Google just revealed a new version of Android called Android 12L, with an eye for large displays. They’ve delivered a message that on one hand says Android 12L is “a special feature drop”, and on the other says Android 12L is “an OS optimized for large screens.” Google also suggests that Android 12L “refines the system UI” of Android 12, making Android 12 ready for the future of the next wave of large screen and transforming screen devices.
This release is unique, as Google doesn’t currently have a device that’s positioned to be a perfect piece of hardware on which to run the software they’re showing. Normally Google would show a new version of Android, then release said software in a Developer Preview so that devices like the Pixel phone can run the OS in advance of the general public.
Because there is no big-screen Android 12 device in the world today that Google could target with this software, they’re releasing it to developers as an emulator with Android Studio. This means a developer will run the OS as a virtual device on their desktop computer, with Google’s Device Manager software.
Oddly, Google’s documentation for the emulator suggests that the user select the Pixel C in the Tablet category for a new virtual test device. They also suggest that the developer could select the “7.6-inch Fold-in with outer display” in the phone category. You could read in to this as a potential point of reference for Google’s first foldable device – but Google’s confirmed no such device exists, as yet.
Features for Android 12L include a two-column layout for Quick Settings and notifications, optimization of the screen grid for foldables, and a new “polished” fold-unfold transition.
Android 12L adds a new taskbar to the bottom of the OS screen in landscape mode. A taskbar, in this case, is a black bar on which an array of apps sit for easy tapping and launching. This taskbar appears to work with a split-screen mode that, again, utilizes the size of the screen for maximum efficacy.
This is only the beginning. Google will also start implementing features announced earlier this year, like the large-screen-specific app rating in the Google Play Store for apps of all sizes.
Developers can head to the Android 12L documentation page now for early access to Android 12L before its more formal launch in early 2022. Now we have only to cross our fingers that this doesn’t turn out like Android 3.0 Honeycomb, with device creators and developers alike attempting to use “tablet” features for their smartphones, regardless of screen size – what a mess!
Per Google, the Android 12L developer preview timeline is quite short. Developer Previews start in October (now), Beta Releases in December, and the green final phase leading to final release goes from January to February to what might be a March release date for the final public build.