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Android 12 wants to be a conversation starter

It looks like early leaks of Google’s next Android version, Android 12, have leaked. The folks over at XDA Developers have gotten their hands on screenshots of what appears to be the upcoming Android OS.

There aren’t a whole bunch of things to unpack from this collection of “maybe” screenshots of Android 12, but there are several interesting things to note. For starters, it looks like we’ll be getting a different look this time. It looks like Google will be removing the whole transparent aesthetic that’s currently on Android 11, opting or a more solid shade instead. In the screenshots it is some beige colourway, but that could be due to the fact that the overall theme looks beige too. It should, for example, switch the aesthetic up of you choose to go for dark mode instead.

The separation between conversations and notifications is still here, which is a pretty neat way to separate the important stuff from the clutter. One interesting thing to note is that the quick settings menu now looks like it will only feature four controls rather than six. I don’t know how I feel about that because as it is, I think six is a great number that allows me to toggle pretty much every setting I need without needing to pull expand the settings further.

Also new is what looks like an iOS-esque warning or notification at the top right corner of the screen. This lets you know when an app is using your phone’s sensors like the the camera or microphone. I really like this on iOS, so I’ll be glad to see this make its way onto Android. It adds that level of reassurance that is valuable to me in this day and age.

If you tap on it, it looks like you’ll get an expanded menu with more details, letting you know which app is using what exactly. But, one thing I’m a little uncertain of is when this notification will take over all the icons on the top right of the screen. In one of these screenshots, the warning appears as a small green dot next to the battery and network icons, while in the other it is fully expanded and has taken over all the icon space there.

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I personally hate it when I can’t see my battery indicator because that’s the one icon I check the most, so I hope that it’s either a temporary thing, or that there’s a setting to change its behaviour.

Next up on the list of sizable changes is that it looks like Google will be making some tweaks to the widgets you can add on Android 12. I don’t know the extent to which the changes will be made, but widgets on Android have been pretty stale for a while now. It has gotten to the point where I sometimes don’t even use widgets because they feel archaic compared to the rest of an otherwise intuitive OS.

Nevertheless, what looks legit is that there will be a brand new widget called “Conversations”. From the looks of things, it looks like a widget that can serve as an expansion of the “conversations” feature in the notifications shade as well as the “bubbles” feature. It’s a tiny widget that seems to show you the latest messages, missed calls, activities, among other things on your home screen. It looks like you can also add multiple conversation widgets so I’m guessing you’ll be able to customise them somehow based on app or contact.

Besides that, I didn’t really notice much else from the XDA Developers report. Plus, with all leaked documents, you should always take it with a grain of salt because none of this has been officially confirmed at the time of this article’s writing. That said, XDA reports that their source has been pretty reliable thus far.

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As cool or uncool these new features are to you, I’m pretty interested to see how many of them will make it onto the popular Android devices that people actually buy. After all, almost every major manufacturer has some kind of skin with a spin on the Android software that often completely changes the experience.

And, at this point, since we don’t get phones like the Google Pixel in Malaysia, I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve used a proper near-stock Android build on a capable smartphone. Before writing this, I had to go look up Android 11 reviews just to refresh my memory.

In Malaysia, we have manufacturers like OnePlus and Nokia who run stock or stock-like Android versions, but they’re definitely not as popular as established brands like Samsung, Xiaomi or Oppo. And if you’ve ever used these phones, at least 2/3 of these manufacturers completely change the experience of their phone with their own Android skin.

That being said, the report indicates that Google will be mandating the inclusion of features like the camera and microphone warning indicators on all phones running Android 12. If this turns out to be true, that will be a good move, but for now all we can do is wait and see.

What do you think of this if it does turn out to be Android 12? Let me know in the comments below.

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