Android 12

Android Developer 12 Preview 1 released for developers

Google plans to have Android 12 stable by August 2021

Google has released the first Android 12 in preview form for developers and due to the fact that it is an early developer preview, most of the changes are under the hood and there’s no over-the-air update yet.

Google promises that just like with Android 11, it’ll add a Platform Stability milestone to Android 12 to give developers advance notice when final app-facing changes will occur in the development cycle of the operating system.

“With each version, we’re working to make the OS smarter, easier to use, and better performing, with privacy and security at the core,” writes Google VP of Engineering Dave Burke.

“In Android 12 we’re also working to give you new tools for building great experiences for users. Starting with things like compatible media transcoding, which helps your app to work with the latest video formats if you don’t already support them, and easier copy/paste of rich content into your apps, like images and videos. We’re also adding privacy protections, refreshing the UI, and optimizing performance to keep your apps responsive.”

Compatible media transcoding

Android 12 will support automatic media transcoding to higher quality formats. For apps that don’t or can’t support the High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) codec that many modern camera apps use, Android 12 will automatically transcode the video file into the more common Advanced Video Coding (AVC) format. There might be a delay on the user’s end while the device transcodes the file.

Multi-channel audio

Android 12 will now also offer better support for multi-channel audio with up to 24 channels (a boon for music and other audio apps, no doubt), spatial audio, MPEG-H support and haptic-coupled audio effects with the strength of the vibration and frequency based on the audio. There’s also improved gesture navigation and plenty of other optimizations and minor changes across the operating system.

Support for AVIF images

Android 12 now also supports the AV1 Image File Format as a container for images and GIF-like image sequences. When you take a photo, your camera saves it in the popular JPEG format (the .jpg file extension). However, that format is a bit old, so Android 12 introduces support for the newer AV1 Image File Format (AVIF). This format sports high image quality yet with more efficient image compression. In some cases, it looks markedly better than a JPG counterpart while having a similar, if not smaller, file size.

New notification UI

As with every Android release, Google also continues to tinker with the notification system.  The UI is obviously a critical part of Android, so users will notice any visual changes right away. Right now, the Developer Preview includes updates to the transitions and animations to make them smoother, plus some tweaks to the controls and templates. Again, this is interesting from a developer’s perspective, but these changes will affect users in time.

Google now also asks that developers implement a system that immediately takes users from a notification to the app, without an intermediary broadcast receiver or service, something it recommended before.

More responsive notifications

Everyone wants faster notifications, right? When you tap that item in your shade, you expect to go to the app immediately. Except, that doesn’t always happen. Google wants to change this in Android 12 by making it so that apps that target the new platform open their target activities immediately upon a tap instead of relying on the intermediary “trampoline” services that run first. In short, for the end user, this will theoretically mean faster, more responsive notifications.

Better app compatibility testing

This one is specifically for developers and it’s unlikely that we the users will see this directly. However, it’s important. Android 12 will let developers toggle some of the new opt-in features to test compatibility with their apps. These toggles will allow developers to test what happens when they enable or disable a specific feature.

Foreground service optimizations – Foreground services are an important way for apps to manage certain types of user-facing tasks, but when overused they can affect performance and even lead to app kills. To ensure a better experience for users, Google will be blocking foreground service starts from the background for apps that are targeting the new platform. To make it easier to transition away from this pattern, the company are introducing a new expedited job in JobScheduler that gets elevated process priority, network access, and runs immediately regardless of power constraints like Battery Saver or Doze.

For back-compatibility, expedited jobs is also built into the latest release of Jetpack WorkManager library. Also, to reduce distraction for users, display of some foreground service notifications are delayed by up to 10 seconds. This gives short-lived tasks a chance to complete before their notifications are shown.

Platform Stability milestone

Last year, Google made it easier for developers to have their apps ready for Android 11. This project timeline let them know when final SDK and internal APIs and system behaviours would be ready. Android 12’s development cycle will be much the same. Google plans to have Android 12 stable by August 2021 and developers will have quite a bit of time before the final release to make sure their apps are ready to go.

Google also continues to drive forward its Project Mainline, which allows for an increasing number of the core Android OS features to be updated through the Google Play system — and hence bypasses the slow update cycles of most hardware manufacturers.

With Android 12, it is bringing the Android Runtime module into Mainline, which will then let Google push updates to the core runtime and libraries to devices. “

We can improve runtime performance and correctness, manage memory more efficiently, and make Kotlin operations faster – all without requiring a full system update,” Burke says.

“We’ve also expanded the functionality of existing modules – for example, we’re delivering our seamless transcoding feature inside an updatable module.”

Android 12: How to install Developer Preview 1

If you’re a developer, these are the devices supported for the first Developer Preview:

  • Pixel 3
  • Pixel 3 XL
  • Pixel 3a
  • Pixel 4
  • Pixel 4 XL
  • Pixel 4a
  • Pixel 4a 5G
  • Pixel 5

Since this is aimed at developers only for the time being, Google is making the Android 12 Developer Preview 1 a manual download only. You can then flash the image to your Pixel with an unlocked bootloader, or sideload the OTA file if you have a locked bootloader. From then on, you’ll get new preview and beta updates over-the-air as they become available.

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