Android 12 is ‘live’ today, but not in the way you’re hoping for

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Released to AOSP, but no OTA yet

Today Android 12 has been pushed to AOSP — presumably, hitting the “stable” milestone that means it’s basically ready to go. However, there is one major catch: Google isn’t releasing the update for us just yet. Though it’s available to developers looking to tinker with it, you can’t actually download it on your Pixel. Google says that will happen “in the next few weeks.” However, that’s also a trade-off, as smartphones from other companies may be getting it sooner than you expect.

This is an… unusual way for Google to be announcing a new Android release. Typically the update will roll out to Pixels around or even just before it hits AOSP, so today’s development is confusing in the extreme and, frankly, doesn’t mean much to folks that aren’t developers. Pixel owners will have to wait a little longer to enjoy the Android 12 update if they don’t want to jump into the Beta Program.

If you haven’t used Android 12 or followed along with our coverage, it’s one of the bigger updates in recent memory, rolling out the first major visual redesign we’ve had probably since Android 5.0 Lollipop and the death of Holo. While some of the visual changes will likely vary for other manufacturers when their phones get a taste of Android 12, Google has rolled out some big new visual changes for Android 12 on Pixels, including the new Material You and its dynamic theme system. While other phones might get to enjoy a similar feature later, Pixels running Android 12 can dynamically change system colors to adapt to the background. It’s honestly a beautiful effect, and it looks great with the newer, less dense notifications/quick settings menu, redesigned widgets, and the apps that Google has updated to take advantage of it.

Android 12 is pretty, but not all of its changes are visual, though. Among the bigger (if less marketably attractive) features are the enhancements to customer privacy. There are new indicators for when the microphone and camera are being accessed — similar to the iOS feature that landed last year, but Google’s been working on it for a few years. You can also toggle access to the mic and camera to blanket disable them if you want. Plus, there’s a new one-stop-shop in settings for privacy-related features called the Privacy Dashboard that gives you an easy visual overview of which apps are accessing what, more easily highlighting potentially sketchy behaviors. This is all on top of other changes like Android 12’s new Private Compute Core.

Not all of the changes are for the better, though. Google’s new scrolling screenshot implementation is pretty buggy, even though Google literally held the feature back for a year to avoid doing it any other (apparently better) way. If you got used to the smart home device menu being accessible from the power menu, that’s gone, though you can now access it from a lock screen shortcut. If you liked keeping track of battery life in useful metrics, that’s hard to do in Android 12 on Pixels as well. Cumulative screen-on time that previously lived in the battery menu is gone; now you can only view battery statistics for the last 24 hours, which is basically useless (and will throw a wrench in our reviews).

Google tells us that it will have more to share about the Android 12 update on October 27th-28th at a developer event, and that the update will start rolling out to Pixels “in the next few weeks.” Perhaps Google wants to hold the update to debut with the Pixel 6? Google also says other manufacturers will have news to share soon and that Samsung, OnePlus, OPPO, Realme, Techno, Vivo, and Xiaomi devices will also get it later this year. OnePlus rolled out their Android 12 Open Beta program today, Realme tells us it plans to launch on October 9th, and OPPO says its will release on October 11th.

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