Android 12 developer preview bolsters privacy, user experience

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With the first developer preview of the planned Android 12 platform, the developers of Google’s mobile OS are emphasizing privacy, user experience, and app compatibility.

The Android 12 developer preview, which is not intended for consumer use, was introduced on February 18. Instructions on accessing the preview can be found at developer.android.com.

To bolster user privacy, Android 12 adds controls over identifiers that can be used for tracking as well as safer defaults for app components. The builders of Android recommend testing to gauge the effects of these changes, adding that more security and privacy capabilities are coming in later preview releases. Platform stability is expected in August, with the final release to follow.

Android 12’s WebView class for displaying webpages includes SameSite cookie behaviors to offer additional security and privacy and give users more control over cookies. This feature is in line with changes to the Chrome browser. Android 12 also is set to continue improvements pertaining to privacy-protecting resettable identifiers. Further restrictions will be imposed regarding access to a device’s NetLink MAC address. Also, to prevent apps from inadvertently exporting activities, services, and receivers, the default setting of the android:exported attribute will be made more explicit.

To improve user experience, Android 12 is set to include compatible media transcoding to support HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding), which is becoming increasingly popular in camera apps. Google’s Dave Burke, vice president of engineering, said Google recommends that developers support HEVC in their apps. If they cannot, then compatible media transcoding should be enabled. Android 12 also debuts platform support for AV1 Image File Format, a container format for images and sequences of images encoded using the AV1 video coding format.

 Other additions and improvements in Android 12:

  • For rich content insertion, a new unified API will let apps receive content from any source, including clipboard, keyboard, or drag-and-drop.
  • Starts on foreground services, which are a way to manage certain types of user-facing tasks, will be blocked from the background for apps targeting the new platform. The reasoning behind this is they can be overused and lead to app kills. To make it easier to transition away from this pattern, Android 12 introduces an expedited job in JobScheduler that gets elevated process priority, network access, and runs immediately regardless of power constraints.
  • Apps can provide audio-coupled haptic feedback through the phone’s vibrator.
  • Enhancements are featured for audio with spatial information.
  • Immersive mode has been simplified so that gesture navigation is easier and more consistent.
  • Notification designs are being modernized and made easier to use and more functional. Also, notifications are being made faster and more responsive.
  • For Google Play, an Android Runtime (ART) module has been added that lets updates be pushed to the core runtime and libraries on Android 12 devices. Runtime performance can be improved, memory more efficiently managed, and Kotlin operations made faster without needing a full system update.

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