Android 12 is almost ready as latest beta focuses on platform stability

Google has released the fourth beta of Android 12, and while there aren't any major new features here, it marks an important step in the operating system's development. Android 12 has now reached platform stability, meaning work is complete on most of the underlying tech. Google said in March it was hoping to hit platform stability in August, so it's right on track.

"Android 12’s APIs and all app-facing behaviors are finalized," according to Google. That means developers can start their final Android 12 compatibility tests without worrying things will change much. A final Android 12 beta will emerge in the coming weeks. 

Google is expected to roll out Android 12 broadly in the next couple of months, likely alongside the Pixel 6 lineup. While there might be more features in the pipeline, we may not learn about those until Google gives an in-depth look at its new flagship handsets. 

If you'd like to try out the Android 12 beta, a number of devices have access to it. Along with Google Pixel, OnePlus, Xiaomi and ZTE phones, it's also available on Google TV.

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The first Android 13 beta is available now

Google is making good on its promise to deliver the first Android 13 beta in April. The company has released Android 13 beta 1 for Pixel devices ranging from the 4 to the 6 and 6 Pro. The inaugural beta only includes three new features (two of them for developers), but there are now more granular permission controls for shared media files.Beta 1 also includes all the upgrades from Android 13 Developer Preview 2, including a requirement that apps ask for permission to send notifications. You'll also find a new photo picker, Bluetooth LE audio and support for MIDI 2.0 instruments over USB.Anyone can install the beta. As before, though, you probably won't want to load this release on a primary phone. While betas are generally more reliable, Google doesn't expect to focus on platform stability until June and won't release the finished Android 13 until sometime after July. This is meant more for developers who want apps ready by the time the operating system is available to the public.As it is, these early Android betas don't typically include every user-facing feature. Google didn't show Android 12's Material You redesign until I/O 2021, months after the first previews arrived. While the beta is still useful, it may be worth waiting for I/O 2022 in May if you're mainly interested in top-level changes.

The final Android 12 beta is here

You have one last chance to try Android 12 before its official debut. Google has released the fifth and final beta for Pixel phones (including the Pixel 5a) and several third-party devices, giving you one more look before the finished version arrives. Beta 5 is a release candidate build with the usual last-minute fixes and performance improvements, so don't expect major changes from beta 4 or even beta 3.The completed software is due sometime in the “weeks ahead,” Google said. If history is any indication, only Pixel owners will get Android 12 first — you'll have to wait for third parties to customize and deploy their releases in the months to come.The Material You design scheme remains the most conspicuous change in Android 12, including an overall interface refresh, more fluid animations as well as color themes that adapt to your wallpaper. You'll also see more privacy features, including a dedicated Privacy Dashboard as well as toggles and in-use indicators for cameras and microphones.There are subtler under-the-hood improvements, too, such as camera-based auto-rotation and an on-device search engine that helps find content within your apps. This isn't a gigantic leap in some respects, but it could help revitalize Android if you've felt that previous releases were a little stale.

Google expands Android Auto's beta testing program

Google has long run an Android Auto beta program, but joining it was almost impossible before today. Those who tried to take part often got an error message that said the program was maxed out. Thankfully, that's no longer the case. Google is expanding the program, giving anyone with an Android device and a willingness to put up with bugs the opportunity to test the platform's latest features before they're available to the public.”As a beta tester, you can help us build a better version of Android Auto. You can test how well new features work with your specific phone and vehicle in your part of the world,” Google says of the initiative on a support page. “When you share your feedback, we'll use it to help plan improvements for future releases.”You can join the program by visiting the beta opt-in page Google has set up. Click the “Become a tester” button, and then download the beta version of Android Auto from the Play Store. If you eventually decide using unstable software isn't all it's made out to be, you can leave the program.With Google inching closer to the official release of Android 12, the company likely wants to avoid a repeat of last year's Android 11 release. While the operating system was buggy as a whole at release, Android Auto suffered from some particularly rough bugs. There were numerous audio issues and missing apps. In some instances, the software was also known to 'soft-brick' devices like the Pixel 3 XL. So it's no surprise Google wants more help testing the software.

Android 12 has been released to the Android Open Source Project

Following a preview at I/O 2021 and multiple betas since then, the next version of Google's mobile operating system is ready for prime time. Android 12 is now officially available. But if you own an Android device, don't get excited just yet. With today's announcement, Google is uploading the source code to the operating system to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). As things stand, the update isn't publicly available on any current devices. But that should change soon.Google says it will start rolling out Android 12 to Pixel devices starting sometime in the “next few weeks,” with availability on Samsung, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Tecno, Vivo and Xiaomi devices to follow later this year. Once the OS finally makes it to your device, you can look forward to checking out Google's new Material You design language, an updated privacy dashboard that includes a timeline of all the data the apps on your phone have accessed, the ability to capture scrolling screenshots, a new one-handed mode and more. Until then, the wait continues.    

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