Google announces Android 12 with new privacy, display and system updates

Android 12 was officially unveiled by Google overnight at I/O 2021, Google’s annual tech event showcasing exciting new features and products. On top of the list of new things coming to Android phones is new privacy features and an overhaul of the notifications system, to bring the Android operating system into the modern-day and better align itself against Apple’s iOS 14.5.

Android 12 will be released in Spring this year, with the public beta out now for some devices. The developer beta is also already live, with support from a range of Android-using manufacturers, like Samsung, OPPO and ASUS. When Android 12 comes out, it will be adopted as the baseplate for other Android phones with their own Android-based operating systems (like OPPO’s ColorOS and Samsung’s One UI), so it’s difficult to say what phones will adopt the full range of these new features beyond Google’s own Pixel range.

Let’s unpack all of the new Android 12 features and changes announced so far.

Everything new in Android 12

Introducing ‘Material You’ and UI changes

Of course, the flashiest part of the Android 12 upgrade is the UI and UX updates – i.e. the user interface and user experience. A big part of Android 12 is the new ‘Material You’ design system, which replaces Android’s ‘Material Design’ approach. What Google showed at the event was an operating system that changes its system colours (so for buttons, icons and so on) with your wallpaper, providing both primary and secondary colours to choose from.

Several phones showing Android12

This looks fancy and definitely adds a new layer of personalisation to your Android phone, although some Android operating systems (OPPO’s ColorOS in particular) already offer this level of customisation. Smoother menu animations will also be coming with Android 12, providing a more fluid experience. Buttons are also getting a more bubbly design.

System spaces have also been redesigned, such as the Settings app, Quick Settings and the notifications menu. The lock screen is also being changed up by Google, introducing new Clock customisation (although this will probably only be seen on Pixel devices, as other Android-using phone manufacturers typically do their own thing).

A photo of an Android phone running Android12

Widgets will also be getting a new approach with Android 12, and we might see some widget updates from App developers. When Google was previewing the new widget system, it showed really rounded widgets that had backgrounds change to better blend in with the wallpapers. Let’s hope we see some widget updates!

Popular Android phones

The following table shows selected published 24-month plans for the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our phone comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

The following table shows a selection of published 24-month phone plans for the OPPO Find X3 Pro on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

The following table shows a selection of published 24-month phone plans for the Google Pixel 5 on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Android 12 privacy updates

One of the big focuses of Apple’s iOS 14 was privacy, and it was all the rage with iOS 14.5, when it started to empower users to say ‘No’ to in-app tracking. Well, it appears privacy is a pretty big concern for Google now, with new features to make your phone feel secure.

Android 12 will provide users with more information about the apps that use your data, and allow users to make choices on how much data those apps can access. It looks like a lot of transparency will be asked for on Android phones, which is definitely a welcome feature.

Android 12 phones showing privacy features

The Privacy Dashboard is a new feature coming with Android 12, giving users a window into all the apps using data. It will give users detailed information on how often your data is used by apps and for how long. You can use this dashboard to also stop apps from using data completely.

Leaning over the desk and copying Apple’s homework, Android 12 will be bringing status-bar notifications to the top of your phone whenever your microphone or camera is being accessed. If an app is using either of these features, you’ll get a little, coloured dot in the top right of your display. If you don’t want any apps on your system to have the permissions to access your camera or mic, you can enable or disable the permissions in the Quick Settings menu.

An Android phone showing privacy features

Location privacy is also getting some attention with this privacy overhaul. Android 12 offers an approximate GPS feature for when apps need to know your location, but not your exact coordinates. The example given by Google is with weather apps, which don’t need to know your current exact location to tell you the temperature in your area.

A new ‘Private Compute Core’ feature is also being rolled out, using AI to keep your privacy safe and local to just your phone. This is designed for specifically for features like Live Caption, Now Playing and Smart Reply.

Other Android 12 features

Google has also announced a handful of other features coming with Android 12, which might excite some users.

  • Car Key: Android 12 users will soon be able to unlock and start their (compatible) car’s engine with their phone, using Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology, with the feature rolling out on Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy devices first. You’ll also be able to send vehicle access to other smartphones, provided they are compatible with the technology, without needing a physical key.
  • Google Assistant: The assistant will now be easier to summon, now being prompted by holding down the power button.
  • Chromecast: A Chromecast remote is coming to Android phones, so if you have a Chromecast or a Chromecast TV, you can simply use your phone to control it and browse the content you’d like to watch.
  • Password management: Password management is being redesigned across Google’s ecosystem, so soon it might be easier to keep your passwords locked down and memorable.

Apart from these things, Google says more features are on the way later this year. You can expect the Android 12 update to be released in Spring 2021 for Aussie users.

Prepaid and Postpaid phone plans

Here is a selection of postpaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database with a minimum of 10GB of data, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest, then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use Canstar Blue’s phone plan comparison tool to see a wide range of plans on offer from mobile providers. This table includes products with links to referral partners.

Here is a selection of prepaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database with a minimum of 10GB of data, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest, then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see a wide range of plans from other providers. This table includes products with links to referral partners.

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