This week 9to5Google’s Abner Li and Kyle Bradshaw discuss the leaked Android 12 mockups, what new features are possibly coming, App Pairs, return of “Columbus”, and more.

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Kyle [00:00:02] Hello everybody, and welcome to Alphabet Scoop Episode one hundred and twelve the 12th, they’re being surprisingly appropriate as you’ll learn more in a minute. And I’m joined here with Avner this week. Then Ben will not be joining us as he is a bit under the weather, but feeling better? I haven’t watched you jump on into what we can’t count on with Android 12.

Leaked Android 12 mockups

Abner [00:00:27] So, yes, on Tuesday, we had a rather unprecedented week of what looks to be Android 12. So before the start of any developer preview, Google shares, of course, they share this stuff with their partners. And apparently one of the documents that highlights the high level changes in Android 12 was Thelo a screenshot and made public. And this gave us what by all by all accounts, is what Android is going to look like. So starting on this, the. Bold screenshot of a new home screen that for the most part, it looks like the pixel launcher on Android, you happened today, but there it is a stark difference in that it is themed. The wallpaper is theming the rest of the system. And one of the reasons we think this week is very much authentic is because just last month we had a our own reporting about such a feature, which Kyle is going to dove into. 

Kyle [00:01:56] Right. 

Android 12 in-depth theming system

Kyle [00:01:56] So we found that Android 12 is going to expand the work that’s got started with Android 10, where Android introduced the idea of light theme and dark theme. Android 12 seems to be adding this much deeper, far more colorful theming system where you can choose one of a few preset colors. So don’t go thinking you can choose one of a million different colors. It’s you got presets, but if you can choose one of a few preset colors or have it be chosen for you based on your wallpaper, and the majority of Android is going to recolor itself to that theme, to the point that even even third party apps, if they so choose, can use that theme. Which is really bold and interesting and it. 

Kyle [00:02:58] It’s the. 

Kyle [00:03:00] The cornerstone, really, of all of these screenshots is these leaked mockups is this this color system, it’s unavoidable even in the camera app. 

Abner [00:03:11] So one of the examples of that extending into third party applications is in this mock up. Anyway, we see the dock with full apps, the phone app, the clock app and the camera, everything but the Web browser. It matches the wallpaper. And that the background is is the same color that matches these mountains and hills that’s in the wallpaper. And everything is just themed around that in a way that you wouldn’t associate with Google’s usual app icon design. So it’s it’s it really personalized your phone ad in the way that is really, really in the past a quiet a you install a third party launcher and then get act and then downvote icon packs. But Google is giving its own clock, its own interpretation at. Pretty intensive customization from a rather minimal for a rather minimal amount of work, which in this case appears to just be choosing the wallpaper. I wonder if Google is going to let people how how much theming, what is they basically going to be a giant switch that lets you turn off this theming and use the experience, the like the default theme on and what you have. And I wonder. 

Kyle [00:04:53] Or if that default theme is just going to be white or black, as it were, or essentially the light or the dark is the default. More after these themes are even going to have their own, like, is there a dark sand variant? 

Abner [00:05:11] Yeah, that it really does conflict with the idea. Well, if Google puts in the work, I’m sure they could do a light and dark theme. I think that would be necessary because as much customization as there is in there appears to be, I think some people always want to adopt them. So that might be a prerequisite to all of these themes. So, yeah, these these this screenshot, I think it’s somewhat notable that we also there’s a I we see a black dot and all these screen shots in the middle of the screen suggests suggesting where the front facing camera is at the top. So I don’t know if that’s the direction that the pixel phones taking to see it because there is always some close alignment. I wouldn’t read too much into it, but maybe it’s a hint at where Hadaway is going, but just a thought. So yeah, this design, would you use it. Would you go all out and customize? 

Kyle [00:06:24] And pick the perfect wallpaper to get the perfect theme, if they if if there’s a nice dark blue or something along those lines. Yeah, I would probably would probably do it. Something that’s not just black. Yeah. Yeah. I think it would look pretty good. Now to sand. Send Miss me with that. What color would you pick. 

Abner [00:06:48] Oh I’ll just stick with the thought that you of the usual doc dark palette and black accent color which was why I was asking. Oh yeah. It’s, it’s familiar but I don’t know maybe I’ll try a crack at it. It’s, I don’t know. It all depends on. 

Abner [00:07:06] I guess the preset wallpapers are going to be really important if this works out, because presumably they’ll be perfectly themed to what to do the default color packs you were mentioning at the top. But, yeah, it’s I think people are going to love this, that there’s no doubt that people would enjoy this deeper level of customization, how it works, how it conflicts with third party OEMs, particularly Samsung. 

Abner [00:07:41] That’s the question that deserves. That’s going to be interesting to see what latitude Google gives the OEM partners. 

Kyle [00:07:51] I mean, it could just be a matter of, OK, they ship a light and they ship a dark and those probably come by default in Android and it just ships and it just works with light and dark and nothing else happens. It seems like a very optional feature, but as long as there is a light and a dark, then the third party apps don’t break because they’re still matching something. 

Notification shade gets design changes

Abner [00:08:17] So, yeah, so that’s the homescreen we get a look at. The second thing is the notification shape. As you swipe down the screen, we see Google blowing the background so that you can’t really see the home screen what you can today. 

Abner [00:08:38] But what’s more, viatical. 

Abner [00:08:42] Yeah, or a stark departure from and what you have is discovered this, Kyle. It’s it’s everything is a very curvy. 

Kyle [00:08:52] It’s Samsung like almost. It’s passed with just rounded corners. It’s it’s very circular. I, I’m surprised to see it the way that it is it. It’s nice, it kind of reminds me of a Google assistant snapshot, but even that isn’t that curved. It’s still that’s modest by comparison to the curves that are on this these Android 12 mockups. 

Abner [00:09:22] So I can. The curves are talking about the for the notifications, and I can live with those maybe over time, but what I’m really is raising my eyebrows is what’s happening with the quick something toggles today. You have the option of choosing six tiny circles, whatever you want as quick things. 

Abner [00:09:47] But what if the screenshot turns out to be the final version of a 12? This design mockup, we only have four. 

Abner [00:10:00] For Kos and. 

Abner [00:10:03] That useability is it looks nice, I dare say the simplicity looks much cleaner, less intimidating and all that compared to the car design, but that’s those two shortcuts are going to be key for me. Even losing two is ouf. 

Kyle [00:10:25] I see I’m I could I can take it or leave it as far as the the number of them, but what’s so interesting to me is the way that they’re showing whether something is on or off. Like what what we see here is that something that’s on which in the screenshot is Wi-Fi is a circle which is then shaded in it has a light symbol in there, but something that’s disabled like airplane mode just next to it is in a rounded square. With a with a lighter tone, it it’s interesting to me the not just using color, but also using shape to to indicate whether something is enabled or disabled. I’m part of me wonders if that’s an accessibility thing. So that know, a particular theme doesn’t necessarily. Obscure to to a particular person, whether or not something is on or off, but that’s that’s my only guess. 

Abner [00:11:27] If from a design perspective, I don’t get why something being on is a circle or why something off is a rounded square. I just get that. But maybe they’ll change down the road. 

New conversation widgets

Abner [00:11:46] But yeah, moving on from the design is back on the home screen. We see some widgets, we see some conversation widgets, as they’re called, that show messages, missed calls or activity statuses. In this case, we see A, B, C, one for a missed call from friends. We see that at some of these birthday, we see the last message. 

Abner [00:12:17] A person said, and we see this box, this Sujit telling you the last time you chatted with somebody was two weeks ago. In this case, it’s that all again, these are really all mock ups because they’re all using Facebook Messenger for the reason that you call it would be unexpected if Google prominently advertises those that app Facebook. But we see just the basic idea is that you will be able to put recent interactions with people, as I just remind those, as widgets. And this is a quick extension of that. And what you have in tentpole, where Google wants to make a more people centric OS with Android 11. And the way it’s manifest today is as chat heads and as a dedicated conversation section and notifications shade. But this time Google wants to put it on the home screen in a unavoidable way that you’ll see your last interaction with people. And I think this is a really drastic elevation of people. I don’t know if I would necessarily use this. Just working from the conceptual screenshots. 

Kyle [00:13:41] Yeah, I’m not sure either, because I’m wondering what the what the priority is on on this particular widget or what the customization or what, because it’s like if it was just individual friends, that doesn’t quite line up because you have somebody’s birthday and that same person, you have a message from them from like an hour ago. 

Kyle [00:14:06] So that doesn’t line up and. 

Kyle [00:14:11] The Rachel at the top left, the first one shows two weeks ago, yeah, it’s not the syndicate that’s wild, but it’s not something that you’ve done recently. 

Kyle [00:14:23] It’s not a conversation you’re going to jump back into. It’s something that happened two weeks ago. So I’m not I I’m wondering if they’re going to try and use some smarts, like if they’re going to use A.I. to try and I don’t know. I don’t want to speculate too far on that because that gets creepy. But I don’t know how this works. 

Kyle [00:14:42] I don’t have enough to it seems useful, but it also seems like it could be very useless. 

Abner [00:14:50] Yeah. So this is, again, this this, more than anything, reveals the conceptual ness of what Google is of this mock up as well. So again, they’re all using these screenshots of these widgets are being populated theoretically by Facebook Messenger. And Google simply does not have a buy in from Facebook. They don’t have a guaranteed buy in to know that Facebook or support that. They must have had intensive negotiations. That’s for one thing, for the to the point you are raising about. 

Abner [00:15:28] Google. 

Abner [00:15:30] The point you were amazing about how the how it’s oinking, everything. Yeah, it it requires a level of integration between the operating system, knowing who your friends are. So you would tell you have to have a way telephone who is important and then that would have to be synched up with a third party messaging service. It’s very complicated. 

Abner [00:15:59] Once if you try to logic it out in the distant final state, the intent is clear. It’s getting you to talk with people again, people making a people centric OS. 

Abner [00:16:16] But the application would require all the buy in from third party developers because Google doesn’t have their own messaging service while they have all six and the Google phone app. I guess that’s something, but I think most people’s conversations are happening somewhere else. And third party apps. And if this like right off the bat, I think if this only worked with SMS socks and last phone calls, I don’t think most people will use it. 

Kyle [00:16:47] No, absolutely not. There’s there would be no reason to. But one thing that comes to mind, how did that this style of integration work on Windows Phone? Because I know that was one of the only good features of Windows Phone. And from what I remember of it, but I don’t know how all the connections work the tiles. 

Abner [00:17:09] Yes. So if memory serves Windows Phone, that pretty good integration with Facebook, that it was it was something between being able to sign to Facebook and having your contacts, your contact apps to be populated by a Facebook contacts and some merging going on. If again, if memory serves, that’s how they were able to do that. But I know this requires this because Android 12, knowing who your contacts are, and I think given the way we all use multiple apps, I think that requires a deeper synergy that I don’t know if Google is able to close to partner on that or Facebook without the pretty high privacy implications or if not that of giving Facebook even more data into Google users, which I don’t think Google would necessarily want. 

Kyle [00:18:09] Right, and you can see that they would the goal of this at least, or the the ambition when they were making the mark up is for not only Google messages, which but and Facebook Messenger, but there’s also WhatsApp, which I get that that’s still Facebook. But the it shows the ambition of it, at least, that it’s not just that they want multiple third party app by INS. 

Abner [00:18:36] Mm hmm. They absolutely have to. 

Abner [00:18:39] Yeah. These people widgets. 

Abner [00:18:42] And I see maybe you you put one for your spouse or significant other, but and maybe like your family or one or two friends. But any, any more I think it gets. 

Abner [00:18:55] The accuracy suffers, the overload becomes a bit too much. 

Kyle [00:19:02] OK, but you’re that’s on the assumption that you get to place people individually. 

Kyle [00:19:12] Well, I’m not sure that that’s the case, so this could be like a version of the discover feed, you know, or a concept along those lines, but social oriented or here’s a recommendation. We recommend that you chat with Rachel because the last time you chatted with her was two weeks ago. We recommend that you message back. Monica, who messaged you in an hour ago. 

Abner [00:19:37] Yeah, that OK. 

Abner [00:19:40] Again, these are designed mock ups at the piers, the way that Google wants to implement this is with widgets, which makes sense because it’s an interesting and an existing convention that exists in Android because otherwise, as it. 

Abner [00:19:59] I think the idea is that they want to achieve fear of making a people Santiago s would require a whole rethink of how Android interacts and works. And I don’t. And I don’t think they have the. They have the they don’t know yet what this is going to be a successful idea so that using widgets that can be easily removed and added as the paradigm to achieve this. But I think anything deeper, if they want to make that a at like the Windows Tight Windows phone tiles, I think that requires a deeper level redesign of the OS and. 

Abner [00:20:44] I don’t I don’t think that’s it from a design perspective, I don’t think there’s a the user experience is going to change to you from the screenshots that you’ve seen now, not that fundamental of a level. 

Kyle [00:20:56] Nothing that we’ve heard or seen points to that fundamental of a redesign. 

Abner [00:21:01] Yeah, it’s the design for most people. Yet the world will go a long way because I think when you were discussing this earlier in the week, you mentioned that that and what you have in today is identical to what Android Newgate, the Android nine say. Hi. Hi. Hi. 

Kyle [00:21:24] There. Syntheses there’s a decent enough change between Orio and pie. 

Abner [00:21:28] Oh yes. That makes sense to I can see that as well. So yeah it’s. 

Abner [00:21:35] It’s. 

Abner [00:21:37] It’s I would say, and I think most people who it’s due for a visual refresh and I think the theming and the colors will go a long way to do that. But I think it’s only a temporary solution in terms of what if you really want to rethink how a phone works, you need to redesign the whole OS. And I don’t think we’re necessarily there yet with Android 12. 

Kyle [00:22:02] I don’t necessarily think that Android is ever going to quite get to that point. I don’t think they’re going to do such a, again, fundamental change. It seems like something that wouldn’t jive with Android as a whole. 

New privacy indicators

Abner [00:22:17] Yeah, yeah. So, yeah, that’s the focus on people that we’re definitely seeing that. So the other thing that Google looks to be very big on this release is privacy, which makes sense since people say they care very much about the privacy implications of modern technology. And the the biggest way Google is addressing this looks to be by having a camera and microphone indicators. So in the top corner, in the top right corner, that it looks like there’s going to be a pill that a green pill that shows whenever your camera microphone is active over time, just shrink to a tiny green dot next to your battery icon in this case. And it looks like if you go to quick settings, you’ll be able to tap it or somehow access it to get a full message. It says that camera is using the camera camera app, using the camera, rather chat, use the microphone recently. Again, these are just examples with links to open them in settings. And this is something that people have definitely been asking for since Apple introduced an iOS. 

Kyle [00:23:51] It’s absolutely necessary. It’s just a continued step that they’ve taken the android’s been working on bringing better permissions and better privacy that way for years now. So this is just a it’s just another progression. I it it stings a little to see that it’s just copying what I did. But at the same time, I did it right. So there shouldn’t be anything wrong in copying it. 

Abner [00:24:17] Indeed. Indeed. So, yeah, that should be a very welcome change to people. The other thing we see is a consolidated privacy menu, which takes us to a settings page, which, if this is correct, would bring would be very reminiscent of Samsung’s one UI that and before that, of course, iOS in which settings, pages or apps, frankly, they have gigantic Habas announcing the current page on. In this case it says privacy and we have some toggles to disable camera, mute microphone and location again. And you can just just switch on and off. We only have occasion today, but I think something like the ability to disable the camera access in all apps or disable the microphone and all apps, that’s, I think, welcome future for people. 

Kyle [00:25:23] Yeah, definitely. Just just to know have some some comfort to know that, OK, no matter it doesn’t matter what app it is, doesn’t matter if it’s a system app, you just you turn off that microphone switch and nothing on your phone is listening for, for the for the paranoid rightfully or wrongfully that’s there for you. There was a point in time where I would have loved to have had that. So that’s this is this is comforting in a way. 

Abner [00:25:48] Yeah. So that privacy is again, it’s something that people say they increasingly care about. So that looks like to be one thing that Google is continually building on from an 11 to 12 and further. So those are the screenshots. So the design mockups we’ve we’ve had this week and. Yeah, it’s again, it’s just visually. 

Abner [00:26:19] Not most people expecting, I guess, let’s put it that way. 

Kyle [00:26:23] Yeah, I mean, especially that that pivot to one guy like you like were pointing in the. In the privacy screenshot where you have the header above, which is blank right now, but maybe there will be one, or maybe there won’t for simplicity’s sake, but the header to. Space it downward, bring it down for. For those who prefer to use their phone with one hand. 

Abner [00:26:49] Yeah, it’s I am. 

Abner [00:26:53] That would be us, and if apps if all apps and code should help that, that’s like a big indication of Samsung’s one UI. 

Abner [00:27:06] So we’ll see how far Google takes in mandating that the costs apps. But for now, that’s just to design mockups we’ve seen. 

Revamped split screen with ‘App Pairs’

Abner [00:27:17] So another big focus. This is from Kyle reporting again last month. I think the functionality standpoint app pairs is something that you’ve discovered is in Development Fund or twelve. 

Kyle [00:27:37] Yeah. So we learned that with Android 12, there’s this concept being introduced of app pairs, which is supposed to be something of a. An improvement over the existing splitscreen system in Android today, which, while useful, isn’t quite up to par four for the new classes of devices like foldable bowls and even the Microsoft Surface duo where you have multiple. Multiple screens are just a large screen, and you just want to be able to quickly open to apps and then maybe switch over to using one app anyway. So what the concept of app pairs, you can open one app and then choose to open another app with it, or even potentially like we’ve seen on some implementations on Samsung and Microsoft phones open or tap one shortcut to open two apps at the same time. Side by side. But you these once you’ve pared to APS, they’re treated as one kind of activity in the like in your recent APS view. So you could be using, let’s say, Chrome and Slack or Chrome and Google Docs side by side and then switch over to another app. 

Kyle [00:29:08] Let’s just say a game usually stopped for a man to play a game and then you swap back and your two apps are still right there, how you had them before. 

Kyle [00:29:16] Whereas today with like Android 11. 

Kyle [00:29:20] You can enter splitscreen mode and it just sort of pins one app to the top and then you’re using the bottom half of your screen to or the other side of your screen to just. 

Kyle [00:29:33] To to work through a multitude of apps, it’s a it’s just a different way of thinking about it, that should be interesting to see how it goes. And it’s nice to see Google putting effort toward foldable and dual screen devices. 

Abner [00:29:48] Mm hmm. 

Abner [00:29:49] And how often do you how do you multitask? They would splitscreen. 

Kyle [00:29:57] On my own, on my single phone, Everth, on when those few times that I pull out the the log 60 all the time. 

Abner [00:30:08] All the time. OK, OK. Yeah, it’s. I honestly, the pip all people want to multitask is the video when they’re watching video and being another app and I think the pip, the picture and picture really. 

Abner [00:30:30] Caused everybody to use multiple splitscreen multitasking and or in the days of old. 

Abner [00:30:37] So I’m glad they’re doing another take on that. 

Abner [00:30:41] But I assume that the that this is mostly for dual dual screen devices or foldable like flip phone style form factors rather than single screens. And maybe Samsa Sonis excuse me, will appreciate this, given how their phones are so tall. 

Abner [00:31:07] But I guess in the meantime it’s, it’s, I don’t think single average size phone, so let’s say of average height will get too much of this. 

Abner [00:31:20] But as you say, you know, the investment for the bulls is much appreciated as this form factor and the spy technology, which is in tablets as well, thinking on it tablets would probably be able to use it quite well. 

Abner [00:31:34] Yes. Tablets, which people definitely have. 

Kyle [00:31:38] Yes, I one everyone owns and uses on a daily basis in Android tablet. Absolutely. Absolutely right. 

Return of ‘Columbus’ double tap gesture

Abner [00:31:46] So, yeah, another thing that you reported on was that we were on the ballot was hopefully fingers crossed. Android 12 brings back Columbus’, which has Columbus. 

Kyle [00:32:00] Columbus is the double tap gesture, a cheeky reference to Zombieland, where one of the rules is to always give a zombie the double tap, basically with the Android 11 developer preview. We uncovered this feature where you could tap twice on the back of your phone just to give a nice little and you activate the assistant or pull down the notification chain or just little pause your music, little things like that. And it was OK. We were excited about what it could be, but at the time it was just kind of OK. And before they did any real iteration on it and improvement’s, it just disappeared. And we just figured that was the end of it, but with Android 12, it seems to or we’ve we’ve learned that it’s going to be making a comeback. And that’s exciting indeed. 

Abner [00:33:03] Yeah, it’s. So Apple implemented this before Google had the chance to lie to me and I was 14, I believe all the people want an extra button is what do people want the functionality of an extra button on their phones? 

Abner [00:33:24] I. 

Kyle [00:33:27] I’ve yes, yes, OK. But maybe only on pixels, maybe on pixels, I came from the pixel three and I loved having the active Edge Squeeze gesture and now that I’m on the Pixel five, I can’t squeeze my phone anymore to get the assistant. And while I won’t get that nice haptic feedback of the squeeze anymore, it giving a double tap to the back of the phone is way easier than reaching my thumb to the bottom left corner and swiping up. So yeah, I could see myself using Klemet. 

Abner [00:34:04] I ask because like the Samsung phones, they have that Bigsby button. Well which is a math degree, not meant to be useful, but I believe so many phones have an excellent system. But the Nokia phones have that assistant button. I mean, maybe people will appreciate it more if they can launch one app. I’m not sure what that one app most people would select, but I’m sure a faction of people would have something they want quick access to all the time. But yeah, I’m somewhat curious. 

Abner [00:34:39] What’s what that looks like. What a. What customization assistant is the biggest bet and to what might be the preset of Google sets to launch assistant? But my my some of the my concern is the accuracy of avoiding and popping to the back of your phone, because if assistant launches all the time, that would get annoying some people. 

Kyle [00:35:09] Yeah. So for sure on that front it will be optional. So it’s not like, oh, you installed Android 12, now you have double taps. But they also that was also one of the things that we that we were unhappy with in the Android 11 version was that it was all too easy to accident or to like you just set your phone down and it comes up as a double tap and you’re like, no, I didn’t want the assistant wear now. Or we’ve learned that the. That there’s going to be an adjustability to it, that you can choose to ignore softer taps and have it only have it only registered with a firm double tap. 

Abner [00:35:54] Hmm, yeah, yeah, so, yeah, that’s I think that would be a delightful feature when Android 12 comes, if all goes according to plan. 

Android Beta Feedback app gets update

Abner [00:36:08] When speaking of plans, it’s February last year. Google, where we stand with you, Evan, the developer preview this month that fast approaching the halfway point of this month. So I guess the smart money is that it’s coming soon. We are doing on that team. He saw that the Android based the feedback app was updated last Friday after a few months of no updates. So that’s a pretty good indication that Google is setting getting the roadmap out, getting the planning that needed to launch Android 12. So sooner than later seems like a pretty safe bet. 

Kyle [00:36:57] Could be next week. Could be not. 

Abner [00:36:59] Could be next week. Could be March. Who knows? The timing is always fluid on these things. 

Kyle [00:37:06] Yeah, because last year Nina was so early before covid hit. So there’s potential that with things could be delayed a little bit this year by comparison to last year. 

Abner [00:37:20] Yeah. And again, it’s still a very long time till the September, October. 

Abner [00:37:27] Well, it’s usually August or September. The time frame for Google launches these things, but I don’t think anybody would be surprised if covid related things delayed. Something as big as the next version of Android. 

Kyle [00:37:46] Tragic, tragic. 

Abner [00:37:48] Indeed, so thank you, everyone, for joining us this week. We record this podcast every Thursday and publish on Friday mornings. You can find this in all your favorite podcasting platforms such as iTunes and Apple podcast, Google podcasts, and Pocket Casse. You can also listen on our site nine to five Google dot com if you wish. Thank you for tuning in, as always, and thank you for joining me. 

Abner [00:38:17] We’ll all see you next week. 

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