Google during its I/O 2021 annual developers conference released the first public beta build for its Android 12 operating system. From the looks of it, this is one of the most significant updates to the platform since Android 5.0 Lollipop. Though to try it out most people will have to wait till around September for the final build, I did try out the latest public beta on a Pixel 3a and will be sharing my experience here. Also Read - Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Pro, Galaxy Book 3 Ultra specifications leaked ahead of launch on February 1
Before I start with my first impressions, I would like to state that Google with Android 12 is focussing heavily on personalisation and privacy. Also, the company has introduced a major redesign to most UI elements making the user experience feel very smooth. However, as of now, there are a few bugs in the build that are trying to get me to shift back to the Android 11 stable build. Also Read - Android 14 might block outdated apps to help reduce malware attack
Android 12 Beta hands-on: First impressions
Android 12 is one of the operating system’s major updates. The company has stripped the OS and redesigned elements from the ground up, introducing major visual changes, the addition of a new theming engine and much more.
Android 12 looks a lot more modern and personal compared to its predecessor. One of the main reasons behind this is the addition of a new theming engine. This allows the OS to extract the colours of your wallpaper to apply them to the overarching UI elements like the quick settings panel, widgets and more, making each and every phone look and feel different and personal. Moreover, if you do not like how the AI has themed your device, you can go into the settings to customise it to your liking.
This new theming engine was one of the major reasons I wanted to try out the new OS. However, the first public beta build does not include it and I feel that it will only be added in a release closer to the actual launch. This is sort of a letdown.
Google also showcased new widgets and a new home screen layout during its presentation. However, those are also unavailable as of now.
All of these new customisation options are a reboot of the Material Design into what Google calls the Material You design.
One of the major design changes that we do get to see and I prefer a lot more than the current iteration is the quick settings panel. The new quick settings panel looks a lot more welcoming and accessible. Google has removed the small circular setting icons and the small brightness adjustment bar. Instead, it has added long rectangular buttons along with a large brightness adjustment bar. These large quick settings look much more aesthetic and easy to use. Below the quick toggles, you will get three buttons: edit, settings and power. The power button is missing as of now, this we will get to see in later beta builds.
Android 12 brings in a new clock, which you will find on the lock screen and on the always-on display page. The clock is dynamic and adjusts according to your notifications. If there are notifications, the clock would appear on the top left corner, however, as soon as you swipe off all notifications, it will take the centre stage and increase in size. I liked this new dynamic clock a lot.
What I did not like was the newly redesigned PIN pad, which almost looks like Samsung’s calculator app. Moreover, they removed the transparent background, showing you a plain white screen while entering your pin. This is a design element, I am in the favour of Google rolling back.
Another thing I am not liking about the first public beta is all of the bugs like the background music detector not working properly, tapping on boxes showing pixels and more. However, signing up for a beta version meant I was signing up for these too.
Most of the privacy features are not present on the first beta build and will come later. The most interesting out of all the privacy features will be the new privacy dashboard, and the notifications for the microphone and the cameras being used. The Privacy Dashboard will showcase all of your apps along with all permissions they are using. It will also give you control to revoke any permissions on the spot. Notifications for the microphone and the cameras while in use will show up as a little green pill on the top-right corner of the display. If you want more details as to which app is accessing the microphone or the cameras you can simply tap the green pill. There you can also revoke access from the apps. Other than these, we will get to see features like location approximation and more. However, I will not like to comment on these features before I get to test them.
Disclaimer: It is not advised to install Android 12 Public Beta 1 on your primary smartphone. This is because the build currently has a lot of bugs and issues, which need to be ironed out and might hinder the working of your device. It is recommended that you install the beta on a secondary smartphone if you want to try out the upcoming OS.
You can check out the steps to install Android 12 Public Beta 1 by clicking here.
Android 12 Beta hands-on: What do I think
I like everything that I have seen so far with the Android 12 Public Beta 1 and am extremely excited for Google to release the final build of the OS. I feel that the new “Material You” design philosophy brings in a much-needed refresh to the UI, making it much more elegant and easy to use. This does make me excited about the future of Android.