Android 12 — also known as “Snow Cone” — was released on October 4th. Outside of public beta builds for Samsung and OnePlus smartphones, finding an official update on any existing phones will be difficult. Instead, Google’s official announcement of the release of Android 12 to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) reads:
Hold an eye fixed out for Android 12 coming to a tool close to you, beginning with Pixel within the subsequent few weeks, and Samsung Galaxy, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Tecno, Vivo, and Xiaomi gadgets later this yr.
It’s unusual for Google’s phones to receive official updates after an open-source release of a new version of Android. Nexus phones were always promised day-one updates when a new version was released, even before the Pixel series. So, what exactly is going on here? Is Android 12 truly complete and ready to use, or is Google pulling a fast one on us?
To answer this, we must separate the Android 12 bits from the Pixel bits. And it’s obvious that the Pixel bits aren’t finished yet. Google has stated that it is “wrapping up a special release on Android 12 with Pixel-exclusive and Pixel-first experiences.” But those are Pixel characteristics. So there’s no reason to put off the open-source code release, and hence other manufacturers’ work on Android 12 updates, simply because Google-specific features require longer time in the oven. There’s no need for other manufactures’ top Android phones to wait for Google’s Pixel code to be finished.
The Android bits are achieved; however, the Pixel bits aren’t.
By the way, those Google-exclusive features appear to encompass the majority, if not all, of Material You, the company’s new design language. Material You isn’t in the current AOSP version, according to sources from two big Android partners, with a future update — potentially Android 12.1, perhaps — likely to offer manufacturers access to Pixel phones’ dynamic color-changing features. This is most likely why Samsung included its version of dynamic color in the One UI 4 Beta 2 release.
Though it hasn’t been announced, I expect Google’s phones will be the first to receive “official” Android 12 updates. Current Android 12 betas from companies like Samsung and OnePlus are far from final, with several missing features and issues in the most current builds. By the end of the month, when older Pixels and the newly announced Pixel 6 series are expected to receive Android 12 updates, these aren’t going to be anything near stable.
Not all new Android versions are created equal. Some people change more than others, and some people release more easily. As indicated by their highly reliable final beta builds and earlier public launches, Android 10 and Android 11 were completed by August 2019 and 2020, respectively. However, Android 12 is a significant upgrade.
Not all new Android variations are equal.
In addition to the new APIs and features we expect with each new OS version, Google is messing with with the system UI — Android’s basic look and feel — in a way it hadn’t done since the last major overhaul in 2014. Even the current public “release candidate” build for Pixel phones contains apparent missing functionality and glitches, as well as a “known issues” section in its release notes.
As a result of all of this, Android 12 has been officially launched, though not really. You can compile the open-source code yourself, but that’s not the same as handing out updates to consumers over the air. That’s an unsatisfactory position for enthusiasts, but I believe we won’t have to wait long to see what “Pixel-first and Pixel-exclusive features” Google has planned. On October 19, these should be released alongside the Pixel 6.
In the case of Android 12 updates on non-Pixel telephones, we should always, in all probability, mood our expectations. Given the critical components of Materials, You have not been launched to producers, and it is unlikely any of the large telephones getting Android 12 updates in 2021 will obtain the identical design overhaul loved by Pixel gadgets. (Given how prominently Materials You options in present Pixel 6 adverts, maybe it is not stunning to see Google holding again on permitting different manufacturers to make use of it.) As an alternative, anticipate seeing producers following the lead of Samsung with their very own color-changing options.
Design-wise, Android is an enormous ship to steer.
The new design language, like Material Design in 2014, will take time to spread throughout the Android ecosystem. Android is a vast ship to pilot, and software design is one area where manufacturers have a lot of latitude, despite Google exerting more control than it used to.
So, officially, Android 12 is finished, and the source code is available for download. However, we’ll be looking forward to Google’s fall Pixel event in just over a week for the ultimate Android 12 consumer experience.