The public rollout of Android 12 (for Pixel phones) started last week and is normally the big OS release for the year. In 2021, Google is doing something different and today announced “Android 12L” for foldables, tablets and Chrome OS.
Over the past few years, Google has tapped a developer preview (and later a beta) that opens at the start of the year and ends with the fall public release, while Android – since 2018 – saw only one annual version (eg 9 -> 10) jump. Over the past few weeks, signs have emerged that Google is planning a mid-cycle update to Android 12 which rolls back to versions .1 in 2016 and 2017.
Google formalized this development during the Android Dev Summit 2021 with “Android 12L”. This “The drop in functionality that makes Android 12 even better on big screens ”stems from the fact that there are more than 250 million tablets, foldable devices, and Chrome OS devices running the operating system.
In the past 12 months alone, we’ve seen nearly 100 million new Android tablet activations, a 20% year-over-year growth, while ChromeOS, now the popular desktop platform. fastest growing, rose 92%. We have also seen foldable devices on the rise, with annual growth of over 265%!
Android 12L user interface
The lingo for “drop functionality” comes from the Pixel team and starts with optimizing the Android 12L UI for larger screens. This includes a two-column layout for the lock screen where the time appears first and notifications next. The notification shadow replaces the screen on the left with quick settings that have been changed in various ways from what’s live today. Depending on the screen size, the media player may appear at the top with a three column layout.
Besides the underlying user interface, Google states that “system applications are also optimized”. Other changes, which allow on screens above 600dp, visible from the images released today include:
- Homepage: top Google search box
- Power menu: 3 × 2 with bug report and screenshot actions in addition to emergency, lock, power off and restart
- Application of settings and configuration wizard: Two columns with a list in the left and right preference pane
- Overview: Latest app displayed in full screen, while others are the size of a quarter
Android 12L multitasking
The next goal of Android 12L is to make multitasking more powerful and intuitive. Large screens have a new taskbar that makes it easier to switch apps, while split-screen mode lets you drag and drop to view apps side by side.
To make split screen mode a better experience in Android 12 and later, we are helping users by automatically allowing all apps to enter split screen mode whether or not they are resizable.
Android 12L Compatibility
Compatibility is the latest Android 12L mast with “visual and stability improvements to provide a better mailbox experience for users and help apps look better” without additional development work. That said, developers are encouraged to test apps on multiple screen and window sizes.
We made the mailbox easily customizable by device manufacturers, who can now define custom letterbox colors or treatments, adjust the position of the inset window, apply custom rounded corners, and more.
There are new APIs that cover drag and drop for accessibility, as well as spatial audio. This is all part of a new API level (31 -> 32), but developers are currently not required to target it to meet Play Store requirements.
We have taken care not to introduce any significant changes to your apps, so we will not require apps to target 12L to meet Google Play requirements.
Android 12L is launched “early next year” on the “next wave of Android 12 tablets and foldables”. Google is working with “OEM partners to bring these features to their big-screen devices,” with an “upcoming” Android 12L developer preview for the Lenovo P12 Pro, a 12.6-inch (120Hz) OLED tablet powered by the Snapdragon 870 with 6 or 8 GB of RAM.
Until then, Google is releasing system images of the Android 12L emulator today for app developers to preview any changes. The focus is immediately on tablets, Chrome OS devices, and foldable devices, but 12L will also be available for phones, and a beta of Android (circa December) will be available for Pixel devices.
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