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Upgrading to Android 12.1 ... in Windows 11: Telemetry disabled by default

Dev Channel Insiders get Windows Subsystem for Android updates

Microsoft is continuing to lavish love on Android for Windows with an update to Android 12.1 that disables telemetry by default, although, as Microsoft notes, "this update may cause some apps to fail to launch."

Such are the delights of living on the bleeding edge of Windows test builds.

The update for the Windows Subsystem for Android arrived at the end of last week in the Windows Insider Dev Channel and comprises Android 12.1, a new settings app, and Windows integration improvements.

It is a substantial update even if the irritating requirement for the Amazon Appstore and a US account still appears to be present (although a user running on the Windows Insider Dev Channel is likely more than capable of dealing with both).

Most useful are improvements around networking to permit an Android app to connect to devices on the same network as the host PC (use cases highlighted by Microsoft include playing audio from connected speakers or setting up a security camera).

Other tweaks include an overhaul of the settings app with a viewer for diagnostic data and compatibility settings for Android apps that, for example, aren't keen on resizing or need swipes for arrow keys. Telemetry collection is also off by default, although Microsoft would be pleased if you'd turn it on.

Is this thing on?

Microsoft has also upped the Windows integration, with taskbar icons in Windows 11 to show whether an app is using the microphone, location, and other system services. Android toasts will now show up as Windows notifications and (on Insider builds from 22621) Android apps won't need a restart when a device comes out of connected standby.

There are problems, though. The camera (which was also updated) doesn't always work smoothly on Arm devices and there might be issues printing from an Android app. Microsoft noted: "Some apps that were previously available might be missing from the experience fail to launch or function incorrectly for various known issues."

Overall, the update is worthwhile but there remain many rough edges. For example, the insistence on Amazon's Appstore is frustrating and, while it can be worked around, a simpler solution is needed.

Then there is the app formerly known as Your Phone (now Phone Link) which will push content from a connected Android phone to the Windows desktop (although a recent one-star review on Microsoft's store described the experience as "a circle of despair").

We'd not go quite that far, although firing up an Android app via the Windows Subsystem for Android certainly seemed a good deal more stable than the Phone Link connection, even with the Dev Channel status.

It is hard to escape the faint whiff of scattergun from Microsoft's Android endeavors. However, it is also good to see the company pressing ahead with the Windows Subsystem for Android rather than simply declaring the tech done and moving on. ®

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