Google only released Android 12 last week, and now it’s already announcing the next “feature drop” which it’s calling Android 12L. That L stands for Large screens, as the focus of this release will be all about better adapting the OS to tablets, foldables, and ChromeOS devices.
Android 12L will become available early next year, “in time for the next wave of Android 12 tablets and foldables”. A developer preview of Android 12L is now out for emulator use, and it will be available “soon” for Lenovo’s Tab P12 Pro. Later a public beta for Pixel devices will be opened too, as Android 12L will also arrive as an update for phones, even though most of its features won’t be visible on smaller screens.
Google says there are over a quarter billion tablets, foldables, and ChromeOS devices running Android in total, and in the past year there were a whopping 100 million Android tablet activations alone. That’s a 20% year-over-year growth. Speaking of growth, foldables are obviously on the rise too, as are ChromeOS laptops. With all of this in mind, the idea for Android 12L seems pretty clear.
The UI has been refined for use on large screens. This includes notifications, quick settings, the lockscreen, the home screen, the overview/recent apps panel, and so on. On large screens, the notification shade, lockscreen, and other system surfaces all use a new two-column layout, and system apps are also optimized.
For enhanced multitasking, Android 12L has a new taskbar that allows for quick switching between your favorite apps on the fly. This also makes split screen mode easier to discover – all you need to do to engage it is drag and drop an app from the taskbar. All apps are enabled to enter split screen mode in Android 12L, which is another big step forward.
Google is urging developers to update their apps in order to better adapt to the multiple screen sizes Android works across, providing three window size classes as seen in the image above – Compact for phones, Medium for foldables and small tablets, and Expanded for landscape-mode tablets and computers. There’s also a new API to make apps fold and hinge aware, allowing for the use of these as natural UI separators.
In the Play Store, Google will warn users about apps that aren’t optimized for large screens (if they’re accessing the listing from a large screen device). There will be new checks to assess each app’s quality against Google’s large screen app quality guidelines. Finally, there will also be large screen specific app ratings, and all of these changes are coming into effect next year.