Android 12 beta 2 is now available for download on compatible mobiles and we have been able to test it for several hours. Although it seems like a minor update, the truth is that Google has introduced notable news, most of which were announced on Google I / O and were not yet available. With them Android 12 takes a huge leap in privacy protection.
The next big version of Android is half cooked, but it already points to ways: Google evolves its mobile system with improvements in aesthetics and advances in interface customization, especially automatically. But there is one aspect on which the company especially affects: privacy. With Apple as a competition, with iOS emerging as the champion of user protection, Google is determined to protect that aspect on Android as well. As far as I can.
The colors of the background mark the tones of the system
The beta 2 update weighs just over 300 MB, this is a sign that the number of changes is large enough (among the minor versions there are barely a few tens of megabytes). After the download, and subsequent installation (our Pixel 4a was busy for approximately twenty minutes) Android 12 started without excessive changes being appreciated. Until we display the notification area.
In previous versions, the system already changed the widgets slightly with each setting of the wallpaper, but now this change is noticeable: Material You is appreciated in a very positive way.
Simply change the wallpaper so that Android 12 modify the color of the quick settings, the background of notifications and even the widgets. And it does it really well.
Continuing with the design of the notification area, we have appreciated a change that we do not quite like: the notification curtain is now solid and fills the entire screen when displayed, even if there are no notification cards. This makes the wallpaper invisible, giving the impression that the space is unoccupied.
Google Discover and WiFi selector
Google Discover has refined its aesthetics in Android 12 with better-defined floating cards and fewer distractions on control buttons. In addition, beta 2 introduces a new popup for the WiFi network selector, now referred to as 'Internet': the available networks appear at the bottom of the screen, even by pressing the quick setting (it is no longer a simple switch). The selection of WiFi gains in comfort, also the activation of the mobile network.
Another of the aesthetic changes introduced is the redesign of the shutdown menu. If in Android 11 Google introduced a screen with the different shutdown options, means of payment and device control, with beta 2 this screen disappears. Now, when you press and hold the power button, and as long as Google Assistant is not configured for long press, a floating shutdown menu appears with the emergency, shutdown and restart options.
Payment moves to the 'Wallet' quick setting; with home device control in 'Device Control' quick setting.
Now you can also turn off the mobile from the quick settings: Android 12 places the button to the right of the settings and menu customization
With the first boot we appreciate a noticeable heating in the Google Pixel 4a: Android 12 adjusts the apps and functions added to the system in the background. Consumption has grown, although warming has stabilized. Hopefully autonomy increases as the system learns usage patterns. We will follow that evolution.
The key to Android 12 is privacy
It has become the new value of companies dedicated to technology, in that sales pitch with which to convince the user to make the leap or, at least, stay on the platform. Yes, privacy is key in operating systems. And, since iOS is betting very hard on it, Android has no choice but to do the same. Fortunately for all of us who use this system.
Google announced notable privacy changes as it released the first beta. A good part of them, at least the most striking ones, were not available; hence with the launch of beta 2 they do appear. In our experience, these are improvements that are not only appreciated, they also give the user greater control over their data and how the installed apps use it.
Microphone and Camera Usage Notice
After the release of background warnings in iOS 14, Google has finally introduced them in Android 12: now the system warns every time an application uses the microphone or camera, either on screen or in the background. In this way we can know if they are spying on us or, at least, if they are trying to do so.
The setting appears active by default within the privacy options. Thanks to him a small green dot appears in the upper right corner of the screen; with the camera icon, micro or both when displaying notifications.
This simple novelty offers enormous control over two extremely delicate pieces of hardware. In addition, Android 12 beta 2 already allows enable or disable access to microphone and camera from quick settings: in this way there will be no application that can use them if we do not want to have them active. And with a simple gesture they can be turned on again.
New privacy panel
It is undoubtedly the most important novelty of Android 12 beta 2: Google introduces a new visual log where we can see what has happened in the system during the last hours. It is very accurate and yields information that was previously very difficult to know.
The graphics in the privacy panel are very similar to those in the Digital Wellbeing section. In fact, both sections maintain a similar aesthetic: a disc with different colors for each privacy category.
Android 12 offers a detailed registry of all apps that have permission to access the camera, location and microphone, three of the key aspects that the privacy panel measures (it also offers access to the rest of the permissions). By clicking on each section, the system shows all the apps that used the three key permissions with the exact moment in which they accessed. It is surprising how insistent certain apps are when it comes to capturing the location, for example. And you can see instantly if you have to cut access: if the app doesn't really need it, it is best to remove the permissions.
Thanks to the privacy panel it is very easy to discover which apps are overridden with sensitive user data, even those of Google (Android 12 does not make distinctions, at least in theory). Permissions can be withdrawn from the panel itself. And you can even find out how the system apps use access: from the three-point menu they can be selected.
Clipboard Access Notice
Android 12 alerts when an application accesses the clipboard to search the copied content. The setting is active by default (it is in the privacy section), but we have not managed to get the access notice to jump. We do not know if it still does not work, even if it can be activated.
A big leap forward towards a round version
Android 12 will not be revolutionary in design since the aesthetic changes are not excessive, but it will mean a big step in automatic device customization. Color changes simply by applying a new background add a nice touch to the general appearance of the interface. In addition, the animations have been slightly softened, the 'bounce effect' in vertical scrolling is more subtle, and the brightness and volume selectors are not as thick.
The effort to enhance privacy is very positive: the more control the user has of their data, the more reliable Android will be. With the privacy panel it is easy to see which apps are bypassing. And having precise control of the microphone and the camera prevents an installed application from spying on the user.
Goodbye to an application that can spy on the user: if the privacy settings are active, Android 12 warns when the camera or microphone is used, even in the background
There is still a lot to polish, such as the notification curtain and the empty space left by certain elements in the interface (also the thickness of cards and selectors), but the evolution in Android 12 can be seen. About three months after the final version comes out, this beta 2 is stable enough to be used daily. At least under our tests.