As every year (except in 2020 for known reasons), on May 19, 2021, Google hosted its Google I / O, a large conference dedicated to its software innovations.
The opportunity to give a first glimpse into Android 12 and to take a tour of the most important innovations. The mobile operating system from Google is already available in beta on some smartphones and is making its revolution this year.
Since we’re lucky enough to have a 5G Pixel 4a that can accommodate Android 12, we rushed to install the beta. After two days of testing, here’s what we do.
We love the new Material You interface
We have to admit that the most important updates are always aesthetic. After a few years of minor tweaks, Google decided to go with Android 12 to open up a brand new user interface: Material You. Behind this name hides a brand new, rounded graphics charter that is more minimalistic, lighter and smoother than ever before.
Symbol of this new era: the notification center and quick settings. Google is swapping small icons for large rectangles with rounded corners that show more text information.
Leave the transparent presentation and Google will opt for an opaque drop-down menu, which then becomes the nerve center of our use. Aesthetically, the whole thing is very similar to what we know on iOS 14, and we’re not going to complain.
These rectangles with rounded corners are also on the screen saver. They present notifications transparently on a surface that is again very refined. Google devotes most of the space to displaying time. Act about it.
We see you coming, “at first glance the aesthetic changes aren’t that obvious,” right? Think again Because Material You has another trick in the code.
Indeed, Google has developed a feature to match the graphics chart with the background image. The colors, typography or even the shape of the symbols change as desired. If the selection of the AI is not suitable, we can of course adjust each parameter manually to our taste. At first glance it may seem like a detail to you, but it means a lot to us.
New gestures inspired by other brands
Google is not satisfied with revolutionizing the user interface, it is also changing the way you navigate on a smartphone. We can’t really say that the engineers racked their brains because they essentially got their ideas from overlays from partner manufacturers or … at Apple. Are we blaming them? Absolutely not.
So we can now activate Google Assistant by simply pressing the power button. A gesture we found on Samsung smartphones to activate Bixby or on Apple to call Siri. We even wonder how Google could have waited so long to natively add this type of gesture.
Another interesting feature: the double support on the back of the smartphone. With Android 12 you can now assign an action to this gesture. Quickly press the back of the phone twice with your index finger to trigger the flashlight, take a screenshot, play or pause music, or view recently used applications.
If none of these actions suit your needs, you can simply configure the action you want manually. For example, we decided to start Google Pay with this simple gesture.
Be careful, like the iPhone, the double tap can be involuntary (too sensitive). So Google suggests enabling a feature that requires you to press harder to trigger the action. Well seen.
Finally, Android 12 includes a true one-handed mode. Once activated, simply slide your finger up and down from the bottom of the screen. Finally a way not to twist in order to use our ever larger smartphones. Google took its time, but the results are excellent. In our opinion, the one-handed mode native to Android 12 is the best we’ve ever tested.
Google, which is known for its business model based on data mining, surprises everyone with the Privacy Dashboard, an interface for protecting private data.
This new functionality is part of a more global strategy for the company aimed at restoring its image. Other measures were taken by the Americans through all of his services. For example, you can instantly clear history in Google Search, do the same thing with a click on Google Maps, or even hide certain photos in Google Photos.
Specifically, the data protection dashboard offers a clear overview of the authorizations that have been granted for the various applications. We can then manage everything in a few seconds and go into the smallest details. A giant leap for the American.
But still ?
Google didn’t just introduce these few new features to seduce us. While big changes are visible on a daily basis, other smaller, more discreet adjustments enhance the daily experience.
For example, we think of floating windows for video playback. They now display video control buttons (like on iOS) and can be slid to the side when viewing a message (like on iOS).
The widget management is also much more complete. You are now adopting a design with rounded corners and can adjust more precisely. Other square formats are also available. Here, too, Apple’s influence is not very far and we are happy here too.
Finally, note the improvements in terms of audio, as Android 12 can now use the vibration engine to improve sound quality and immersion (especially in-game).
These small adjustments therefore contribute to the good impressions left by Google’s new mobile operating system. Until the release of the final version (planned for October), some functions of speed cameras will disappear completely. Others may point to the tip of their symbol in surprise. Let’s wait and see.
Our opinion on Android 12
Every major update of a mobile operating system carries risks, especially if the aesthetics change. If taste and colors cannot be discussed, we have to admit that we fell completely in love with Android 12 and its Material You interface.
The operating system in particular is much smoother thanks to the newly designed animations and transitions. The new gestures and the new management of widgets further enrich the experience. Android 12 has undoubtedly reached the age of maturity. And we really like ripe bones.