Android 12—What’s new and what’s in it for you as a Device Fleet Manager?
Android 12 had a stable build ready on October 4, 2021, but Google officially released it for its Pixel phone on October 19, 2021.
In this article, we’ll be discussing what new features Android 12 brings, what has been improved, and how Android 12 affects industrial applications, fleet managers, and embedded systems developers.
As the developers of emteria.OS—an embedded system that is based on Android and which can be tweaked to work on almost any hardware configuration—we’ll soon be providing a version of emteria OS that brings all the best of Android 12 to our clients’ fleets and enterprise devices.
What’s new in Android 12?
Android 12 is Google’s most feature-rich update since 2014. Its design has also been completely overhauled. There are actually two versions of Android 12. The second one is called Android 12L.
Android 12L has been called a “Feature Drop” by Google and it is aimed specifically at foldable devices and devices with larger screens. It implements only minor features aimed very specifically at these devices.
Here are some of the biggest changes in Android 12.
New Design—“Material You”
Android 12’s new look is called Material You, and it is truly impressive. It adds a new level of cohesion to Android’s overall look and it integrates this across the entire OS.
Material You’s new color extraction feature extracts the colors of any wallpaper that was set on the device and then uses these colors to theme the entire operating system. Such a feature adds an excellent touch to companies who wish to easily brand their fleet devices. Branding a device is now literally as easy as just adding a wallpaper to the device’s background.
The quick settings tiles are much larger than they were before, improving the user experience. Google also added new settings tiles to easily access the camera, Google Pay, and other common tools.
More emphasis on widgets
Widgets have received a small overhaul on Android 12 and now receive a lot more emphasis. It is now much easier to scroll through widgets in the widget selector, and the widgets are far easier to view. Widget performance is greatly improved.
Widgets work seamlessly with the new Material You design. And the new widgets API means developers can leverage all the new capabilities in their code.
After capturing a screenshot, users can click a button to “capture more.” The phone scrolls and takes a screenshot of the entire item.
After the screenshot has been captured, it can be cropped or edited using a more advanced editing tool that also allows adding text to the screenshot.
In previous versions of Android, a phone would rotate depending on its positioning only. With the new “Enable Face Detection” setting, the phone can determine the position of a person’s face and establish thereby if it should rotate or not.
On an industrial level, this is useful for professions such as technicians and engineers who must sometimes lie down to inspect something. Enabling face detection for the auto-rotate feature can prevent your app from incorrectly rotating at the wrong time.
Android 12 introduces a one-handed mode so that users can more easily use large phones with one hand. The new one-handed mode shrinks everything down so that it is more easily within reach.
It looks a little like Android’s multi-app functionality, except the entire display sits on the bottom of the device’s screen.
Better security and space management
A new feature has been added called “Unused Apps.” By toggling this, apps that have not been used in a very long time will be hibernated and their permissions revoked. This is useful for saving space and also for ensuring that old applications don’t have permissions enabled that might put the device at risk.
Once the user clicks the app again, it is automatically re-enabled.
How does Android 12 impact users?
Google introduced an enormous amount of under-the-hood changes to make the Android experience more seamless and to improve performance. In addition to the obvious user-experience (UX) changes mentioned above—a better look-and-feel, larger settings headers, better rotation, etc—the new version of Android includes the following improvements:
- Optimizations for large displays.
- Better image support.
- Enhanced video support.
- Improved 3D sound support.
- Automatic splash screens for every app, even if the developers didn’t add it. (Developers can modify splash screens as needed.)
- App optimization features for improved overall performance.
Better privacy and security
Users will feel more comfortable about their privacy with some of the added features to improve transparency regarding what apps or the Android OS are doing.
Of these features, the privacy dashboard is undoubtedly the most exciting. Through this dashboard, users can know which apps used which permissions, when they used them, and how often. The user can then take action on any apps that are using permissions that the user does not agree with.
For embedded systems developers targeting enterprise devices, this means that care must be taken to ensure that any privacy features don’t conflict with company needs.
Mic and camera indicators
If an app is using your mic or camera, Android 12 displays a notification informing you. You can also toggle the mic and camera off completely across all apps. This is something that embedded system developers should be aware of.
How does Android 12 impact developers?
Along with the release of Android 12L, Google upgraded its API version to API level 32. But it said it was careful not to introduce any “breaking changes” and so Google Play’s target API level will not be changed from its current schedule.
API Level 32 will be skipped entirely in 2023, due to the fact that it does not include code-breaking changes. In 2023, it will instead increment to API level 33.
Because the latest API is largely compatible with most earlier versions, developers should switch as early as possible to the Android 12 or Android 12L SDK, depending on the type of device they’re targeting.
How does Android 12 impact embedded system developers?
The following feature changes directly impact embedded system developers:
Microphone toggle and camera toggle
Android 12 introduced a privacy feature that allows users to disable the device’s camera and microphone across all apps through a simple toggle. When an app tries to make use of the mic or camera but it has been disabled, the system will deliver a message saying that the toggle is set to OFF.
Users might inadvertently disable this toggle and developers need to know about it, prompting a user to toggle the camera/mic back on. At the OS level, embedded system developers could disable this toggle completely to ensure the mic and camera are never switched off.
Hide overlay windows
A new permission has been introduced in Android 12 which allows an app to hide all overlay windows when that app is run. This is particularly useful for embedded system developers who use kiosk mode—as emteria does—and who want to make sure no other app windows are running on top of their app.
Another important use is for when sensitive screens are being shown, such as prompting for payment details, a key feature of POS (point-of-sale) devices.
Better bandwidth estimation
Improvements on bandwidth estimation have been introduced. The bandwidth estimation returned now represents an all-time weighted average productivity. This gives much more accurate bandwidth estimates than in previous methods.
New “restricted” bucket
Android 12 introduces a new App Standby Bucket called “restricted.” This bucket will have the highest restrictions and will be given the least priority by the OS when determining which requests for resources should be honored. Apps in the restricted bucket will be served last.
If system resources are used intelligently, and the user has a high level of engagement with your app then that app is highly unlikely to be placed in the restricted bucket. If your app has a launcher activity, that activity also helps promote the app to the active bucket.
Emteria will release a version of Android 12 soon
The Emteria team is already hard at work to implement as much of Android 12’s new features into the emteria operating system as soon as possible.
Emteria is an enterprise-grade operating system based entirely on Android that can be easily tweaked to match almost any device, regardless of the size of the fleet or the hardware being used. Moreover, emteria has built the necessary infrastructure to enable over-the-air (OTA) updates for devices. The building of such an infrastructure is an enormous task.
Not every fleet device will be able to run Android 12. Just like phones, there are compatibility issues to be considered. But those clients of ours whose devices can run it will receive the update as soon as it is ready.