Android 12 Release Date and Features

Android 12 is well on its way. While we're only in Beta 2 (of 4), there's a lot that we now know about the next Android version.

Android 12 Release Date and Features
Android 12 Timeline based on official documentation

The Android 12 probable release date: what we know.

There is no exact Android 12 release date. We do know that the release candidate build--the last release before the final version--will not be out until the last beta release is successfully delivered. The last beta release--Beta 4--is due August 2021. Meanwhile, the release candidate, unlike the beta releases and prior milestones, is due for release "when available," and not on a particular month. This information is sourced directly from the Android 12 Preview program timeline: https://developer.android.com/about/versions/12/overview.

Some articles have estimated that based on the above, Android 12 should be released "in the fall".  For us in the Philippines, and anyone outside the US calendar and seasons, that's around September onward.  That is just an estimate, as the android open source project has not given an official release date at the time publishing.

If Android 12 is released by Quarter 4, 2021, will my device receive it by the end of the year?

The answer to this hypothetical question will depend on your device. Android 12's availability for non-google devices (which use customized Android) will not be known until after Android 12's vanilla release is completed. Manufacturers are responsible for providing their own timelines.

Google Pixel phones and Google products will likely receive the Android 12 final version upon its release, or soon after. In the case of other brands, they may need more time to develop their in-house Android 12-powered software. From my experience, manufacturers conduct their own public beta for their tailored software, so an update from them by the end of the year may not be reasonable.

For customers looking to upgrade, flagship android devices released after Android 12 might have it running out of the box. The upcoming Google Pixel 6 is the device most likely to be in that situation. All told, it's still remarkable that Android 12 could be out so quickly, considering that Android 11 just launched September 8 of last year.

Where is the official timeline for Android 12 development posted?

The Android 12 Preview program provides the official timeline, with August as the target date for the final Beta version. Android 12 preview is the best way to obtain a first look at upcoming features.

How many beta releases can we expect?

The official documentation states that there will be four beta releases:

Beta 1, which released May 2021.

Beta 2, which is the current available beta as of the writing of this article.

Beta 3, an incremental release most likely out by July.

Beta 4, which is a Platform Stability Milestone. This is meant to help developers test and plan their releases in preparation for Android 12's Final Release.

If you're participating in the beta, you can provide feedback through the built-in feedback app

Why so many releases? What was the developer preview for? If I missed the developer preview, what is the impact?

Each release in the Android Preview program has specific purposes and priorities. Prior to the Beta releases, the Android 12 preview program released two iterations of the developer preview. The developer preview prioritized feedback on the APIs (application programming interface). APIs are certainly crucial, but perhaps of less interest to non-developers, so it makes sense to have a discrete developer preview phase before the public beta.

Developer Preview 1 was out February 2021, and Developer Preview 2 released March 2021. Subsequent beta releases are meant to focus on compatibility testing, and feedback from users who opt into the program. If you are a developer and you missed out on the developer preview phases, the main impact is that your input into the APIs is less likely to influence development. If you intended to participate as a user in the public beta, then you're joining at a great time.

Why is there a release in between Beta 4 and the Final Version / Final Release?

To allow developers the opportunity to update their applications and products using a version close to the final release, while leaving room for final tweaks and fixes. The Release Candidate functions as the last stop before the finish line.

Recommended developer actions for the Release Candidate phase include "Release compatible updates for apps, SDKs, and libraries. Continue work to target Android 12. Build with new features and APIs." The release candidate is the version that app developers will use to create and test updates so that when Android 12 goes live, their applications work from day one.

Is the current beta (Beta 2) a public beta?

Yes. The whole of the Android 12 Preview program can be considered a public beta program.

What is the relationship between Android and Google?

Android and Google are separate entities, with the android open source project being a creation of google.  Android refers to the the operating system, while the android open source project, as defined by source.android.com,  refers to the people, processes, and source code of Android. Google oversees the android open source project, but does not own it. Google's model of leading open source initiatives is not restricted to the android open source project, as it employs the same approach with chromium, dart, go, kubernetes, and flutter, to name just a few.

Can I download Android 12 now?

The final version of Android 12 cannot be downloaded now, but the Android 12 Beta 2 release is available through the Android 12 preview program.

Owners of google pixel phones from the Pixel 3 onward can obtain the Android 12 Beta 2 release. The best way to obtain instructions is to visit the official android developer site at https://developer.android.com/about/versions/12/get.

I can confirm that the process of obtaining Android 12 Beta 2 is straightforward on a google pixel device. I signed up for the program, selecting the Pixel 4 I acquired when travel was still possible in 2019. At the time of my update to Android 12 Beta 2, the Pixel 4 was running on Android 11, and it had everything except the most recent security update. The Android 12 Beta 2 became available almost instantly after sign-up through a software update. The software update was 1.8GB in size, and installation after download took about ten minutes.

If you don't own a compatible google pixel or partner device, you can still experience the Android 12 Beta through an emulator. This is an officially supported method for developers to access Android 12: preview. https://developer.android.com/about/versions/12/get#on_emulator

What are the new features of Android 12?

Here is a short list of just a handful of the improved and/or new features in Android 12:

Enhanced Privacy.

Android phones running Android 12 will receive significant privacy upgrades. For instance, the status bar will show if an application is using the microphone or camera.

A new privacy dashboard will provide users a better understanding of which applications accessed their location, camera, and microphone--and in what proportion--in the last twenty-four hours. Permissions can be viewed and audited in the same dashboard. Some have concluded that these privacy upgrades are the most significant improvements to user control over privacy in android's history. After testing the privacy dashboard, I find that it does provide better quality and control. The dashboard centralizes privacy options and increases visibility of both application access to and usage of the camera, microphone, and location.

Material You (Intelligent Color Matching)

To test this feature, I had to change my wallpaper from the usual black photo of nothingness to something with color. I chose a photo with some brown rocks and lo and behold, some of the buttons in my menus were brown. It was underwhelming, to be honest.

Brown accent colors after switching to a brown-dominant wallpaper. Mmmkay. 

Location sharing tweaks

Apps that do not need fine-grained and exact location details will rely on approximate location instead. Great feature.

Better typography and readability out of the box.

This one is my personal favorite based on my early experience with Android 12 Beta 2. The typography experience in Android 12 is significantly better out of the box when compared with Android 11. Seriously. Everything on my small Pixel 4 just looked easier to read in Android 12, and it wasn't just the size. There were small changes to the leading and relative sizes of the fonts, that corresponded with an overall easier reading and viewing experience. Well done, Android!

Excellent Typography Out of the Box!

Expect an in-depth article on Android 12 features after I've had a chance to scrutinize the Beta 2 further. If you're looking to test it, do not expect stability, and do not subject your main phone to a beta version! I'm experiencing quite a few crashes for apps, including Google, on the pixel 4. You've been warned :)

Are you planning to purchase the upcoming google pixel 6? What feature are you looking forward to most in Android 12? Let me know in the comments!