Android 12L hands-on: Some huge multitasking upgrades, however is that sufficient?

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Regardless of Google being on the twelfth technology of its ubiquitous cellular OS, lately it’s felt like Android has left tablets behind. Hell, even Google gave up making its personal tablets years in the past, whereas another system makers started favoring Chrome OS over Android on bigger gaadgets. However with Android 12L, Google is attempting to deal with a number of the OS’s shortcomings whereas additionally paving the best way for rising varieties of devices like foldables.

Why Android 12L?

In distinction to Google’s typical once-a-year launch cadence, Android 12L is a well timed callback to older variations of Android that obtained one (or extra) mid-cycle updates. One huge benefit of Android 12L is that as a result of Google doesn’t have to fret about together with bigger overarching adjustments because it does with its huge yearly replace, the corporate might be extra focused about what sort of options ought to (or shouldn’t) be included.

Who’s it for?

Engadget tested two tablets: one running Android 11 and one running the Android 12L beta.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Google says Android 12L is a particular replace primarily meant to assist larger-screen gadgets, although all the brand new options will nonetheless make their method into Android as an entire. At present, Android 12L might be put in on a spread of Pixel telephones (the Pixel 3 and up, however not the Pixel 6 or 6 Professional but), Google’s Android Emulator, and critically, Lenovo’s P12 Professional pill–which is the one pill and third-party system that’s been formally authorized to run Android 12L to date. (It’s additionally the primary system I’ve been utilizing to check 12L.)

When will Android 12L be prepared for launch?

Android 12L's roadmap according to Google

Proper now, Google is mid-way by its testing and growth cycle. Android 12L has already gotten two beta releases so far (relying on the system), with a 3rd beta deliberate for someday later this month previous to an eventual launch someday by the top of Q1 2022 (which ends in March).

The large adjustments in Android 12L

A brand new taskbar and improved multitasking

The most important new feature in Android 12L is the new taskbar for multitasking.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

A very powerful addition in Android 12L is the brand new taskbar. Much like taskbars on desktop OSes, Android 12L’s taskbar sits on the backside of the display and holds a choice of apps for straightforward entry (although I ought to notice that on smaller gadgets like telephones, the taskbar is probably not there by default).

Not like many Android launchers, the taskbar is pinned in place, so it’ll at all times be there until you’re taking part in a fullscreen video or recreation. That stated, you can also make it disappear once you need by urgent and holding. However the place issues get actually fascinating is which you could additionally open up apps straight into split-screen mode just by dragging the app icon up from the taskbar into the center of your display. From there, you possibly can simply regulate the scale of the app’s window nonetheless you need.


This far into Android’s growth cycle, the addition of a taskbar and the power to tug and drop apps into split-screen mode is as near a “game-changer” as we’re going to get. It makes the method of multitasking a lot sooner and simpler—significantly for bigger gadgets like tablets and smartphones which frequently really feel like they’ve extra display actual property than they’ll truly make the most of.

That stated, there are some essential limitations as a result of not like Samsung’s One UI, there isn’t a simple option to open up three apps in split-screen on the identical time or create everlasting app pairs. However much more than that, the taskbar maxes out at 5 apps, which feels a bit restricted. I imply simply have a look at all the additional room on the left and proper the place extra apps might go. I’m actually hoping that for the ultimate construct, Google will increase the variety of apps that may reside down there, particularly when current foldables just like the Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold3 have the same taskbar that helps as much as eight icons (plus a launcher) with ease.

The new taskbar in Android 12L makes it significantly easier to multitask and open apps in split-screen mode.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

For individuals who like to observe movies, Google lately added a brand new split-screen icon to the second Android 12L beta’s picture-in-picture mode, so you possibly can extra simply go from the mini participant to multitasking with only a couple faucets.

UI enhancements

The opposite huge space of enchancment in Android 12L are adjustments to the OS’s UI for bigger screens. So as an alternative of the single-column notification tray we’re used to seeing on telephones, Android 12L encompasses a two-column format that places notifications on the correct alongside your common fast settings icons on the left. It’s an easy change, but it surely actually does make the additional show space on greater gadgets really feel extra worthwhile. And it’s the same state of affairs for the Settings menu, although as soon as once more I ought to level out that Samsung’s OneUI has had this for a while on bigger foldables. Sadly on the P12 Professional, I observed that the two-column notification format solely works in panorama mode, which hopefully Google can tackle in a future replace.

To make better use of devices with larger screens, Android 12L includes an updated notification tray with a two-column layout.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

One other intelligent quality-of-life replace is the power for Android 12L to maneuver the PIN or pattern-entry menu on a tool’s lock display to left or proper, primarily based on the place you most lately touched the display. It makes stepping into your system only a bit sooner and simpler. Although as soon as once more, Google nonetheless must tweak issues a bit. On the P12 Professional, the sector displaying your pin seems on the prime of the display, which seems to be a bit awkward (and likewise fairly hilarious) in portrait mode. Google additionally up to date the Current Apps display with a brand new format that retains the prevailing card-based system whereas higher using the house on the perimeters of your show.

Lastly, whereas it’s not obtainable on the P12 Professional simply but, Google additionally added a brand new “double line” clock choice to the lock display. So as an alternative of getting an enormous clock smack dab in the course of your show, you possibly can select a extra compact timepiece that’s tucked up within the prime left nook.

Much more under-the-hood huge display optimizations

Elsewhere, Android 12L has much more refined enhancements designed to make apps look higher on greater screens, even when these apps haven’t been up to date shortly. For apps that haven’t been already optimized by their builders, Google upgraded Android 12L’s compatibility mode to make apps mechanically look and reply higher throughout varied display resolutions and orientations. And for apps that don’t take up all the display, Google added new letterboxing choices together with new overlays and background settings. There’s even a brand new software to use rounded corners to app home windows, although as you possibly can see by the squared-off apps from our Android 12L check system, it’s as much as system makers to implement them as they see match.

Thanks to an update, the PIN entry menu in Android !2l automatically moves to the side of the screen you touched last for easier access.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Sooner or later, Google will even add rankings to Play Retailer to assist level out which apps have been optimized for big display gadgets and assist issues like adaptive layouts and scaling choices, which is particularly essential for foldables that may change between varied display resolutions and facet ratios on the fly.

Then there are extra area of interest adjustments like up to date M3 buttons (those that appear like little capsules) that ought to assist name consideration to essential permissions, some new animations (just like the one for energy in fast settings) and extra intuitive labels for essential multitasking features (like renaming “pin to prime” to “break up prime”).

What Android 12L means for future gadgets

Google has been very clear up to now saying Android 12L is meant to assist “the subsequent wave of Android 12 tablets, Chromebooks and foldables.” So whereas you might even see some enhancements on telephones, Android 12L is admittedly setting the desk for the subsequent batch of big-screen cellular gadgets. Nonetheless, if we’re studying between the traces, maybe the larger takeaway is that Android 12L might herald the arrival of the long-rumored Pixel Fold or presumably the return of a first-party Google pill. Google hasn’t finished a mid-cycle Android replace since Android 8.1 in late 2017, which suggests Google might need some upcoming {hardware} designed to actually showcase all the brand new options in Android 12L.

Despite already being available on retail devices, the taskbar in Samsung's One UI on the Galaxy Z Fold3 can display eight app icons plus a launcher compared to just five in Android 12L.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

However has it labored? In comparison with vanilla Android 12, the brand new taskbar in Android 12L makes an instantaneous impression on how you utilize and multitask on a pill or different huge display system. With so many individuals working and studying from house, the times when a pill might be a easy video watching or social media machine are over, and with Android 12L is Google acknowledging that shift.

Nonetheless, it isn’t a transparent win, as a result of when in comparison with Chrome OS which already has a devoted taskbar and the power to run Android apps, Chrome OS-based gadgets usually really feel like they’re higher suited to deal with on a regular basis productiveness or schooling wants, significantly on devices with built-in or non-obligatory keyboards. However for mobile-first hybrid gadgets like foldables, Android 12L makes lots of sense, even when many of those new options are already obtainable in different variations of Android like One UI.

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