Later this year, Google’s mobile operating system will get a massive visual overhaul and more privacy controls. The months-long process to a consumer release starts today with the Android 12 Developer Preview.

This is the sixth year that Google is giving the public an early look at what direction Android is going. Like in 2020, the preview is getting underway in February rather than March to give developers more time to offer feedback and update apps.

With Android 12, Google is especially focused on giving developers “new tools for building great experiences for users.” This starts with notifications getting a new design and layout that allows more information to be shown. In addition to smoother transitions and animations across the OS, alerts should also open faster as Android 12 encourages developers to switch away from an old notification implementation (“trampolines”).

It will be easier to paste images, videos, and other rich content due to a new unified API that lets apps accept content from any source: clipboard, keyboard, or drag and drop. On that front, this release adds AV1 Image File Format (AVIF) support for higher media quality without requiring more space. Similarly, apps will work with HEVC even without developer support. When watching video, playing a game, or using any other fullscreen experience, immersive mode will work better with gesture navigation and single swipes.

On the audio front, Android 12 apps can have haptics correspond to audio playback. This makes possible custom, per-contact vibrations or simulating rough terrain in racing games. There’s also improvements to audio that includes spatial information with support for 24 channels, up from 8.

Beyond letting apps developers do more, privacy is a continued focus with more controls over identifiers, as is app compatibility. More parts of the OS can be updated through Google Play (Project Mainline), with an Android Runtime (ART) module allowing Google to quickly “improve runtime performance and correctness, manage memory more efficiently, and make Kotlin operations faster.”

Google will have “lots more to share as we move through the release,” with the priority right now on features for developers. There will be seven developer previews and betas before the final consumer launch, while Google today released an Android 12 preview for Android TV.

Like last year, there’s an Android Beta Feedback application for Pixel devices. Users can access it from the app drawer or via Quick Settings to file bugs in the Google issue tracker. The Android Beta community is again on Reddit.

At launch, Android 12 Developer Preview system images are available for the Pixel 3 (XL), Pixel 3a (XL), Pixel 4 (XL), Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G, and Pixel 5, as well as in the Android Emulator.

DP1 (SPP1.210122.020.A3) is officially “for developers only and not intended for daily or consumer use.” It’s available via manual download and flashing today, with the public-facing Android Beta coming later. If you need help, here’s our full guide on installing Android 12.

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Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: