Google I/O – Android’s annual developer conference – was this past week, and Google showed off some new features that will be in Android 12 when it is released later this year.
Certainly the most noticeable is the new user interface. The big new feature here is that the UI components can take on colors your wallpaper automatically. Additional new UI features include redesigned widgets, a new “stretch” effect when users reach the end of a list, and better audio transistions when switching which app is playing audio.
You can get a sense of some of the new widgets and the color-changing feature in this Android 12 teaser video:
Android is also getting some more privacy-focused features (similar to those already in iOS).
These new features include the ability to easily see when an app is using the mic or camera (and easily stop an app from accessing them), the ability to give “broad” (rather than “precise”) location information for apps that don’t need a precise location, a notification when an app accesses the device’s clipboard (this is a great (and eye-opening) iOS feature), and improvements to Android’s permission reset feature.
There’s nothing nearly as dramatic as Apple’s iOS Tracking Transparency feature, but since Google (obviously) tracks across its wide range of apps, services, and devices and uses that information to better target you for ads, I’m not sure how they could get away with denying that feature to other companies on Android.
Wear OS is NOT Dead (and is just “Wear”)
Since acquiring Fitbit earlier this year, it’s seemed obvious that Google was going to try and resurrect its all-but-dead wearable division. The Apple Watch is quite popular, but almost everyone that I know that has a non-Apple Watch wearable has a Fitbit.
Interestingly, according to a Google I/O announcement, Samsung is also going to be coming on board, and they will be providing some of the hardware for the next generation of Wear devices.
The hardware – specifically the system-on-a-chip (SoC) which provides the “brains” of smart devices – has always been a problem for Android Wear devices. Qualcomm makes processors for the majority of Android phones, and their attempts at making smaller, more power-efficent SoCs have not been successful.
Samsung, on the other hand, has been fairly good at improving the hardware for their Tizen-powered smartwatches. They just haven’t had the software or app store support to compete with other wearable devices.
It will be interesting to see what happens with Android wearable. Certainly the situation can’t get worse than it is now!
Android 12 Release
The first beta of Android 12 was just released at I/O this past week, and it still has a long way to go before implementing all the features that were announced.
Right now Google is planning on releasing the final beta (Beta 4) in August of 2021, with the final release happening sometime after that.
As always with Android, if you don’t own a Google Pixel or a top-of-the-line flagship, it’s anyone’s guess when you’ll actually have the ability to upgrade.