Android 12's New Theme Options Beat iOS

Freshen up Android UI with Material You

Key Takeaways

  • With the new Android 12 update, you can choose from a wide range of different wallpapers that give your phone an entirely fresh look.
  • The feature, called Material You, detects the accent colors in your wallpaper and uses them to match the look of the icons, quick settings toggles, and other UI elements.
  • Despite the extra CPU power needed to run the new animations, my Pixel seemed more responsive than ever.
Android 12 Material You Header Image

Google

Call me shallow, but Android 12’s new customization options have made me fall in love with the operating system all over again. 

For the recently released Android update, you can choose from a wide range of different wallpapers that give your phone an entirely fresh look. Of course, you can change the wallpaper on an iPhone, but Android takes it a step further by matching the icons and elements of the OS to your new background.

Frankly, the new Android 12 feature makes me realize how boring the iOS interface has gotten. It’s a seemingly small thing to have a new theme on our phone, but we spend a ridiculous amount of time staring at our screens every day. 

Material You

The latest iteration of the design of Android was revealed in Android 12—called Material You. The feature allows you to change the whole look of your phone once you switch the wallpaper. 

Material You detects the accent colors in the wallpaper you’ve chosen and uses them to match the look of the icons, quick settings toggles, and other elements that support it.

"From the moment you pick up an Android 12 device, you’ll feel how it comes alive with every tap, swipe and scroll," Sameer Samat, vice president of product management for Android and Google Play, wrote on the company’s website

When I recently updated my Google Pixel 4a to the latest OS, I eagerly checked out the available options and was pleased with the array. I chose a space theme and was delighted with the high-resolution view of the Earth from orbit that slowly rotated.

The animations on Android 12 make a subtle, but noticeable, difference throughout the user experience. My Pixel seemed to come alive with every tap, swipe, and scroll. The phone also responds to my touch with smooth motion and animations. For example, when you dismiss your notifications on the lock screen, your clock will appear more prominent, so you know when you’re all caught up.

Google Pixel 4a with blue/gray boat background

Lifewire / Sascha Brodsky

Despite the extra CPU power needed to run the new animations, my Pixel seemed more responsive than ever; Google claims Android 12 offers better power efficiency so you can use your device for longer without a charge. 

"This was achieved by some under-the-hood improvements, including reducing the CPU time needed for core system services by up to 22%, and reducing the use of big cores by the system server by up to 15%," Samat wrote.

Better Than iOS?

It’s remarkable what a difference a few tweaks to the phone’s theme makes in everyday use. I mostly use an iPhone 12 Pro Max and there’s nothing like Material You available on iOS. 

Changing the wallpaper on iOS leaves you with a pretty background image, but everything else in the interface remains the same. I’m ready to change things up on my iPhone. Unfortunately, to get the same level of customization as Android, you have to "jailbreak" your phone. This process can free it from the constraints imposed by the stock OS, but not only can it void your warranty, it also isn’t recommended for most users. 

"The animations on Android 12 make a subtle but noticeable difference throughout the user experience."

Fortunately, there are some third-party options available to give your iPhone a different look. For example, there’s Themify, an app that offers a choice of widgets, icons, and still and live wallpapers. 

You might also want to check out the WidgetSmith app, which provides a wide variety of pre-built themes for your iPhone and iPad. The themes offer various combinations of colors, fonts, and layouts.

Google Pixel 4a with space background

Lifewire / Sascha Brodsky

Another option is Themes: Widget, Icons Packs 15, which offers new icons, wallpapers, and widgets to give your iPhone a unique look. Keep in mind that Themes don't actually change your actual app icons. Instead, the software installs custom shortcuts for the apps that look different than the stock images. 

If you’re already an Android user, it’s worth upgrading to Android 12 simply because of the fun and versatility Material You gives you. I just hope Apple will come out with a similar way to customize iPhones.

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