Google has released the first developer preview of Android 12 and it’s available for Google Pixel 3 and later devices. This is the first public preview of the next version of Android, with several more previews and betas planned in the coming months before Android 12 is officially released in the fall of 2021.

But the first preview already gives us a pretty good idea of what to expect, thanks to a number of changes outlined at the Android Developers website and in a blog post announcing the launch of the first Android 12 Developer Preview.

I’ve outlined some of the highlights below. Note that many of these are gleaned from developer documentation, so they may not all be immediately noticeable to users, but could still affect the way you can use an Android 12 device.

User Interface

  • Revised notification display and controls
  • Apps designed for Android 12 that use custom notifications will have more standardized notification styles
  • Simplified immersive mode brings more consistent experience for gesture navigation – gestures are now supported even if the bottom bar is hidden, allowing you to swipe backward with a single swipe, for example
  • You can toggle which media players show up in Quick Settings

Performance

  • Android 12 apps running in the background can no longer start foreground services (this does not apply to apps that target older versions of Android though)

Security & Privacy

  • WebView in Android 12 uses the SameSite cookie behavior as the Chrome browser
  • App data can no longer be backed up using an “adb backup” command unless an app uses a “debuggable” code
  • Android 12 restricts access to device MAC addresses for all non-system apps
  • Touch events will not be registered when there’s an overlay that “obscures the app in an unsafe way”
  • Apps cannot close system dialogs
  • Privacy toggles may allow you to disable mic and camera access for all apps at once (this is a hidden feature for now, so it’s unclear if it’ll be available in time for Android 12’s launch this fall).

Media

  • Automatic transcoding of H.265/HEVC and HDR content to H.264 so that videos can be played in a wide range of apps that support the latter codec
  • Support for AV1 Image File (AVIF) container format
  • Apps can create haptic feedback from audio, using the phone’s motor to vibrate differently depending on the ringtone, in-game audio event, etc
  • Native support for decoding animated GIF and WBP files
  • Android 12 apps can use a new API to accept “rich content insertion” of images, videos, and other media from any source (such as keyboard, clipboard, drag and drop).
  • Support for up to 24-channel audio playback

Faster updates

  • Android Runtime (ART) module is now updated through Google Play, allowing Google to provide runtime performance improvements more quickly without the need to push a complete Android system update

Device types

For a more in-depth look (with pictures) of changes to the user interface, this Twitter thread by Mishaal Rahman from xda-developers is a good place to start:

Google says that the initial preview is aimed at developers rather than casual users, so it’s only available as a manual download that can be flashed as a factory image or an OTA update. When Android 12 Beta is released in a few months, users will be able to sign up to have the update pushed straight to their device by Google.

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