Google finally announced the first Android 12 beta at Google I/O 2021, and it could represent the biggest update to Android in a number of years. The new operating system brings with it an all-new theming system called Material You, a revamp to many elements of the user interface, and more.
Now that Android 12 has been out for over a week, we’ve had a real opportunity to go over the features that are present in the Android 12 beta so far. Eventually, the consumer release of Android 12 will get even more features, but already, the Android 12 beta currently available gives us a pretty good idea of what the final version of Android 12 will look like. And there’s a lot to like. Here are our favorite features in Android 12 so far — note that we’re only considering features that are actually available in the Android 12 beta, not features that have been announced, but we can’t yet try for ourselves.
A new lock screen and always-on-display
This one may not be the biggest new feature out there, but it can actually be very handy. The new lock screen and always-on display puts the clock front-and-center when you don’t have notifications, making it very easy to see at a glance. Even when you do have notifications, the clock is still nice and big. Not only that, but like on Android 11 you’ll see small icons of the notifications that you do have, so you have an idea of if your notifications need your attention.
Easier access to…everything
In Android 12, pretty much all the buttons and toggles are much bigger. This makes them easier to tap — so for example, when you’re turning on and off quick settings, you can do so at a glance. It does mean that there’s a little less information on the display at any given moment, but as long as you’re pretty good at choosing your favorite quick settings, that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
A built-in one-handed mode
Various Android manufacturers have built single-handed modes into their phones, but now there’s a one-handed mode that’s built into stock Android. Access to the feature is turned off by default, but you can turn it on by opening up the Settings app and heading to System > Gestures > One-Handed mode, and turning the toggle to the on position. Then, you can access one-handed mode by swiping down at the bottom of the display. There are settings to automatically exit one-handed mode when you close apps, and after a certain amount of time, too.
Even the animations in Android 12 have gotten some love — and they look great. The revamped animations start from the moment you unlock your phone, with light tearing across the screen from a button you pressed, or swipe you performed. Then, there are new animations in the quick settings, which sparkle across the button as you press them. It’s a great touch and helps make the interface as a whole feel more responsive.
Immediate Assistant access
Google is taking a page out of Apple’s book with Android 12 — by giving users access to Google Assistant by holding the power button. This essentially replaces the Power Menu in Android 12, which previously offered quick access to Google Pay and Google Home smart home controls. These controls will eventually be moved to the quick settings, though in the current beta they’re not there yet. But the beta does offer the option to access Google Assistant by holding the power button, and it works great.