Update: February 15, 2021 (05:52 PM ET): We updated our Android 12 rumor hub today with some fresh news. We learned that there might be a one-handed mode as well as some new design elements that point to a new version of Material Design. Also, we might know the rumored internal dessert codename.
Android 11 is the latest version of Google’s ubiquitous mobile OS. Although many devices are still running on even older iterations, there’s already plenty of hype surrounding the forthcoming Android 12. If Android 11’s release cycle is anything to go by, we should see the next version’s first Developer Preview land in February 2021. This build should showcase what Google has been working towards in previous months.
If you are wondering what the “sweet treat” name of Android 12 could be, we have an idea for that. However, do note that two years ago Google did away with officially naming Android versions after a sweet treat. It does continue to use treats as internal code names, though. This year, our best guess (with help from XDA Developers) is that the codename could be “snow cone.” This would follow up the internal codename for Android 11, which was “red velvet cake,” and the internal codename for Android 10, which was “quince tart.”
Rumored Android 12 features
Smarter app storage management
Sick of apps occupying storage but don’t necessarily want to uninstall them? App Hibernation could play a pivotal role in how Android 12 manages the footprint of these apps. The feature’s already included in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). It will effectively allow the OS to clear an app’s cache if it’s labeled as “hibernating.”
It’s unclear what constitutes a hibernating app, however. We don’t know if that status is determined by the OS or the user. Additionally, we don’t know if the feature will sport other storage management tricks like compressing unused apps or clearing the system cache.
It won’t really be felt by those using phones with heaps of storage. However, it will likely be a huge addition to entry-level Android devices or older phones in line for the OS upgrade.
Android Runtime as a Mainline module
In what could be one of Android 12’s biggest new features, Google is planning to turn its Android Runtime (ART) into a Project Mainline module. This would theoretically allow the company to push major updates to ART through the Play Store. That would improve the pace of update delivery, making the process more seamless across manufacturers.
ART is a linchpin in Android’s daily operations. It translates the OS’s bytecode into a machine language understood by the device’s CPU, so it’s integral that ART is kept up to date. Streamlining its updates could therefore improve Android’s performance as a whole.
Manage two apps as a single task
Google hasn’t turned its back on fervent multitaskers in Android 12. Evidence suggests the company is working on a feature called App Pairs. It would allow users to manage two opened applications in Android’s Recents menu as a single task.
Its name is reminiscent of Samsung’s App Pair feature on One UI. It allows users to simultaneously open two apps onscreen via the Edge panel. Microsoft’s Surface Duo has a similar feature as well, which lets users open the app pair directly from a home screen shortcut. It’s unclear if Android’s native solution would include either of these abilities.
However, the feature would be a boon for larger phones, foldables, and tablets. It would simplify toggling between a split-screen and full-screen apps in the Recents menu.
Improved game controller support
Google is looking to improve support for third-party game controllers’ rumble response, according to XDA‘s Mishaal Rahman.
Android currently features an API to manage controllers’ haptic feedback, but it does not give developers access to fine-tune the amplitude of the rumbles. The result? They’re unable to create custom vibrations varying in strength or pattern — an important factor in modern games. Now, it seems that Google is addressing these issues per commits submitted to AOSP.
Read more: The best Android phones for gaming
The reviewers on the commits include engineers from Google and Sony. However, it’s likely controllers from Nvidia, Microsoft, and other major players will be supported too. If the improvements do make it to Android 12’s final builds, they should massively bolster the platform’s gaming pedigree just in time for the onslaught of game streaming services.
Restricted network mode
A revised networking management mode could arrive on Android 12. It would give the OS more control over which apps can access the internet.
According to XDA, the feature will take the form of a blocklist activated by a setting toggled in the OS. This toggle will likely be accessible by the user, but it’s unclear if the actual blocklist can be user-tweaked. Judging by commits merged to AOSP, the feature will only allow certain apps with the CONNECTIVITY_USE_RESTRICTED_NETWORK permission to utilize the network. All other apps will be barred from communication with the outside world.
Android 11 already features one-time location permissions on a per-app basis. A restricted networking mode would be a valuable addition to improving user privacy. We would love to see a more granular implementation should it arrive in time for Android 12, though.
Scrolling screenshot support
It’s been a long-running rumor even before Android 10 made its bow. Yet, Android 11 disappointed by not included scrolling screenshot support. Could this be one of Android 12’s baked-in features?
In July 2020, Google’s Dan Saddler confirmed that scrolling screenshot support didn’t quite make the cut for Android 11. This is because the developers intended to build a platform that all apps could utilize. Saddler added that it could feature in a “future API bump”. However, there’s no confirmation that it will debut in time for Android 12.
You can take scrolling screenshots in Android already via third-party apps, but default support would be a welcome addition.
Pixel double-tap actions
When Android 11’s Developer Preview arrived, it packed a nifty double-tap feature that could be enabled with some work on the user’s end. It let users of Pixel phones control hardware or launch apps with a double-tap of the back of the phone. While it wasn’t an essential control method, it was a useful way to access important features without touching the screen. Unfortunately, it never made it to Android 11’s stable build. Now, it’s possible that this feature may make a return in Android 12.
The feature, codenamed Columbus, will let users snag screenshots, open the notification shade, or launch Google Assistant. Google may also allow users to adjust the sensitivity of double-taps or disable them entirely if they’re not to their liking.
Wi-Fi password sharing via Nearby Share
In a commit to AOSP uncovered by XDA, Google could let users share QR codes containing Wi-Fi passwords in the OS’s wireless network settings. This could mean the days of physically typing complex Wi-Fi passwords would soon be over.
More expansive theming support
Android 11’s native customization options are pretty limited. Users can only switch between a light and dark mode in the UI. However, this could change according to a new report.
Spotted by 9to5Google, Android 12 may let users select from a swathe of primary and accent colors for custom OS themes. This won’t just affect the Quick Settings menu and other UI elements. It could affect apps that are built to support it, too.
For those who can’t choose a color, the theming system is also said to adopt the primary colors of the system wallpaper, similar to Windows 10.
Android 12 UI
Enhanced theming support may not be the only major UI tweak coming to Android 12. Per this report, the new OS may wear an entirely new look compared to Android 11.
For starters, Android 12 looks set to gain a new widget dubbed “Conversations.” This widget displays recent contact info, from messages to statuses. Judging by the notifications panel, this widget may display info from major messengers, not just Google’s products.
The home screen itself resembles Android 11 in layout, but widgets and key icons seemingly take on the color gradients of the active wallpaper. In this case, icons and widgets wear tinges of brown, cream, and beige. This may be the first demonstration of Android 12’s rumored enhanced theming support.
This extends to the notification panel, too. Notably, icons now take on more rounded edges, while Conversations also gets its dedicated notification slot above email and other alerts.
Improved privacy features
The screenshots also suggest Android 12 will take privacy and app access to critical sensors more seriously.
A pill button in the top right of the status panel alerts users to which apps have access or are currently using the camera and microphone. Tapping it will also tell users if an app recently accessed these features.
Another screenshot suggests users will have access to a dedicated privacy page with easy access for managing app permissions and killswitches to the camera, microphone, and location. However, it’s not overtly clear how users can gain quick access to this page.
As phones get bigger, it gets more and more difficult to use them one-handed. Just try to reach your thumb to the top of your phone’s screen with only one hand, and you’ll see the problem. Over the years, OEMs have used apps and Android skin design to make it easier for one-handed use. Now, though, it’s possible a one-handed feature could land within Android 12.
According to XDA, Google is pushing the framework for a one-handed mode to AOSP. This would allow any OEM using AOSP to have access to this feature. However, it is unclear if Google will require OEMs to include this feature in Android 12 builds. As such, it’s possible this won’t make it to the stable launch of the OS.
Not much is known about this one-handed mode, but XDA posits that it could look like the system Asus created for its handsets. With that system, the phone’s display shrinks down and moves to one side of the display, making it easier for your right or left hand to access all buttons. However, this is just speculation; Google’s approach could be very different.
Material Design “3.0”
In 2014, Google announced Material Design, a design language meant to unify all its products, including Android. Eventually, it launched an updated version of Material Design that developers colloquially referred to as Material Design 2.0 (even though Google never named it that officially). Now, according to documents obtained by XDA, it looks like a new iteration of Material is on the way.
In the leaked information, Google refers to this new Material as “Material NEXT.” That is probably not the official name for it either, but a significant change to the design language does line up with the leaked Android 12 mockup screenshots you saw earlier in this article.
Unfortunately, we only have inklings for what these changes could be. Whatever they are, they could have a large impact on the layout of Android, as previous Material updates have. Check out the full rumor roundup from XDA for more.
When you rotate your phone to landscape mode, it will often auto-rotate the contents of your display for you. This could be based on gyro sensors within the phone (depending on your settings). It could also happen through manual button presses or even through settings in particular apps.
As first seen by 9to5Google, though, a new method for auto-rotate sensing could land with Android 12 as an exclusive for Pixel phones. According to the leaked intel, this new feature would use the orientation of your face to determine whether landscape or portrait mode is more appropriate. Theoretically, this would happen through your phone’s front-facing camera and, for privacy reasons, happen on-device rather than in the cloud.
It’s unclear how this would be faster or more efficient than using gyro sensors. It’s also unclear if this would be an exclusive feature for Pixel phones. Stay tuned, as this will likely get more information as we get closer to the launch of Android 12.
Which rumored Android 12 features would you like to see make the cut? Let us know in the comments down below.