Here’s a strange development. Plenty of people thought today would be the official release of Android 12, which would make the nearly eight-month beta process one of the longest ever for Google’s latest operating system. Today, Google is releasing Android 12, sort of—but only in source code form. There aren’t any day-one updates for any device, even the Pixel phones.
Android is developed in secret (though nothing is really secret when you have an eight-month beta process) and then released as open source code once it’s done. Usually, this also includes a release to Pixel phones—one of the big benefits of owning one. Today, with the source code release, Google’s blog post says that Pixel devices will get the update “in the next few weeks.”
Place your bets in the comments for why we’re getting this unprecedented release schedule of no day-one phone releases. Is Android 12 not done? It seems pretty done based on the latest beta release from last month. It’s also done enough to release the source code, so that doesn’t seem like it. Is Google holding back the Android 12 release so the OS can debut on the Pixel 6? Marketing getting involved is currently the best guess we have for this strange release.
And speaking of marketing, Google coincidentally also announced an Android Dev Summit for October 27-28, hosted by former Mythbuster Kari Byron. This is our next best-guess date for the Android 12 Pixel release.
Android 12 is one of the biggest Android releases in recent memory. There’s a whole new “Material You” UI coming to Android; the update brings an incredible color-changing UI to the OS, many Google apps, and any third-party apps that want to support it. Along with the new wallpaper-based color scheme, most apps and interfaces have been redesigned with new layouts, animations, and rounded corners. There are now privacy notifications for ongoing usage of the camera and microphone and a new privacy dashboard. New devices with Android 12 (read: the Pixel 6) will be the first to ship Google’s “Generic Kernel Image,” which should bring Android closer to Linux than ever, with fewer forks (and less time) between Linux and the Android kernel. There’s an incremental file system for play-as-you-download apps and, of course, new emojis.
If Android 12 ever gets a device release, we should see a new mid-cycle release, Android 12.1, hot on its tail. Android 12.1 has already leaked and might be out before the end of the year. Google is also shipping a ton of app redesigns through the Play Store, and that will probably continue for the next few months, at least.