Finally! Google noticed the Android tablet market once again.
It’s been a long time since Google made a version of Android specifically for tablets. Ever since Jellybean, all devices, regardless of type, ran a unified version of Android. However, because previous versions of Android are not meant to run on tablets, Android tablets ran into a number of compatibility and optimisation issues which led to their unpopularity.
After the release of the Pixel 6 series, Google has started developing a new version of Android intended for tablets, Chromebooks and foldable phones called Android 12L. This version was announced as a feature drop during today’s Android Developer Summit. Android 12L is optimised for larger screens as there are over 250 million tablets, foldables and Chromebooks that use Android. These optimisations also include system apps.
In just the last 12 months we’ve seen nearly 100 million new Android tablet activations–a 20% year-over-year growth, while ChromeOS, now the fastest growing desktop platform, grew by 92%. We’ve also seen Foldable devices on the rise, with year on year growth of over 265%! said by Google in a statement.
Below are some changes and enhancements made for Android 12L:
- Google Search bar located at the top of the homescreen
- Six-button power menu which also allows users to report bugs and take screencaps
- Two-column lockscreen
- Dual-pane interface for the Settings app
- A redesigned overview interface that allows the currently-in-use app to be in full-screen while the previously-used app remains smaller.
- Forced split-screen on some apps, even those which aren’t resizable
- Easier and less cumbersome customisation for manufacturers in case they want to use their own Android skin
- A taskbar (see above) that lets users switch between apps seemlessly.
Compatibility and Availability
Android 12L would launch “early next year” according to Google and includes a few more improvements and compatibility testing with “visual and stability improvements to offer a better letterboxing experience for users and help apps look better” without having developers to do additional work just for tablet compatibility. Of course, developers are still encouraged to test their apps on multiple screen and window sizes to determine which size suits their apps best.
During the summit, one of the first devices announced to come with Android 12L is the Lenovo P12 Pro tablet which should come next year. Other OEMs will follow suit. The Lenovo P12 Pro is a flagship-level tablet, coming with a 12.6in. OLED screen with 120Hz refresh rate and Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 processor with 6 or 8GB RAM.
In the meantime, Google has released an emulated version of Android 12L for developers to use for testing. While Android 12L is intended for tablets, ChromeOS and foldables, this version would also be available on regular mainstream smartphones sometime in the future. A beta version for smartphones is in the works and would be compatible on select Pixel devices.