(Pocket-lint) – Every year, Google releases a major software update to its Android mobile operating system.
Last year, it rolled out Android 11. In 2021, it will announce Android 12. There isn’t a lot of information yet about the upgrade, but a few things have emerged. Below, you’ll find a list of everything known, including all the juiciest rumours.
Be sure to check back, too, as Pocket-lint plans to update this guide with all the latest news, leaks, and reports.
When will Android 12 be available?
- Developer preview release date: Around February 2021
- Public beta release date: Around May 2021
- Official rollout for consumers: Around September 2021
Google usually follows a pattern: In the first few months of the year, it launches a developer preview. For instance, the Android 11 developer preview landed in February 2020. Android 12’s developer preview, therefore, is expected to arrive as soon as February 2021. Then, usually in May, Google holds an I/O conference, where it announces the first public beta for consumers to test new features.
The final, finished version of Android 12 likely won’t get an official rollout to compatible handsets until next autumn, around September 2021.
Which phones will get Android 12 first?
- Pixel devices will surely get Android 12 first
- Next Pixel flagship will probably launch with it
- Partner devices might also be included in initial rollout
When the final version of Android 12 releases, it’ll likely come first to select devices, including Google’s own Pixel lineup. For instance, at launch, Android 11 only supported Pixel 2 and newer Pixel phones as well as a handful of devices from OnePlus, Xiaomi, OPPO, and Realme.
Will the next update be called Android 12?
- Yes. Google confirmed the name in 2020.
Google announced last September via an Android Developers blog post that the 2021 Android release will be called Android 12.
Is there anything new in Android 12?
In terms of new Android 12 features, little has surfaced so far. That said, the following has been confirmed, leaked, or rumoured so far…
Easier, safe access to ‘other app stores’
Google said in a blog post last autumn that Android 12 will “make it even easier for people to use other app stores on their devices while being careful not to compromise the safety measures Android has in place”. It didn’t elaborate on what this means, specifically, or how it will work. But we’re assuming you’ll be able to quickly access apps in third-party stores with your device, and there will be safety protections in place.
Restricted Networking mode
XDA Developer’s Mishaal Rahman dug into Android Open Source Project (AOSP) Gerrit entries and spotted mentions of a new Restricted Networking mode. Specifically, once enabled, the feature would allow apps with a “connectivity use restricted networks” permission to access the network. Other apps on your phone without that permission wouldn’t be able to send or receive data.
Mishaal indicates this permission can only be granted to privileged system apps signed by the OEM. This, therefore, doesn’t appear to be a system-level configurable firewall, but it still has interesting use-case potential. Imagine if Google offers a user-facing settings option to restrict internet access on a per-app basis. However, it’s not clear yet how Google might implement its Restricted Networking mode into Android 12.
App Pairs split-screen experience
Android 11 offers a split-screen experience, where you can open two apps on your device at the same time. For Android 12, 9to5Google said Google is working on an improved version called App Pairs. Currently, split screen effectively “pins” one app, but Android 12’s App Pairs system will group two apps together as one “task” so you can choose two of your recently opened apps to become a pair.
Once paired, you should be able to toggle between using a different single app and the pair you created. 9to5Gogole shared a mockup of how the feature looks. (You can see it above. The left is Android 11 now. The right, however, shows how the recents view treats a pair as one joint activity.) Android 12’s App Pairs offers a divider, too, to let you adjust how much of the screen is used up by an app.
OS updates directly from Play Store
Android 12 might also make it easier for Google to directly deliver operating system updates. XDA Developers noticed the company plans to add Android Runtime (ART) as a Mainline module in Android 12, allowing it to push more operating system updates through Google Play Store, rather than sending them over the air. This could result in more frequent updates and fewer hangups from phone manufacturers.
‘Hibernate’ unused apps to free up space
XDA Developers discovered Android 12 could have a feature that “hibernates” open apps not currently in use, making them less power-intensive and freeing up space. Based on code changes submitted to AOSP, Google, specifically, is adding a new system, “that manages app hibernation state, a state apps can enter that means they are not being actively used and can be optimized for storage”.
What do we want to see in Android 12?
Android hasn’t had a design overhaul since Material Design in 2014, so a whole-new look would be a welcomed sight. This could include stackable widgets, something iOS 14 offers iPhone and iPad users. It’d be great to see support for more phones at launch for Android 12, as well, plus all features available across all phones. Currently, Google tends to reserve really cool Android features for Pixel users.
Android 12: What’s happened so far?
Here’s everything we’ve heard about Android 12 so far.
21 January 2021: Android 12 set to improve split screen with ‘App Pairs’
9to5Google claimed Google is working on a revamped version of split screen called “App Pairs.”
19 January 2021: Android 12 might let you hibernate unused apps
XDA Developers claimed Google is working on an app hibernation feature to free up space for Android 12.
19 January 2021: Google might introduce a Restricted Networking mode with Android 12
A handful of commits merged to AOSP describe a new restricted networking mode feature possibly for Android 12.
25 November 2020: Google to make the Android Runtime (ART) a Mainline module
XDA Developers claimed Google plans to include the Android Runtime (ART) as an updatable Mainline module in Android 12.
30 September 2020: Google is already talking about Android 12 changes
We didn’t expect Google’s first mention of Android 12 – the next iteration of Android expected in 2021 – to be about app stores and fees.
Writing by Maggie Tillman.