Hands-on With Android 12 Beta 1: New Directions

The first beta hints at big changes, but shows off little

Key Takeaways

  • Android 12 beta 1 is now available to users with Pixel phones, as well as select other Android phones.
  • While the first beta for Android 12 gives us a small look at the upcoming OS, there are still a lot of missing features that Google has yet to add.
  • If you just want to see the big feature additions, like Material You’s new themer system, it isn’t worth downloading the Android 12 beta on your phone right now.
Mockups of the New Android 12 interface.


The first public beta for Android 12 doesn’t show much of the big changes that are coming to the OS, but it is a good start.

Announced at Google I/O 2021, Android 12’s first beta is now live, giving users with specific phones a taste of the changes coming with the new operating system. Between the Material You changes—which include the ability to set your phone’s system colors based on your wallpaper—and the new privacy features, Android 12 is a pretty radical shift from Android 11.

I’ve been using the beta for the past few days, and despite not offering the full suite of updates, Android 12 already is starting to look as good as Google wants you to think it will be.

Pretty and Bubbly

While the first Android 12 beta isn’t giving us the full addition of Material You and its automatic themer—which can customize system and widget colors based on your wallpaper—there are some notable user interface changes.

While Android 12 is extremely promising, the first beta still leaves us in the dark quite a bit.

First, the notifications shade and quick settings have been updated with the big and bubbly buttons showcased in Google’s preview of Android 12. New screen on and off animations are also present, alongside a slew of smaller animations that add playfulness to interacting with different buttons and options in the menus.

Finally, the pin entry screen no longer shows the wallpaper, instead, blocking out the entirety of the phone’s display.

The theming system is still the same seen in Android 11, and none of the new widgets are available just yet, but it is nice to at least get a glimpse at what Material You’s new design is bringing to the user interface.

It is worth noting, though, that the UI changes mean there is less information density, which some may find annoying. Of course, this is just Google’s design, and other manufacturers could utilize Material You differently.

Privacy Soon

While the visual redesign for Android 12 is huge, there are also some much bigger features coming with the new OS in the form of privacy settings. 

"One of the biggest (and most overdue) features of the Android 12 update relates to privacy," Rex Freiberger, a tech expert and CEO of GadgetReview, wrote in an email. 

"Prior to this, apps had to choose to let you know if they were using your microphone or camera and only had to ask permission initially when you installed them. Now, the OS, itself, will alert you when an app is trying to use your microphone or camera so you can decide whether or not you still want to use that app."

That particular setting isn’t available in Android 12 beta 1, but Google does have plans to add a slew of customizable privacy features in future updates. Android 12 is planned for release at some point later in the year, so it’s possible we could start to see more of these settings as soon as the next beta. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to tell what Google will add in the next update.

Shaping Up

While Android 12 looks extremely promising, the first beta still leaves us quite a bit in the dark. We know that the changes coming to the OS are going to be big—those privacy settings alone are a pivotal push in the right direction—but there just isn’t enough to show off right now.

Now, the OS itself will alert you when an app is trying to use your microphone or camera so you can decide whether or not you still want to use that app.

Still mostly missing is Material You, which is easily one of the most anticipated parts of the new operating system.

If you’re someone that just feels like they have to have the latest update, then it might be worth downloading the beta and checking it out yourself. Just don’t expect it to look that much different from Android 11.

If you’re just in it to see the new Material You design and glimpse some of the other big features coming with Android 12, it’s worth waiting until Google adds more to the beta.

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