Google Releases Android 12L with Improved Tablet Features
Android tablets have existed in some form for as long as Android itself has existed, but Google has spent large swaths of time pretending they don’t. After ignoring tablets for the last few years, Google cares again. Today, it has announced the launch of Android 12L, a mid-stream update to Android 12 that includes numerous enhancements for tablets and large screen devices. It’ll hit Pixel devices soon, but the most important features won’t be evident until it arrives on tablets and foldables, which there are none of in the Pixel family.
Google first acknowledged Android tablets in 2011 with the Motorola Xoom. It also designed a new version of Android for this purpose, known as Honeycomb for tablets back then. It remerged with the mainline Android in version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. However, Google seemed more interested in smaller tablets that are scarcely larger than today’s smartphones, and it adjusted the tablet UI to be more phone-like and less capable on larger screens. Apple went in the opposite direction, and the iPad currently dominates the market.
Google said it was done making tablets after the Pixel Slate crashed and burned, but there’s been more interest in Android slates and large-format foldables in the last few release cycles. While Google doesn’t have any tablets of its own, it has worked closely with Samsung on features for foldables. Now, it’s got a refined version of Android that all OEMs can use on tablets, and some of these features will sound familiar.
The notification shade and quick settings can now share the screen, making much better use of the available space. The settings UI is also dual-pane, an experience Samsung implemented on its own for tablets. Most of the important changes relate to app and window management. Android 12L has a new taskbar UI that makes it easier to multitask and use split-screen apps. For example, you can have a video playing in one pane while you use a browser or messaging app in the other.
Even though most of the changes are for tablets, Android 12L is coming to phones as well. The latest update for Pixel phones is rolling out today, and it’s based on Android 12L. The so-called Feature Drop adds better Live Captions and Live Translations, as well as a slick new battery widget. We won’t really see what 12L can do until it arrives on a device with a larger screen. Google says it is working with Samsung, Lenovo, and Microsoft to roll out Android 12L later this year. We just don’t know how much later. These features will also be expanding in the more distant Android 13 release.
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