Yesterday, Google released the 2nd beta for Android 12 bringing with it a few new features that we expected to see in the first beta release. Thankfully, Google is beginning to introduce more of the features it debuted at I/O 2021 into this latest download. There’s a lot going on this time around, so let’s dive into what’s new in Android 12 beta 2.
Material You theming begins to appear
For all of the time that was spent on the Material You announcement during the I/O 2021 Keynote, we were a bit surprised to see the lack of theming integration in the first beta. But that’s beginning to be rectified in Android 12 beta 2, as you will notice that a few changes as soon as your phone finishes booting after the installation.
Different elements have started to pull the colors from your wallpaper, including the big lock screen clock (that was already introduced in beta 1). This is clear across most of the system UI, as unlocking your phone and pulling your notification shade down also reveals new colors for the Quick Settings panel. The toggles themselves make use of the primary color, while your Android 12 device will use black as the backdrop.
If you have a tendency of changing out your wallpapers on a regular basis or use something like Tapet to change wallpapers every day, then you’ll always be presented with different colors for your UI elements. Currently, it seems that you cannot override the color options just yet, as trying to do so in the Wallpapers & Styles section will leave the colors from your wallpaper on most parts of your phone, and only changes a few smaller elements here and there.
Conversations Widget changes
Making its way into the first Android 12 beta was the new Conversations Widget. This little widget brings quick and easy access to your most-used conversations across a myriad of different apps. With just a tap, you can go right into a specific conversation, versus opening the messaging app of choice and then trying to navigate and locate the contact that you’re looking for.
The “problem” with the Conversations Widget in Beta 1 was that you could really tell that it needed some polish and finesse in order to make it easier to add conversations from more apps. For example, in the beginning, there wasn’t a “Conversations” section in the widget picker, but that’s since been changed. Plus, you might be scrolling through the “recent conversations”, but not all apps would appear and that has since been rectified.
When the Android 12 Developer Preview landed, there were quite a few new features introduced, save for all of the new theming options with Material You. One of the more exciting features was “Double Tap”, allowing you to double-tap the back of your phone and perform a specific task like activating Google Assistant or taking a screenshot. While the feature was available in the Settings app, it did not actually properly work.
With Android 12 Beta 2, this has been renamed to “Quick Tap”, and is actually functioning properly for the most part. Some Pixel users who have updated to Beta 2 are still unable to enable the feature, but it’s working just fine on our Pixel 5. This can be accessed by opening the Settings app, scrolling down and selecting System, tapping Gestures, and selecting Quick Tap. From there, you are provided with the following options, in addition to a toggle at the top to enable it:
- Take screenshot
- Access your digital assistant
- Play or pause media
- See recent apps
- Show notifications
- Open app
There’s even an optional toggle at the bottom to “Require stronger taps” which really come in handy for those who don’t want to accidentally activate the gesture throughout your daily usage.
Picture-in-Picture cannot be resized by dragging corners
Having a Picture-in-Picture window while your watching some YouTube is really convenient. With Android 12, Google is attempting to make the interactions with these floating windows a bit easier. Previously, you could adjust the size of the window by dragging from the corner, along with double-tapping the video or simply pinching the video to size. But with Beta 2, Google has removed the ability to adjust windows by corner dragging, as users were struggling to move the window out of the way while using your phone.
You can turn off the ‘Show clipboard access’ message
We’ve touched on the different changes arriving in Android 12 in an effort to improve privacy, and this includes a feature that was sherlocked from iOS. Android 12 now includes a toast notification at the bottom of your phone, notifying you whenever an app has accessed the clipboard, such as when you copy something from your password manager, or if you copy a link in Chrome. For those who don’t want to always be notified when the clipboard is being accessed, you can now turn this notification off.
- Open the Settings app.
- Scroll down and select Privacy.
- Tap the Down Arrow to reveal the Advanced Privacy options.
- Tap the toggle next to Show clipboard access.
All-new Google Pay button appears in the Quick Settings menu and Lock Screen
Leaving your wallet behind is pretty awesome, as you won’t need to carry as many cards with you. And with the new Google Pay app, you can pay for everything while you’re out and about with ease. But Google’s making it even easier to access your default Google Pay card, without causing too much frustration. There’s a new toggle in the Quick Settings panel, that shows an outline of your default card. There’s even a new way to access Google Pay without even needing to unlock your phone, as there’s a new Google Pay button that appears in the bottom right corner of the Lock Screen. Simply tap it, enter your passcode or use the fingerprint scanner and then make your payment.
Access your Smart Home controls in Quick Settings
Being able to quickly turn on or off the lights in your smart home seems to be something that Google is still trying to figure out. With Android 11, a new panel was revealed within the Power Menu after you pressed the Power button down for a few seconds. However, with the ability to activate Assistant with the Power button in Android 12, Google had to go back to the drawing board.
In Android 12, there’s now a new Device Controls button in the Quick Settings menu. this allows you to swipe down to reveal the Quick Settings panel, tap the button, and then locate the smart home products in your home. And as expected, you can switch between different Home locations if you have different ones to manage.
Quickly turn off camera or microphone access from the Quick Settings menu
From time to time, you may find yourself wanting to quickly turn off access to the camera or microphone access (or both) for a certain app. In Android 12 Beta 2, the Quick Settings toggles have arrived, although you may have to edit the Quick Settings panel in order to drag and drop them for easy access.
Additionally, whenever the camera or microphone is being actively used, a small icon indicator appears in the top right corner notifying you that one of these is being used. And if both are being used at the same time (like when recording a video), then both the microphone and camera icons will appear in the top right. There’s also a little green dot indicator that appears after the main icons fade away.
Privacy Dashboard arrives
One of the headlining features of Android 12 Beta 2 is the all-new Privacy Dashboard that was shown off at during the I/O 2021 Keynote. This looks pretty similar to what you see with the Digital Wellbeing Dashboard, but instead of showing you what apps you are using, the Privacy Dashboard reveals what different applications have been accessing. The big three categories for the Dashboard breakdown are location, microphone, and camera, each shown in a round chart with colors and labels for each.
Below the round chart, there are sections available for each feature of the phone that has been accessed, and this goes beyond just your location, camera, and microphone. From here, you can dive in and see what apps are accessing your call logs, files, the phone app, and more. By tapping the three-dot overflow button in the top right corner, you can even add system apps to the mix, providing a bit more granularity. Not only will this feature help you keep an eye on any potential egregious apps, but you can also use this to see if there’s something acting wonky with your system.
More narrow volume slider
When the first beta dropped for Android 12, some folks were met with a rather comically large volume slider, as Google is also working to redesign this in an effort to improve one-handed usability. This is evidenced by the new One-Handed Mode that arrived in Android 12, even though Google doesn’t currently sell a phone larger than the 6.2-inch Pixel 4a 5G. At least not yet (the Pixel 6 Pro can’t get here soon enough. Thankfully, Google has remedied the large volume slider this go-’round, making the volume slider take up far less screen real estate than it did before.
Internet panel added to Quick Settings
Accessing your Wi-Fi networks and network settings have been adjusted with Android 12 thanks to the new Internet button in the Quick Settings panel. Tapping the button will reveal a new pop-up menu that comes from the bottom of the screen, where you can switch to the nearest networks, or you can toggle your cellular network. There are also two buttons to access the Settings panel, along with a “Done” button.
Google didn’t stop there, as there is also a nice little addition if you actually jump into your Wi-Fi settings menu. There’s a new “reload” icon in the top right corner. When tapped, this will automatically reset your current connections, but it doesn’t actually make your device forget the connection. Instead, it just refreshes the connection, hopefully fixing any Wi-Fi connectivity issues that you may be coming across.
What have we missed?
We’re still diving into Android 12 Beta 2, but there are quite a few more features that haven’t been added to this list yet. We’re also awaiting the arrival of more granular controls over Material You theming, but those will likely arrive in Beta 3, or maybe there’s a server-side switch that Google will randomly enable. Let us know if there are some major changes that we missed out on, and let us know what your favorite changes in Android 12 are so far!