Android 12 vs. Android 11: The differences you'll want to know
There are things the old mobile operating system just can't do. We'll explain.
Alison DeNisco RayomeManaging Editor
Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
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Alexandra is an associate editor on CNET's Performance Optimization team. She graduated from Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, and interned with CNET's Tech and News teams while in school. Prior to joining CNET full time, Alexandra was a breaking news fellow at Newsweek, where she covered current events and politics.
Android 12 is Google's latest mobile operating system. Although it appears similar in many ways to Android 11, it offers new features and performance fixes to help your phone run as smoothly as it can. The update first came to Google's Pixel phones, including the new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, and has since started to roll out to other Android phones.
Not every Android phone has joined the party yet, but there are a number of new features that will give Android 11 users a reason (or two, or three) to upgrade. And If you're still waiting on Google's new OS to make its way to your device, you can download and install the Android 12 developer preview now. But keep in mind that, you probably won't want to try out the developer preview on your primary device. It likely has some bugs.
Here are three of the biggest new features we've seen in Android 12 so far, compared to Android 11.
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Privacy features for apps
Google is adding several new privacy features to apps to give you more transparency and control. You can now see when an app is using your microphone or camera through an indicator on your phone's status bar. You're also given the option to completely disable any and all apps' access to your microphone or camera in Quick Settings. Android 12 also lets you keep your exact location private by giving you an option to give apps your approximate location instead.
According to an Android Developers blog post, one Android 12 update gives you more information about how cookies can be used across sites, while another changes how apps export information to prevent them from accidentally exporting activities, services and receivers.
With Android 12, Google is changing up the design of notifications to make them more modern and functional. When you tap on a notification, it will take you directly to the app or action you want to take, instead of going through an intermediary service to start that action. This should make everything run faster, according to the Android Developers blog post.
Android 12 also gets a new button that lets you snooze unimportant notifications, and choose how long to do so. You can also turn on adaptive notifications ranking to let Android rearrange your notifications based on how you work with different apps, and reset the ranking if you don't like it.
New one-handed mode
Android 12 also includes a few design changes that make it easier to operate Android phones with one hand and your thumb. XDA Developers noted that the updated settings UI moves the Search bar to the bottom of the display for easier one-handed access. It also uncovered a new feature called "silky home" that makes the entire interface more suitable for one-handed use.