Compared to iOS 14 or 15, Android 12 is mainly a cosmetic update. Its design and interface feel fresh and dynamic, but it won’t change the way we use Android on our smartphones regularly. In short, everything we like and loves about Android (like the app drawer and widgets) is still there; it’s just that everything now looks different. There are also a couple of new features that many of us have been waiting for. So, let’s take a quick look at what’s new.
I received the Android 12 update on my Google Pixel 4a, which is (sadly) the most recently launched Pixel smartphone you can officially buy in India. Because it’s a Pixel, the software update was instantly available after the Pixel 6 launch. It’s about 1.69GB in size, which isn’t too large even for a mid-range smartphone.
After installing the update, what immediately got my attention was the lock screen. There’s a large, bold digital clock in the top-left corner and a fancy animation even when you press the unlock/power button to wake the device or put it to sleep. Notifications now appear in a more compact format that resembles cards. However, this card-like layout means that there’s even less text to read unless you expand a notification.
Once unlocked, the home screen has received a significant chunk of this UI overhaul. A long-press lets you access the Wallpaper and style menu and the new Widgets menu. Android 12 has a unique theme engine that will pick colors from your wallpaper or apply a primary preset color. The Wallpaper and style menu is where you can access Android 12’s new theming engine. You can either go with primary colors or let the system generate a color palette and theme based on your wallpaper’s colors. There’s also a toggle for Themed icons, which will change the appearance of system app icons (Phone,
Contacts, Play Store, Photos, etc.) to match the wallpaper and the theme. The Widgets menu is where you will find all your Android widgets, including new customizable ones from Google’s services (Keep, Calendar, etc.). A new Conversations widget lets you pin an active or a recent conversation and the usual Android devices from third-party apps. The Conversation widget is an excellent way to bring a talk from a particular app onto the home screen, and it will keep updating every time there is a new message. I tried this with WhatsApp and Slack, and they worked surprisingly well. Tapping on the widget will open the respective app and take you to the conversation, but you can’t chat on the device itself.