Almost exactly two months ago, Google launched Android 12 and it’s a fantastic new look. The third beta is available now for some of the best Android phones and can be downloaded at your leisure.
While Google only highlighted 3 big additions to beta 3, our Android 12 beta 3 proves that there’s a lot more to this new version. Experimenting with the Pixel 4 XL. This particular vision of Android 12 is of course the Pixel experience, however, you can expect most of these features to come to phones running on a more vanilla version of Android 12.
Manufacturers with more customized displays, such as Samsung, will likely use versions of any new features added in the future. Other features, such as the new gaming dashboard, can already be found on many phones and represent Google adding features that build on the basic operating system functionality.
Android 12 beta 2 introduces automatic color themes as part of the new Material You design language, and Android 12 beta 3 now gives users more manual control over how colors are applied system-wide.
The redesigned wallpaper and style picker is a huge improvement over the previous interface, offering more options up front to choose from and better color previews. When you apply a wallpaper, the wallpaper picker now offers four dynamic color options to choose from.
Additionally, you can choose a solid color to apply to UI elements such as quick settings buttons. For now, these appear to be the same four colors, no matter what wallpaper you choose.
Bright blue, forest green, lavender purple, and fawn colors can be selected in light mode. Dark mode turns these colors into lighter pastel versions of the same color. Personally, I was hoping for more colors and hope Google adds more in the future.
Google has moved the dark mode to wallpaper and style picker for the convenience of setting reasonable and in line with other operating systems such as Windows 11. Switching between light and dark mode will also slightly change the suggested colors, changing pastel colors to lighter colors depending on the basic theme.
New options for theme icons along with selected colors are also now present in the redesigned wallpaper and style picker. Icons that support automatic themes will receive a new colored flat appearance that matches the system colors.
Developers need to update the app to support this functionality so you’ll see lots of mixed colors until that happens. If you are a big fan of this kind of theme though, oddly enough, the ability to choose the shape of the icon is not present in this build. Assuming this will be added back in Beta 4 but will check with Google to be sure.
As we’ve seen and expected from the previous beta, there are still a lot of visual glitches that Google needs to fix before it’s released. The Pixel 5 seems to suffer from a very high number of visual bugs when compared to the Pixel 4, for whatever reason.
One notable example is the status bar selecting the wrong color which makes it nearly impossible to read on a certain color background. That glittery look is now completely gone in beta 3, replaced by a much smoother fade effect during animation.
Personally, I’m pretty sad about this removal and would like to see it re-added as an optional effect if users like it. Many OEMs give users a way to customize animations across the UI and Google should do that too.
Tilt and tap
Over the years now many OEMs have offered what is commonly known as a gaming toolbox. Google added this type of functionality to Android 12 called Game dashboard but it’s still mostly behind the scenes in beta 3.
You can find the option to enable this toolbox in the settings but, for now, nothing happens when you launch the game. This new game API will also allow developers to get better performance from phones, help save battery life with some new tricks, and make mobile gaming more enjoyable overall.
While the new Android Game Development Kit includes some behind-the-scenes additions that only users will know long-term, new user-visible features are appearing in beta 3 that will make a huge difference downloading on the go play as you download.
Machine learning tricks
One of the more subtle highlights of beta 3 revolves around device rotation. While you might not notice it at first, your Pixel will now use the front-facing camera to figure out which way you’re actually trying to hold the phone.
This is one of those old Samsung features that is used forever and long forgotten, but Google’s new implementation should work fine once it’s fully implemented. The new smart device rotation uses the camera to ensure your phone only rotates when you want it to.
Now, before you freak out because your phone is trying to recognize your face and its direction, don’t Google use the new Android Private Compute Core. Visual data is not stored and can only be accessed in the private sandboxed part of your phone’s hardware.
This brings the number of features used by Private Compute Core to four, previously joined by Live Caption, Now Playing, and Smart Reply. You have to manually enable this feature, which is found under device rotation, for it to work.
Maybe when you try to turn it on and off and see no difference. In fact, you’re pretty sure this feature is mostly broken. A few times now, the phone will get stuck in landscape rotation and have to rotate it a few times before knowing which one to hold. Maybe machine learning hasn’t gone through the early stages for this particular feature just yet.
The idea is that it should help users who use their phone while lying down but the results are the same for you when you test standing, sitting, and lying down. Rotation is also supposed to happen 25% faster due to machine learning motion detection but, again, I don’t see any real difference.
The image above may be a painful sight if you’ve been a Pixel user for a while now. Battery stats are no longer anemic in Android 12, finally showing useful granular data right at the forefront of the battery section in settings.
Plus, it’s now easier to manage whether apps are performance optimized for battery consumption something that some other OEMs can take advantage of. Search should now work better across all apps that use the new App Search API by working more like any other OS.
If you are a Mac user, you will understand that this function is similar to Spotlight Search and can significantly improve the progress of the application. The new privacy indicator point recently got a new API that developers can use to track their position on the screen, helping to avoid UI elements in apps being covered by this new icon.
For the record, you will find that some green icons appear in the corners of the screen whenever an app accesses your microphone, camera, or location. That helps you know when an app is taking advantage of the three most private permissions at any time.
People who have big phones and have a hard time getting to the top with one hand will be thrilled by the new one-handed swipe gesture. Google implemented this concept in the previous beta but now allows the entire screen to shrink by quickly swiping down on the gesture bar or navigation bar at the bottom of the screen.
Swiping up restores full screen mode and feels absolutely fantastic to use. You’ll also find a new scrolling screenshot button that comes in handy when taking screenshots in Android 12 beta 3.
Like a game toolbox, this feature won’t be new to people who are used to non-Pixel phones, as it’s been used in several ways by many OEMs for years now. But, again, this brings up the least common denominators and makes Google’s Pixel line more competitive.
Beta 3 marks the last set of APIs introduced to developers, meaning you won’t see any major new features added in Android 12 beta 4 in August. That release will mainly crush bugs and provide a more solid experience overall which is great considering I ran into more bugs in this build than the previous one, including some that forced me to restart the phone.