Android Technology

Google I/O 2021: Android 12, and all major announcements on day one

Most elements have been redesigned to add more visual flourish to the user.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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The search giant unveiled a beta version of its latest Android OS at Google I/O 2021 on Tuesday. The new Android 12 hands out more privacy-enhanced features and a design makeover.

“Android 12 includes the biggest design change in Android's history,” Sameer Samat, VP of Product Management, Android & Google Play said in a blog post. “We re-thought the entire experience, from the colours to the shapes, light and motion.”

Android 12’s new design will be applied to all of Google’s product, including web, hardware and mobile.

Design facelift

The first thing that jumps out of the new Android 12 is space as fewer items are loaded on the screen. Most elements have been redesigned to add more visual flourish to the user. They can customise colour palette and redesign widgets in the new OS. Once they choose a wallpaper, the system will automatically determine dominant, complementary and other colours in it. Based on the analysis, it will apply those colours across the OS, including notification shade and lock screen. The lock screen gets a larger, centred clock. If there are any notifications, its diameter will be slightly reduced.

Notification shade, quick settings and power button have also been redesigned. Particularly, the notification shade allows for an at-a-glance view of update from the apps. Quick settings, that lets users control entire OS with a swipe and tap, will now include Google Pay and Home Controls. To help people access the virtual assistant faster, the search giant will let users invoke the voice-assistant by simply long pressing the power button. They can ask it to make a phone call, open apps, ask questions or read aloud text-heavy articles.

Privacy features

Google has added privacy features in the beta Android 12 that will enable users to know which apps are accessing their data, and how much private information they have process. Users will be able to get this information on apps through a newly developed privacy dashboard. With the update, users can revoke app permissions from the dashboard itself.

A new indicator on the top right of the status bar will show users whether apps on their phones are accessing its microphone or camera. And if they wish to remove app access to these sensors, they can do so with the two new toggles in quick settings.

In a bid to give users more control over how much information they share with apps, Android 12 has added a new ‘approximate’ location permissions feature. This will limit apps from seeing the exact location of the user. For instance, weather apps don’t need precise location to offer an accurate forecast.

Google has also created a small partition within its operating system, calling it Private Compute Core. This unit will hold data for use in machine learning, like how Android currently holds password credentials data. A partition like this will help Google protect data processed within the unit.

The Android 12 beta version is available in Pixel, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Vivo and Xiaomi smartphones.


The search giant is collaborating with smartphone maker Samsung to build a unified platform for WearOS and Samsung’s Tizen. Google said their teams worked together to provide a longer battery life and made apps start up to 30% faster.

“All device makers will be able to add a customized user experience on top of the platform, and developers will be able to use the Android tools they already know and love to build for one platform and ecosystem,” Google said in a blog post.

Animating still pictures

Google is using computational photography to make animated version of still pictures. It uses nearly two identical photos, and fills in the gaps with new frames and create moving images. These moving images, which Google calls ‘Cinematic’ moments can be created with any pair of identical images.

Google has introduced a password protected space where users can save photos separately, and they won’t show up in Google Photos or any other apps on the device. Called Locked Folder, the feature will be first available on Google Pixel and later arrive on more Android devices. Pixel users will have the option to save photos and videos directly to the Locked Folder right from the camera.

Workspace gets Smart Canvas

Workspace gets smart canvas to help people work between products. With a smart chip, people can see additional information like the person’s location, job title and contact information. By typing ‘@’ in Docs, users can see a list of recommended people, files, and meetings. 

People working can quickly see associated meetings, people and linked documents without changing tabs. Smart chips will roll out to Sheets in the coming months.

Users can also present content on a Google Meet call on the web directly from Doc, Sheet or Slide, without the hassle of shuffling between live call and document. Later this year, people will be able to join a meet video call directly from Docs, Sheets and Slide.

Talking to 3D model

The tech giant demonstrated Project Starline, which creates a life-size 3-D model of a person with whom user can talk naturally, gesture and make eye contact. Google said it has developed a light display system that creates a sense of volume and depth that can be experienced without the need for additional glasses or headsets. This effect gives the feeling that the person is sitting just across the user. Gradually, the technology fades into the background and the user can focus on the person in front of them.

Currently, Project Starline is available in a few Google offices and it relies on custom-built hardware and highly specialized equipment. 

(Updates from WearOS onwards were added later in the day.)

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2021 7:55:52 AM |

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