Android 12 officially launched in October 2021 and soon after rolled out into Google Pixel smartphones Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro. Most of Android 12’s features highlight its safe, personal, and effortless use from an end user’s point of view, but it is also worth addressing its many impressive developer features.
Google’s latest OS was highly anticipated since the first few months of 2021 with Google releasing a Developer Preview in April. Android Developers, a Google blog, shared the exciting news about the release focusing on how this new OS is smarter, easier to use, and more efficient while highlighting security and user privacy. Let’s look at some of the best features of Android 12 and how it can change the way software developers create new apps.
A Focus on Android 12’s Top Developer Features
Android 12 comes with a new system UI that's interestingly expressive, allowing users to further personalize devices. Developers can extend their apps using dynamic widgets, codecs, AppSearch, and Game Mode to name a few. Here’s a summary of what Android 12 offers.
Enhanced activity lifecycle
Improved backup and restore
New camera vendor extensions, sensor support
Updated connectivity features
Automatic app updates
Enhanced graphics and images
New media compatibility and performance, encoding improvements
Changes in microphone and camera, apps, location security, and privacy
New storage features
UX changes and new features
Changes in vendor libraries
Android 12 Better App Developer Tools
The latest Android OS has new tools to help Android app developers create better-performing and safer apps. Here are the tools and updates.
App Launch Redefined
Android 12 promises a consistent and exciting app launch experience using animation from the point-of-launch and a stunning splash screen with the app icon. The entire experience has standard elements but is also customizable to meet the brand’s unique characteristics.
Splash screen APIs and new tools enhance the splash screen background color, use light or dark mode, and replace static launchers with animation or a customized icon. These features are already integrated so it's best to test your app if you're using a splash screen.
Changes in Call Notification Template
Android 12 will make incoming and outgoing calls more visible and more consistent with other notification messages. In apps that use calls such as a chat app for video calling or dialer app, you can switch to a new template called CallStyle to create motifs for all screened, incoming, and outgoing calls. Android 12 prioritizes CallStyle motifs making these more visible by placing them on the notifications shade area.
Exact Alarms Permissions
Apps should utilize battery-friendly inexact alarms. Android controls inexact alarms to reduce wakeups and impact on battery life. But for more precise alarms and clocks, exact alarms can be used. Exact alarms are more convenient and very reliable, but can drain the battery when overused. Android 12 understands these concerns by using exact alarms permissions.
Users will see which apps have exact alarm permissions and they can change these (grant or revoke permission) on their device settings at the Special App Access Permissions. A new API, ScheduleExactAlarms lets developers check the app permission status. It's best to migrate apps from exact alarm use as much as possible to save the battery..
Enhanced Web Linking
Users can access content faster with Android 12. This new OS has unverified link default handling features through the Android App Links. These links will open from the default browser instead of showing a selector dialog box. There is a new intent that leads users to an “Open by default” selection from the Settings.
Informative Haptic Feedback
Android 12 has tactile feedback for expressive and immersive effects making it ideal for gaming and productivity. The low tick uses a broader frequency bandwidth from the most updated controllers. Game developers can make use of multiple or different actuators in-game controllers for similar effects or various tactile effects on many actuators.
Developers can use constants and primitives to create enhanced haptic effects and the haptic composer for complex effects. These APIs are available on trial on Pixel 4 devices but expect that Google is working with other device-makers to provide the most updated haptics support to all users.
Improvements in Video Encoding
Android 12 improves the control of video Quantization Parameters (QP) so developers can steer away from using vendor-specific codes. These new sets of keys are in MediaFormat API and the NDK Media library. Encoders should indicate a minimum video quality limit to prevent viewing complex videos of low quality.
Changes in Camera2 Vendor Extensions and Sensor Support
Almost all Android phone manufacturers have custom-built camera effects like night mode, HDR, bokeh, and more. These manufacturers want applications to create enhanced experiences from their devices. These custom camera features are already supported using vendor extensions from the CameraX library. In Android 12, new extensions are available from the platform. Apps that come with complex Camera2 features can use these extensions with no need to change the legacy code.
Newly released Android devices have high-resolution cameras using Quad/Nona Bayer sensor patterns that provide improved flexibility, image quality, and extended performance in low light conditions.
In Android 12, new APIs allow third-party applications to access these powerful sensors. These new APIs will support the characteristics of these sensors and consider any different configurations when used in full resolution or maximum resolution rather than in their default modes.
Improved Machine Learning Performance
Android 12 offers developers the chance to take advantage of all the impressive capabilities of machine learning and benefit from the best performance using the Neural Networks API. Developers can expect enhanced ML-driven improvements like sync fences, padding, and recyclable execution objects. Builders can update ML accelerator drivers outside platform releases from Google Play services. Developers can use the most updated drivers on compatible smartphones and devices.
Better Response for Native Crashes
Debugging native crashes can be a nightmare but with Android 12 developers can use actionable diagnostics to ease app responses. New crash dump files or tombstones will debug native crashes. These come with the information needed to evaluate different issues. Developers get app access to tombstone files from the App Exit Reasons API.
Flexible Backup Service
With Android 12’s backup service, users can restore or move data to a new device without any hassles. This backup service can support cloud backups to Google Drive or transfer files from one device to another. This can be used with very few changes from the app.
Developers under the Android 12 OS should expect improved backup service for enhanced control and flexibility. Expect an enhanced XML configuration so you can assign rules for easy cloud backups or device-to-device file transfers.
Prioritizing App Compatibility
Google is enhancing app compatibility with Android 12. New tools and better processes are available to help developers adapt or learn these updates in case they need time to upgrade.
Mobile app innovation is ever-changing with no signs of slowing down. New and exciting apps will change the way users do business and live their lives. Developers must take advantage of Android 12's new features and developments to provide the best app user experience.
Pranjal Bora works as Head of Product Development at Digital Authority Partners.