Today, the first developer preview of the next iteration of the Android operating system (v12) was released. According to Dave Burke, VP of Engineering at Google, “this year the focus is on making the OS more intuitive, better performing, and more secure.” This first preview of Android 12 is specific for developers to ensure their apps are compatible with the new features added to the operating system. In other words, this developer preview is not for public consumption, so no matter how excited you are to get the new release installed, you’ll have to keep waiting.
Let’s explore what’s included with this first preview of Android 12 that will help developers improve their apps and the Android ecosystem.
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Trust and safety features
Privacy is taking center stage with Android 12 in the form of more transparency and control. In the preview release, developers will find new controls over identifiers that can be used for tracking and safer defaults for app components. Other trust features include:
Modern SameSite cookie behaviors in WebView: This will provide additional security and privacy and gives users more transparency and control over cross-site cookies.
Restricted Netlink MAC: In Android 11, Google restricted device-scoped Netlink MAC based on API level 30. In Android 12, this restriction is being applied to all apps, regardless of targetSDK level.
Safer exporting of components: Google is changing the default handling of the android:exported attribute to be more explicit. With this implemented, components that declare one or more intent filters must explicitly declare an android:exported attribute. This will prevent apps from inadvertently exporting activities, services, and receivers.
Safe handling of intents: In order to make PendingIntents more secure, Android 12 requires apps to explicitly declare a mutable flag either via FLAG_MUTABLE or the new FLAG_IMMUTABLE.
Media and image improvements
Mobile cameras are increasingly capturing in the HEVC format, which greatly improves quality and compression over older formats. For apps that cannot support the HEVC format, Google is introducing the ability to automatically transcode files into Advanced Video Coding.
The next release of Android also introduces support for the AVIF (AV1 Image File Format), which takes advantage of the intra-frame encoded content from video compression. This makes it possible to efficiently transmit high-quality video over the internet. Less bandwidth can be used for higher-quality images and video because the image file size can be reduced without lowering quality.
User-facing experience improvements
Foreground services make it possible for apps to manage certain user-facing tasks. If overused, these services negatively affect app performance and can even lead to app kills.
To improve foreground service, the Android 12 developer preview introduced the new expedited_job in JobScheduler, which will get elevated process priority, network access, and runs immediately–regardless of constraints. For apps that will require backward compatibility, Jetpack_WorkManager_library has been introduced.
Other additions to improve the user experience include:
Rich content insertion makes it easier for apps to receive rich content.
Haptic-coupled audio effect, which allows developers to create more immersive game and audio experiences.
Multi-channel audio enhances audio with spatial information.
Immersive mode improvements for gesture nav makes gestures navigation easier and more consistent.
Notification UI updates makes notifications more modern, easier to use, and more functional. Notifications will also be faster and more responsive.
Improved Binder IPC calls, which will yield a roughly 2x performance increase on overall Binder calls, with a 47x improvement in refContentProvider(), 15x in releaseWakeLock(), and 7.9x in JobScheduler.schedule().
Compatibility testing and stability
Google has altered how developers test changes that affect their apps. Individual changes are not toggle-able, which means devs can more quickly solve compatibility issues between their apps and the new release.
Along these same lines, Android 12 makes it possible for even more of the platform to be updated through Google Play.
Platform Stability milestone
Android 12 includes the Platform Stability milestone (introduced in Android 11), which gives developers advanced notice when app-facing changes will occur. Prior to the adoption of the Platform Stability milestone, Google could make changes to APIs and other aspects of the platform all the way up to the final release. With the inclusion of the Platform Stability milestone, anything that would affect a developer’s app is final. That means what developers see in this first preview is exactly how APIs and other developer-centric aspects of Android will work upon final release.
Android 12 rumors
Of course, the developer preview isn’t about the new and improved user-facing features that will arrive in the betas and final release. If you’d like to read about what’s rumored to come to the Android 12 platform, check out my article Android 12: What is rumored to be coming to Android’s next iteration.
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