Android 12 Beta 2 is here and contains many of the features that were teased during May's Google I/O shindig including an overhauled control panel and additional privacy tools.
The company's feted Privacy Dashboard has made an appearance: designed to give end users an overview of how apps interact with the more sensitive components on their device, such as the microphone and camera, this tool provides a breakdown of app permissions, as well as the exact times when they are accessed.
On a basic level, Google has designed this with visibility in mind. It could also be used by the privacy and security-conscious to gain insight into how potentially suspect applications work.
Google has also finally added the iOS-like warning lights that appear when an app accesses the camera and microphone, as well as access to revoke those permissions.
The Chocolate Factory's newfound enthusiasm for customer privacy has come across as an attempt to rehabilitate its image as a data-guzzling advert pusher. This has perhaps been driven by greater appetite across the public for services that feel less like a panopticon.
One Neiman Lab survey from 2019 showed the majority of US consumers believing they shouldn't be surveilled as they perform ordinary day-to-day online activities, such as browsing the internet or doing a simple search.
Privacy has always been Google's most vulnerable flank, and in recent years Apple has shown no hesitation in exploiting it. Through an extensive marketing campaign, Apple has distinguished its iPhones from those running Android by portraying them as more respectful of user privacy. This has been bolstered further through the introduction of high-profile features such as the "do not track" option added in iOS 14.5.
The second beta version of Android 12 has also come with significant changes to how the swipe-down control panel works. For instance, it's now possible to switch Wi-Fi networks without having to delve into your settings. Tapping on the Wi-Fi network will produce a small pop-up listing other networks in range.
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Google has also taken the opportunity to flesh out its Material You system. Another feature introduced at Google I/O, Material You automatically customises the colour palette used throughout the operating system based on the wallpaper used. Google has gradually extended this to all parts of the stock Android system, with this update bringing it to the media controls.
Android 12 Beta 2 has already started rolling out to enrolled Pixel devices. As previously noted, Google has also extended its Beta programme to other third-party developers including Xiaomi, OPPO, and Realme. Builds are available for eligible devices.
According to the timeline published by Google, two more Beta versions have been planned, with a mooted release month of July and August respectively. It expects to publish the final version in September. ®