The official release of Android 12 is approaching (rumors have it launching Oct. 4). This was made abundantly clear when the final beta of the platform was released. Android 12, beta 5 was made available last week. As usual, I installed it to see not only what’s new but how Google’s mobile operating system has improved.
I can (mostly) happily say that the fifth beta of Android 12 is quite solid, with minor issues. And, although this is the last beta in the release cycle, there are a few new additions.
Let’s first take a look at what’s new, and then we’ll talk about what’s causing problems.
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What’s new in Android 12 beta 5?
Much of what is new is aesthetics. There are plenty of tweaks and even more Material You found in the UI. The developers have revamped the analog, digital and world clock widgets (Figure A).
These retooled clock widgets now support Material You theming, so they’ll better gel with the overall look and feel of the UI. This same thing holds true for the calculator app, which also now has the Material You theming applied (Figure B).
Lockdown has also been added to the power control menu (Figure C).
What is Lockdown? Lockdown mode has been around for some time, but the method of enabling the feature varied from device to device. Lockdown makes it possible for you to completely disable notifications, fingerprint and facial recognition, Bluetooth devices, and location services. With Android 12 beta 5, you can now enable Lockdown, by long-pressing the power button and tapping Lockdown.
What’s improved in beta 5?
The biggest improvement found in beta 5 is that the Universal Search (the search bar within the App Drawer) is much, much faster. When using the Universal Search, it will search your installed apps, your contacts, settings, shortcuts and more. This is, unfortunately, only found in the Pixel Launcher.
What’s broken in beta 5
Unfortunately, not all is improved. Google is migrating away from the At A Glance feature that lives near the top of your screen and displays calendar events and weather. The new feature will be called Live Space, but it’s yet to make an appearance. As such, At A Glance is officially broken. The weather information no longer shows and if you go to the At A Glance configuration screen, you can see that everything is in a state of dysfunction (Figure D).
Another feature that’s been behaving a bit odd lately (and has been exacerbated in beta 5) is the sharing of screenshots to Google Drive. What used to be a few quick taps, now requires you to cancel the selection of a subfolder (after you’ve selected the main Drive folder). I pretty much always share my screenshots to a specific folder in Drive and with beta 5 that process has become quite awkward. This is probably a very niche issue (due to a very specific use-case), so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.
Finally (and I don’t know if this is intentional or not), when you mark a conversation as Priority, you are now asked if you want to add it as a widget (Figure E).
Having the ability to add conversations as widgets could be a real boon to some users. As to whether or not this is an intended behavior and will remain in the final release…we’ll know soon enough.
And that’s what you’ll find in the latest (and final) beta release of Android 12. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been thrilled at how this latest iteration of Android has evolved and can’t wait to get the final release on my Pixel 5 (only to then turn around and purchase a Pixel 6).
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