Google hasn’t released Android 12 yet, but it’s coming very soon. So what’s next? According to a report from xda-developers, Android 12.1.

As the name suggests, this likely won’t be a major update, and Google probably won’t wait a full year to release it. Instead, it seems to be a smaller update with a number of features designed for foldables, and it could be designed to launch alongside Google’s first phone with a foldable display, the long-rumored “Pixel Fold.”

xda-developers

Keep in mind that nothing is official until Google announces the operating system update and/or the Pixel Fold. But xda-developers has gotten their hands on a pre-release version of a new operating system which Google developers have been referring to by the code-name “sc-v2” or “Snow Cone version 2.” Since Snow Cone is the internal code-name that Google uses for Android 12, it’s likely that this will be branded as Android 12.1 rather than Android 13.

So what’s new? Head over to xda-developers for a complete breakdown, but here are some highlights:

  • Google is adding a desktop-like taskbar that can be used to switch between running apps or open apps in split-screen mode (with a drag and drop). The taskbar an be hidden when you don’t need it.
  • There’s a dual-pane layout that can display Quick Settings on the left and notifications on the right when a screen is large enough. On foldables this means you see everything when unfolded, or a more compact view when folded.
  • Some devices with high enough pixel density will also show a 3-column view for Quick Settings.
  • The Settings app is also dual-pane, with high level settings on the left and sub-menus on the right.
  • The Lock Screen can display a clock on the left and notifications on the right.

Google has also made some tweaks to the split-screen user interface for devices with larger displays, and the company has made some changes to the recent apps view, with the most recently used app now appearing larger than others.

While all of these features should make Android a little more usable on foldables and dual-screen devices without the need for vendor customizations like those that Samsung and Microsoft have implemented, I suspect they could also make Android into a slightly more tablet-friendly operating system. Google has long treated tablets as an afterthought while focusing primarily on phones… but now that the lines between those two categories are blurring, it makes sense that improvements designed for phones with tablet-sized screens will also benefit tablets.

According to xda-developers, another change coming in Android 12.1 could include the open sourcing of Android 12’s theme engine, which currently only allows Pixel phones to adjust their color scheme based on your wallpaper. By open sourcing this element, Google could make it easier for third-party phone makers to offer the same feature.

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  1. The part about that the taskbar can be hidden worries me a bit though. Hopefully it’s an option so it can be visible at all times. But this trend of developers hiding important parts of the UI for arbitrary reasons like “It’s uncluttered” and “Empty space looks nice” makes me worried this will be another thing I have to swipe back and forth all the time.

    Instead, make it permanent, make apps display above it and not over it and add a start menu for launching apps and quick settings + clock in the bottom right and I might just buy an Android device. 🙂

    1. There’s actually a third party application called “taskbar” for Android, and it’s been around for a while. It’s on F-Droid.

      1. Indeed, it is excellent and a great tip! I’ve used it, but the problem is that some support for its full functionality was removed in Android 8.1 that my phone uses, so it was no longer possible to have apps placed above the taskbar. (So taskbar covers the bottom of the app.) The bar can still be folded in and out though, so it works decently for what I want. I’ve heard it might work better again on newer versions of Android, so I’m really curious about giving it another try if I could upgrade.

  2. That taskbar, if it can be used on any phone and not just foldables and tablets, is probably the best addition to Android since ever. It’s actually the first time I’ve read a changlog for Android and thought: Nice, I want that!

    Though I’m going to buy a Pinephone which can also have that feature and probably in a much more customizable implementation, it’s nice to know that good useful multitasking will finally be available to very many phone users.