Android 12L: Tablets and foldables get their own release again

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Android devices with large or even foldable screens are on the rise, according to Google. That’s why the company has developed an adapted version of the operating system with Android 12L, which brings a new layout for these devices, offers a taskbar and is better suited for multitasking and multiple windows.

In the course of last year, 100 million new Android tablets, 20 percent more than in the previous year, were activated, explains Google. On the desktop, in turn, Chrome OS has grown by 92 percent, while foldable devices have grown by 265 percent. Samsung, with its multiple generations of the Galaxy Z Fold and Galaxy Z Flip, such as the Galaxy Z Flip 3 (test), is likely to have contributed to the growth in the latter category. In total, Google’s internal statistics currently number more than 250 million active Android devices with a large screen.

No tablet release since Honeycomb

It is well known that Android is not particularly well adapted for this device class and, for example, there is no separate build specifically for tablets. Apple, on the other hand, presented iPadOS, a version of iOS specially adapted for tablets, at WWDC 2019 and has been installing it on all iPad models for around two years. At Google, on the other hand, there have been individual optimizations at least for foldable smartphones since Android 10, and additional functions were added with Android 11.

Android 12L is for “large” displays

Android 12L (Large) will be a separate release based on Android 12 for devices with large screens. For the first time since Android 3.0 Honeycomb (2011), tablet users can look forward to a build with corresponding optimizations.

Large screens are those over 600dp

Google defines displays as large screens above 600 dp. “Dp” in turn stands for “density-independent pixels”, ie pixels independent of the pixel density. A “dp” is a virtual pixel that roughly corresponds to a physical pixel on a screen with medium pixel density. 160 dpi used as a baseline by Google. On devices above 600 dp, Android 12L switches to a view with two columns for notifications, the lock screen and other areas of the operating system in order to make better use of the available space.

New view with two columns New view with two columns (Image: Google)

Taskbar and forced split-screen mode

Multitasking is said to benefit from a new taskbar from which applications can be simply dragged and dropped onto the various areas of the screen. With Android 12L, basically all applications can be switched to split-screen mode, even if they do not support it. This type of implementation is reminiscent of the taskbar or the forced split-screen mode from “Samsung Labs” on the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

Google Play is being adjusted

In order to find the right applications for devices with large displays in the Google Play Store, the company also wants to make changes there so that these customized apps can be found more easily by users.

  • Taskbar and multitasking with Android 12L (Image: Google)

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    Google wants to improve letterboxing for OEMs so that windows can be indented for special properties of a device, for example. Your own color selection or adjustments such as rounded corners are now also possible for letterboxing.

    Developer Preview for Lenovo P12 Pro

    There is still no build of Android 12L for testing on specific devices, instead Google is providing the start of the developer program an image for virtual devices to disposal. However, a preview of the Lenovo P12 Pro introduced last month should be available shortly. The program plans to publish a beta of Android 12L in December, January and February after today’s Developer Preview, before the final release is to be transferred to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) in early 2022.

    Android 12L timeline Android 12L Timeline (Image: Google)

    Android 12L is also coming to Pixel

    Android 12L will also be available for normal smartphones, but according to Google, most of the new features will not be visible on smaller screens, which is why the focus is currently on tablets, foldables and Chrome OS devices. With Beta 1 in December, Google also wants to open the developer program for its own Pixel smartphones from the Pixel 4 up to the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro (test).

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