Android 12 Beta 3 released: Here's what's exciting

Android 12 beta 3 is out, and Google's latest preview of its new OS debuts a number of improvements along with a milestone for app developers. It's the final beta ahead of Android 12 Platform Stability at beta 4, Google says, though there are also some changes which regular users are likely to appreciate.

The primary goal of the Android 12 beta program, of course, is giving app-makers an opportunity to get their software ready for the new OS. Beta 3 includes the final Android 12 APIs along with the official SDK, Google confirms, making it a good point to start testing apps to make sure they'll play nicely with the final release expected later in the year.

However that's not the only change in today's release. Google has also added a number of user experience and performance updates, some of which are likely to be of interest to end users too.

Scrolling screenshots, for example, will allow native support for capturing longer images of what's on-screen in Android 12. It's a feature we've seen third-party UX offer before now, but Google is baking it into Android 12 natively. When you capture a screenshot, there'll be a new "Capture more" button that extends the image to the full content, including anything currently scrolled off-screen.

Afterward, there'll be the option to crop down the image as normal.

Android 12 beta 3 also includes platform support for AppSearch, which is Google's new search engine. "With AppSearch, apps can index structured data and search over it with built-in full-text search capabilities, and they can use native features like highly-efficient indexing and retrieval, multi-language support, and relevancy ranking," Dave Burke, VP of Engineering, explains.

In addition to being able to surface app data within Android 12 searches, there'll be support for apps securely sharing data with other apps. That way, they'll be able to include that data in their own search results.

Other tweaks are designed to make the day to day user-experience of Android 12 more pleasing. Improvements to auto-rotate, for example, tap into the front-facing camera now, factoring in face detection to help understand when to rotate the screen. "This is especially helpful for people who are using their devices while lying down on a couch or in bed, for example," Burke suggests.

It'll be an opt-in feature for users, in the Android Settings, and it'll all run locally on the Private Compute Core – included on Pixel 4 and later Pixel devices – so that images aren't stored or uploaded to the cloud. Rotation animation and redraw rates have been improved by 25-percent, too, Google claims, in part thanks to a new machine learning gesture-detection algorithm.

Game developers will get access to Game Mode APIs, which will allow them to tweak how their title performs depending on whether the Android 12 phone is set to prioritize more battery life or more performance. "These APIs will be tied to the upcoming game dashboard which provides an overlay experience with quick access to key utilities during gameplay," Burke says. "The game dashboard will be available on select devices later this year."

Play as you download, meanwhile, will also be supported. That downloads game assets in the background, while the title is being installed, and helps get the gameplay started sooner.

Android 12 beta: How to get it

At the moment, Google is making Pixel smartphones from the Pixel 3 and newer compatible with the Android 12 beta. That includes the latest Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G, and Pixel 5. It's free to take part in the beta.

Meanwhile, some Android partners – including Sharp and TCL – are also taking part in the Android 12 beta. They'll have select devices which the new preview can be installed on.

Beta 3 is also available for Android TV, and there's the Android 12 beta GSI image too. The Android Emulator also supports this new release.