without the traditional Easter egg – in the settings go to the About phone section and click on the Android version several times. A giant clock widget will appear in the middle of the screen. Moreover, it is made in accordance with the Material You approach  – it has the same theme as the rest of the interface.

Android 12 review


If you are upgrading to a new Pixel smartphone, all data from the old device can be easily transferred via cable or Wi-Fi, and this method even works with an iPhone. Also on Android 12, many new emojis have appeared and all the old ones have been updated – there are more than 1000 of them.

System optimization

For the operating system, not only the interface is important, but also the speed of work. In Android 12, Google has made a lot of optimizations for speedup.

Basic system services load the processor 22% less, and battery life should increase by an average of 15%. The animations on the screen are smoother, the use of Android 12 seems to be more pleasant in general. The operating system is faster not only at the hardware level, but also visually.

Privacy and confidentiality

Google is doing its best to convince users that there is no need to worry about data privacy, which is why Android 12 has a number of changes in this aspect.

In Settings, there are more options for issuing permissions to the camera, microphone and geolocation. On the Privacy Panel, you can see at a glance which applications have been granted certain permissions and at what time. Here you can immediately recall them.
On the right side of the status bar on Android 12, indicators have appeared that are highlighted when using a microphone or camera. In the quick settings panel, you can revoke permissions for them with one click.

Android 12 review


If necessary, you can only share an approximate geolocation – for example, for weather applications. The option is in the same popup that asks you to access the location.
Android 12 introduces an important new technology from Google – Private Compute Core (PPC). It should keep your data private from all applications and services. This is a protected section of the operating system, similar to the section where passwords and biometric data are stored.
PPC currently supports three services, Live Caption, Smart Reply, and Now Playing, which will not be connected to the Internet and will not even be able to interact with other parts of the OS. All the code for PPC to work is in the public domain, so anyone can check its reliability.

Improvements for developers

Google has made many other internal improvements to Android 12 to make life easier for app developers.

The Splash Screen API animates the opening of the application, and the developer can add his own background and icon. Google also introduced a “performance class” system. Depending on the power of the smartphone, certain functions of the OS will be available to it.
Smartphone manufacturers will be able to assign new devices to a certain class and improve their efficiency.

Outcome

Usually, newer versions of operating systems focus on either internal optimizations or interface updates. Sometimes small updates are made in all aspects, as was the case with Android 11. But, Android 12 brings the biggest updates in the history of the operating system for mobile devices from Google.
The only problem is that many of the changes will only be seen by owners of Pixel smartphones – other companies may refuse them. Samsung’s new One UI 4 skin is based on Android 12, although it differs little from One UI 3 on Android 11. In the second beta, Samsung made attempts to integrate automatic themes, which is surprising because the Korean company always has its own vision of the perfect interface.

Android 12 review


It is not yet clear what other manufacturers will do. OnePlus, Oppo and Realme are rumored to be adding automatic themes to their skins too, which is a pleasant surprise. It would be a shame if such an interesting feature remains only on smartphones from Google and a few other companies that prefer pure Android.
At the same time, Android 12 OS is good not only for the interface, but also for its internal optimizations. A lot of privacy features and convenient APIs for developers have appeared, and the speed of work has become noticeably faster. Anyway, the update is significant and it will be interesting to see variations of the new Android system on other smartphones.

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