The Biggest and Best New Features in Android 12 and How to Use Them

The full version of Android 12 was released last week for Pixel devices and we spent the last few days testing the operating system, familiar with its new interface, features and settings. This is not a big departure from Android 11, but there are a lot of changes and new features that are worth mentioning.

A new look and feel thanks to the new Material You design

Let’s start with the most visible change in Android 12: a new theme. “Material You” on Android 12 has a new look, with larger icons, round menus and windows, and smoother animations than on Android 11. It also shook the layout and improved new features right in the basic user interface. Here are some important points:

  • Custom Themes: Material that you can rework allows users to create custom themes. Go to Settings> Wallpaper & Style to change your phone’s wallpaper and customize the color of your phone’s fonts, menus, widgets, and icons.
  • New widgets and pinning conversations: Speaking of widgets, Android 12 adds many new widgets, including the ability to pin a text conversation to the home screen for easy access. Press and hold an empty space on the home screen, then select “Widgets” to open the menu.
  • One device search: Google Search Bar can now search for files, folders, contacts, text conversations, and applications on your phone.
  • New emoticons: There are new emoticons, including updated images for almost 400 emojis on Android.

Better Quick Settings, notifications, and shortcuts

Along with major user interface changes in Android 12 in general, Google also designed and organized the Quick Settings menu and notification bar with lots of new shortcuts, new settings, and some improvements.

To display the new Quick Settings menu, swipe down from the top screen to open the basic keyboard shortcuts and notification bar. From here you can:

  • Tap “Internet” to open Internet connection settings, where you can easily switch between Wi-Fi networks or enable or disable mobile data.
  • Click on “GPay” to access your Google Pay wallet.
  • Activate Do Not Disturb mode.
  • Enable / disable Bluetooth.

Swipe down to expand the entire Quick Setup screen. You can also swipe down with two fingers to open the right full screen in Quick Settings. The complete menu includes additional keyboard shortcuts and controls for media playback.

  • Click the pencil icon to customize the keyboard shortcuts. There are many new options, such as switching to a dark theme, “extremely muted” mode, data saving mode and more.
  • Click the settings icon to go to the device settings menu.
  • Click the Power icon to turn on / off and restart the buttons.

Take scrolling screenshots

Now for more features besides the interface. First up is the new Scrolling Screenshot feature. If you took a screenshot on an Android 12 device (press the power button + volume down button), you can now tap “Upload more” and capture more on the screen than a scrolling screenshot.

One-handed mode

One-handed mode is an accessibility feature that changes some of the motion controls, menus, and screen layouts for easy one-handed use. It is available in Settings> System> One-handed mode.

Gaming mode for better gameplay performance and focus

Android 12 includes a new “game mode” that changes your system and hardware settings for better in-game performance. Game mode also blocks alerts such as Do Not Disturb. You can enable game mode in Settings> Notifications> Do Not Disturb and Schedules> Gaming. You can also add a dedicated game mode switch to the quick settings menu.

Multi-windows support for Google Chrome app

The Google Chrome mobile browser application has a unique feature in Android 12: multi-window support. While you can now open multiple tabs and tab groups in Chrome for mobile, you can also open multiple windows at once. This will act as a separate instance of the application on your phone.

Analog clock display

Although not an awning feature, Google has added an elegant Easter egg to the Android 12 settings menu that opens an “analog” clock display. Go to Settings> About Phone and tap “Android Version” several times in succession until the clock appears. While this may not be entirely possible – it’s literally just a clock – you can move the clock hands, and if you set them to 12:00, something will happen. Try it.

New privacy controls

Google has also added new privacy controls to Android 12 to help you restrict access rights and the types of data your apps can access.

  • Turn on / off the microphone / camera shortcut and use indicators: If you’re using an application with microphone or camera permissions, you can now turn these features on or off directly in the Quick Settings menu. The notification icon also appears when using the camera or microphone.
  • Privacy Dashboard: Google has added a new privacy dashboard that shows the access rights used by applications over the last 24 hours. It is available in Settings> Privacy> Privacy Panel.
  • Additional location options: You now have the option to provide applications with “accurate” or “estimated” location data. Accurate, natural, accurate, but some applications require a precise geographical location to function. You can choose what type of location data you want to use when the application first requests permission for location data, or you can adjust the settings for applications you already use in Settings> Privacy> Permissions Manager> Location.
  • Manage credentials: You can view and manage all the credentials stored on your phone in Settings> Passwords and Accounts. This includes credentials stored by Google and third-party password managers.

New Gesture Controls

Finally, Android 12 updated some controls that already work and added many new ones. Some of them are only available for Pixel devices.

  • View open apps: Now swipe up from the bottom right of the screen to see all currently open apps.
  • Toggle Google Now button: Press and hold the power button to call Google Now. You can change or deactivate it in Settings> System> Gestures> “Press and hold the power button.”
  • “Quick tap” (Pixel phones only): Double-tap the back of a Pixel phone to take a specific action, such as calling Google Now or launching a specific application. You can customize it in Settings> System> Gestures.
  • Auto-rotate with camera (Pixel 4 and later): Auto-rotate uses your phone’s camera to determine the correct orientation for your current situation (the process takes place locally on your device and Google does not store or share any data). Tactile feedback for the media: Although no action per se, you can enable tactile feedback for media such as music and games, sound systems, and ringtones. If the media, applications, and your phone support all of this, you will be prompted to enable tactile feedback.

How to Get Android 12

Android 12 is now available and now you can try all the features we discussed above (and everything we can do without). You can, at least if you have Pixel 3 or later. Google says the Android One is another upgrade device and plans to launch the latest OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Samsung, Tecno, Vivo and Xiaomi devices later in 2021 and 2022.

Google Pixel owners who are ready to upgrade can check if Android 12 is available for your device and run the update in Settings> System> Advanced> System Updates> Check for Updates.

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