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Some of the biggest changes in Android 12 have already leaked

Updated Feb 16th, 2021 7:11AM EST
Android 12 Release Date
Image: Google

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  • Google’s Android 12 Developer Preview release date must be near, as a series of reports have just detailed the main changes coming to the new operating system update.
  • Goole is working on several design and UI changes that will concern the overall appearance of the OS, the always-on display, lock screen, and Quick Settings menu.
  • Additionally, Google plans to introduce a smart autorotate feature that might use the selfie camera to detect the user’s head orientation, a dedicated Game Mode, and a One-Handed Mode.

It’s a little too early to get excited about Android 12, especially as some people are still waiting for their Android 11 upgrade to drop. But Google is close to releasing the first Android 12 Developer Preview version, the first Android 12 beta targeting developers. This sort of event occurs early in the year, with a public beta release planned later in the spring, around Google’s I/O event. While Google is yet to announce Android 12 and reveal some of its features, some Android 12 features leaked in the past few weeks. But we now have a series of reports detailing some of the significant changes Google has planned for Android 12, including design updates and new features.

It’s xda-developers that obtained a treasure trove of information about Android 12, building upon their previous Android 12 leaks that detailed the new user interface and privacy changes Google is testing for Android 12.

The blog explains that Android 12 is preparing ”many UI changes” in what’s informally called “Material Next” design.

Google is planning changes to the Always-on Display and Lock Screen layouts in Android 12. This could include changing the location of notification items, shifting the clock view and smart space to the top, and adding the Pixel’s Now Playing text to the rotating text on the lock screen.

Other UI changes concern the Quick Settings panel. Icons for quick settings could be displayed in only two columns going forward. A Reduce Brightness tile might appear in the Quick Settings menu. The feature might target those with visual impairments.

Google is also working on a new default splash screen window to be added to apps that lack splash screens. The automatically generated splash screen would match the light or dark theme and could improve launch experiences on Android devices.

Finally, Google could make it even easier for people to customize the appearance of their phones. The Android’s Runtime Resource Overlay (RRO) would require APK apps packages to be installed on the device to activate themes. But Android 12 can generate those RROs “on-the-fly,” allowing users to possibly customize the look of their phones and tablets without resorting to an app.

Google is also working on a one-handed mode UI that would be available on Android 12 devices. Android vendors have already implemented their own display shrinking tools, and Google aims to pull off a similar trick, which would allow it to offer users the one-hand operation mode they might crave. While there are no images to show the feature in action, the report explains that Android 12’s one-handed mode would reduce the screen size to 40% of its screen size. A new gesture to trigger the mode will be coded in the software.

Other UI changes will impact the Picture-in-Picture (PiP) mode and multitasking. Users will be able to pair apps that will open simultaneously in split-screen mode via a new App Pair feature. The PiP changes concern new ways to resize the windows. Pinching to zoom and double-tapping will let you resize PiP videos. A new “stashing” feature will let users temporarily hide most of the PiP screen by dragging it to one of the edges.

The bubbles that arrived in Android 11 will get new UI tweaks. Google is working on new animations for the bubbles and ways to change their sizes and the positions on the screen.

More exciting is the new smart autorotation feature that’s now in testing. According to 9to5Google, the feature might use the front-facing camera to determine the position of the user’s head before changing the orientation.

Xda also notes that Google is developing a Game Mode for Android 12, a “service to manage game-related features.” The feature will help “manage the game mode and persist the data” across reboots. This could mean that Game Mode will manage basic settings like brightness, autorotation, Do Not Disturb, and other features and remember the settings for future gaming sessions.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.