Google Releases First Android 12 Developer Preview

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Plenty of Android phones are still launching with Android 10, which is now more than a year old. Even Android 11 is starting to look like old news now that we’ve gotten our first look at Android 12. The first developer preview is available today, and you can take a peek at the new OS if you’ve got a recent Pixel phone. Be warned: this is a very early build that you should not use on your main phone.

Because this is the first developer preview, most of the notable changes are under the hood. There’s support for HVEC transcoding, AVIF image format, and several new Mainline modules. That last one might have some important user-facing advantages, though. Mainline is the system Google uses to push device updates through the Play Store. There are already numerous system modules in Mainline, but Android 12 adds the Android Runtime (ART) compiler to the list. So, even if your phone isn’t getting system updates at the rate you’d like, your app compatibility should improve starting with Android 12. 

Google has also confirmed that Android 12 will see some important changes to notifications. Developers will have tools at their disposal to make notifications open faster, and the UI should look different once you’re on the new OS. Google promises enhanced privacy and security tools, as well. 

Some of the rumored Android 12 features, such as a new UI and scrolling screenshots, aren’t in the preview. But there’s some evidence these features are hiding in an unfinished form deep down in the code. We expect more features to appear as the OS evolves over the coming months. And Google will have a lot of opportunities to add things. Updates for Android 12 should arrive roughly once per month. The first three updates will be new developer previews, but the final four will be betas.

Android 12 won’t launch in its final form until this fall, but the developer preview allows devs to get their apps ready for the new platform. You can use Android 12 on your phone even if you’re not a developer, but you’d be further ahead to wait for the beta release. The betas will be more stable, feature-rich, and easy to install. To get the developer preview, you need to manually flash the preview image, which Google has posted online. The betas will go out as OTA updates once you’ve signed up for the beta on Google’s beta site, which is not live at this time. You’ll need a Pixel 3 or newer to install the pre-release versions, though. Android 12 will come to more phones in late 2021 and early 2022.

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