Google Android 12 Beta Operating System Review

Android 12, Google’s beta OS for Android devices, offers enhanced notifications, a privacy dashboard, and smoother animations.

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Tshaka Armstrong
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July 29, 2021
7 min read

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Recently, Google introduced the biggest redesign of the Android smartphone interface to date, Material U.

Does that mean you're going to have to learn new things or are these redesigns really helpful or someone in Mountain View just changing things to validate the parking space? Well, I've been playing with it for a bit and Google's latest public beta of Android 12 Beta 1. And I'm going to show you what I think are some of the most important features and updates.

Let's get into it.

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Intro to the Android 12 operating system

This is Android 12. Now the first thing most people are going to notice is the notification shade interface since that's probably one of the areas of the user interface that we interface with most often.

Older users and those with bad eyes will love this as Google has moved away from the more linear boxed segmented notification and status shade, which kind of floats on top of your home screen when you swipe down as you see here in Android 11. What you get now is a full screen notification shade with bright colors and boxes, which fills the spaces and the screen. And I may have lied because the first thing you'll probably notice is the lock screen clock, big and bold.

The other really cool thing you'll notice is when the phone locks. When you're actually on the lock screen, you have the smaller clock and when you get rid of all your notifications, it goes from being at the top to dropping down and filling up more of the screen to let you know easily what time it is and your notification status. There are no more notifications because you have a big old full screen clock. So full screen clock, no notification.

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Android 12 has a new notification shade

I already talked about the notification shade, but let's get into that a bit more in detail. When you pull down the notification shade, you'll notice that the quick settings menu up top is completely different.

What they've done now is they have made the buttons much bigger. So as you see on Android 11, instead of this kind of tight spaces here with the small icons, they've given you large icons. They've also now added Google Pay and device controls or your home controls to the screen.

So now when you type on that, you can actually right there, right from the notification shade go to your home automation, go to any of those devices that are enabled there, the different devices around your home. So you can access that now directly from that menu. You can still edit the menu as you saw before, but now you have these larger buttons to be able to interact with and engage with.

The other thing you'll notice is the slider for the screen brightness. You have this massive screen brightness slider and it all is uniform, it all works together as you see. Even the volume slider, if we pull those up, the volume slide on Android 11 versus Android 12 is different as well. Android 12, you have the larger volume slider like you do in the brightness slider. And so that's where you will continue to see the differences is in just how large everything is.

Android 12 notifies you when the microphone is in use

And the next thing we're going to do is as you can see here, I'm doing a screen recording and it's using the microphone. And on Android 11's side, there's no notification of that.

Here on Android 12, if I tap on that, I can see who or what is using my microphone on the system level. I can see who or what is using the microphone on the app level. And then I can engage with that and decide what I want to do with that.

If I want to deny permission or keep permission, you also see that as a green dot up top here as well. So that's notification shade, that's app permissions, kind of in the microphone and seeing who's using your microphone, who's using your camera.

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Android 12 includes a privacy dashboard

The other huge change in Android as we get more privacy conscious this device offers a privacy menu, you're now going to get something called the privacy dashboard. The privacy dashboard when you tap on that allows you to see in a timeline, everything, every app that has used your phone or accessed your phone, accessed parts of your phone.

And you're going to be able to see that on a timeline. You're going to be able to see what they've done, who's used what, and then you'll be able to go in and as it says there, manage permissions on all the different apps that have been used, that have accessed your phone. And be able to take the appropriate action.

As you can see, it shows my location usage, the app. You can click on the show system and then you're going to literally see everything. Google Play services, setting services, adaptive connectivity. You get to see every single thing that has touched any part of your phone here. We can see the microphone's used by one app. I'm actually recording, screen recording. So that's that. You can expand it to see what other apps have used it. So that is really powerful.

The privacy dashboard is a big deal and it really gives you a great overview of what has been using and accessing your phone and a very granular option, and very granular views as well. The other item, which is pretty interesting that I actually wouldn't come to rely on, but it's actually a very cool feature in the phone is if you go into the digital settings, the privacy and well-being settings what you'll get is an option to turn on, Heads Up.

When you tap to set Heads Up, what Heads Up will do for you is if you're walking and looking down at your phone and not paying attention to what's going on around you, Heads Up will allow you to receive notifications that you need to look up.

So as you see when you set it up, Heads Up is ready to go. You'll get a reminder if you use your phone while you're walking. So Heads Up, again, right here it says, "Get reminders to stop using your phone while you're walking. Use with caution. Heads Up doesn't replace paying attention." And I think that's very important to note. Heads Up does not replace paying attention. But if you have young children, elementary age, junior high age who are using their phones, that's definitely a feature I think you'll want to turn on.

When my children were younger, I was constantly getting on their case about paying attention to their surroundings and situational awareness and not having earphones in and headphones and things when you're crossing the street, and just really paying attention to where you're going.

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Overview of the Android 12 display menu

The other thing that's different now in Android 12 Beta 2 is when you go into the menu and let's get into both here. When you go onto the menu now, you used to have to go into the display options in terms of looking at your wallpapers, your icons, and customizing everything. Now with Android 12, it breaks out and gets its own menu where you can go in and change things around, change the grid, change the icon shapes, change the icon colors.

And speaking of colors, that is another area that is actually one of my favorite things to play with on Android 12. If you notice, I have these bluish-colored icons, sky blue and that's based on your wallpapers. It takes kind of the secondary colors in your wallpaper and changes your colors based on that. So I'm going to go into some wallpapers here and show you kind of what that looks like. So I'm going to choose this wallpaper, which has a lot of red in it, but it also has some sky blue in the background. And we're going to set that for the home screen.

And once you pull down the icon, you'll see that they actually changed color and now they have a kind of a puce, a pinkish hue to them. If I go in and change that wallpaper again and I'm going to change it to the other side I have here, and I'm going to make it so that this sign focuses primarily on the yellow. And you'll see when I change that, there we go.

You'll notice all the icons changed to yellow. Because the black is the main thing in the front here and it picks up on the yellow. So now I have these yellow-colored icons that are showing here. And so it really works well with some wallpapers and with others not so much.

So you're going to see, I think, different results with this feature, but I really liked that the artificial intelligence changes the trim, changes the complimentary colors on your system level so that it is reactive to whatever wallpapers you use. Now we have the sky blue or light blue since I changed it to an ocean and sky background. Actually, I like little touches like that and so I've really, really enjoyed that.

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Android 12 has smoother animations

Other than that, the animations are different. They are really smooth compared to Android 11. You really are going to see some interesting things. And overall with the privacy functionality, the AI changing the complimentary colors at the system level, and that privacy dashboard and again, the digital wellbeing, the Heads Up feature there's some really, really cool features in Android 12 Beta 2. There's still some things that they're working out to bring to the beta versions. And I'll keep you updated with what's going on with Android 12 as they do.

Hey, I'm Tshaka Armstrong for That's been Android 12 Beta 2. If you have any questions about anything I talked about in this review, go ahead and leave it in the comments below. I'll get to it. As always, we don't take it lightly that you spent your time watching here with us. I'll catch you on the next review.

Tshaka Armstrong
Written by
Tshaka Armstrong
Tshaka is a nerd and Griot. Founder of the non-profit digital literacy organization Digital Shepherds, he’s also been a broadcast technology reporter, writer, and producer. In addition to being an award-winning broadcast storyteller, he’s also covered tech online and in print for everything from paintball gear technology, to parenting gadgets. He blathers on about his many curiosities on social media everywhere as @tshakaarmstrong.

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