The most exciting thing about a big Android update is getting to try all of the new show-stopping features that’ll change the way you’ll use your phone. Android 12, which releases in a few weeks on Pixel phones (3 and up) and just a select few other devices later this year, is interesting because, well, it doesn’t have a bunch of those.
For the most part, it’s still Android. You can easily get by on the new update without using the smattering of new features that Google buried in the settings, though it’s worth seeking out a few of them.
The core design improvements in Android 12 further smooth over some of the operating system’s edges — quite literally. The animations you’ll see when you power on your device, turn it off, or plug in a charger all look refined and fluid. Notification pop-ups, items in the pull-down quick settings menu, the volume interface, and more have nice, rounded edges, nesting elegantly within the equally rounded corners of the displays on Pixel phones. In some cases, though, the refreshed design comes at the cost of information density. Power users might feel like they’re using a Fisher Price phone, particularly when it comes to how the pull-down menu looks, but others may not mind as much.
According to this Android Developers page, Google says Android 12 is coming to “Pixel in the next few weeks and Samsung Galaxy, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Tecno, Vivo, and Xiaomi devices later this year.” We’ll update this review once Google shares specifics on the models that will receive Android 12.
Each of those phones use their own custom Android wrapper with its own design ID. So, while many of Android 12’s new features should make the jump, it’s possible that Google’s big Material You design push may not appear, at least with the same amount of customization that you’d find on Pixel, on every other phone that gets the update.
Samsung is a big manufacturer missing from the list of devices getting Android 12 today. Though, it has already committed to bringing the software to its Galaxy S21 lineup from earlier this year in the form of its OneUI 4 update. A hands-on with the beta software published by XDA Developers shows that Samsung’s take on Android 12 doesn’t seem to have the same pizzazz as Google’s treatment on Pixel phones.
Android 12 isn’t an update that’s trying to change how you use your phone — not that it needed to be. Instead of just tacking on dozens of new features, Google just wanted to shake things up in the design department for the sake of it. It’s an upheaval of some of Android’s smallest details. It amounts to a more customizable experience, which in turn lets your phone look and feel more unique. If that gets you excited, you probably won’t regret installing. But I wouldn’t buy a Pixel just to experience Android 12. And if you can’t get the update today, I wouldn’t fret too much until more features are added.