After first appearing in October on the Google Pixel 6, Android 12 is now being steadily rolled out to other Android devices. It represents one of the most significant updates Android has witnessed in years, with a streamlined and stylish redesign complemented by a revamped notification shade and improved privacy controls. Not only that, but its core features hide a range of nice touches that will enhance your basic experience in a variety of ways. This article rounds up and explains such touches, covering all of the main Android 12 tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your device.
Given that Google will update Android 12 a number of times before introducing its successor, also be sure to check back periodically for new features and entries.
Choose your phone’s theme with Material You
Probably the headline new feature for Android 12 is Material You. This changes the color scheme for your phone’s UI and icons according to your choice of wallpaper. The effect is quite subtle, but it does provide your device’s interface and layout with a greater degree of aesthetic unity, while also helping to alter the vibe it gives off. Material You should be activated by default on any device updated to Android 12. However, you can change your current wallpaper and tinker around with how it affects your phone’s interface by doing the following.
Step 1: Go to Settings > Wallpaper & Style. Alternatively, tap and hold any enter space on your phone’s home screen, and then select Wallpaper & Style.
Step 2: Tap Change Wallpaper if you’d like to choose a different background for your home screen. Preset wallpapers are divided according to different categories, while you can also choose from your own photos, by tapping My Photos.
Step 3: Once you’ve settled on a wallpaper, you can then choose between Wallpaper Colors and Basic Colors. This is where the bulk of the Material You feature lies: If you choose Wallpaper Colors, your phone will alter the colors of certain text and backgrounds according to the color scheme of your wallpaper.
Conversely, if you choose Basic Colors, the interface will be colored according to basic color schemes, and will have little to do with your choice of wallpaper.
Step 4: One other thing you can do on Settings > Wallpaper & Style is activate Themed Icons. If you switch this on, icons on your home screen and elsewhere will be colored or shaded according to your wallpaper.
At the moment, this feature may work only with first-party Google apps, although updates to third-party apps should extend compatibility in the future.
Rearrange your home screen’s layout
Another nice design tweak offered by Android 12 is the ability to alter how apps are laid out on your phone’s home screen. Basically, you can choose between different grids, with smaller grids resulting in fewer — but larger — app icons being on each page of your home screen.
Step 1: Go to Settings > Wallpaper & Styles > App Grid.
Step 2: Tap the app grid you’d like to use. The default is 5 x 5, but you can also choose from 4 x 4, 4 x 5, 3 x 3, and 2 x 2. As mentioned above, smaller grids will result in fewer but larger app icons appearing on your home screen. As a result, you’ll also have to scroll through more pages on your home screen to reach certain apps.
Spruce up your widgets
Android has been offering home screen widgets back before they were fashionable. However, Android 12 delivers some significant overhauls for its widgets, including a nice new redesign and the ability to customize them in various ways.
Step 1: Tap and hold any empty space on your phone’s home screen, then tap Widgets.
Step 2: Scroll through your apps until you find one for which you’d like to add a widget.
Step 3: Tap and hold the widget you want, and then drag it to the desired location on your home screen.
Step 4: If a widget is capable of being edited, you’ll see the edit icon (it looks like a pencil) when you tap and hold the widget. In the case of the Clock app/widget, tapping the edit icon allows you to choose from different clock faces.
Take control of your privacy
Google may not have a spotlessly clean reputation when it comes to privacy, but Android 12 does find the tech giant going a long way to making the Pixel and other Android devices more private. In particular, Android 12 expands the range of privacy controls available to users, who can now even switch off microphone and cameras access globally (meaning no apps can use them).
One other thing you can now do is go to the new Privacy Dashboard to check all of your permissions. Go to Settings > Privacy > Privacy Dashboard to see which apps have been given which permissions. If you’re using a Samsung Galaxy, Privacy Dashboard will be called Permission Usage History, so look out for that in Settings > Privacy instead.
Here’s how to add microphone and camera access controls directly to your Quick Settings.
Step 1: Swipe down from the top of the home screen to reveal the Quick Settings menu. The swipe down again to reveal the edit button (it looks like a pencil). Tap on it.
Step 2: Scroll down and find the buttons for camera access and mic access. Drag and drop them into the Quick Settings panel. Tap the arrow to save your changes. From now on, you can go to the Quick Settings menu to switch off camera and/or microphone access for all of your apps at once.
End those bedtime screen rotation blues
Isn’t it annoying when you’re lying in bed, looking at your phone, and its screen’s orientation keeps changing? Well, Android 12 has introduced a nifty new feature that uses AI and facial recognition to detect when it should and shouldn’t change the display’s orientation. This saves you from having to lock the orientation one way or the other, which implies that you’ll also have to unlock it again when you want to return to normal.
Step 1: Go to Settings > Display > Auto-Rotate Screen.
Step 2: Make sure Use Auto-Rotate has been toggled into the on position. Next, tap Enable Face Detection, so that it too is activated.
Scroll your screenshots
It’s often the case that you need to take several screenshots in order to capture everything on a webpage or app. Well, Android 12 removes this need with its scrolling screenshot feature. As its name suggests, it lets you scroll while taking a screenshot, meaning that the entire page you want to share or record for posterity is captured in a single, long image.
Here’s how to use it.
Step 1: Take a screenshot as normal, by simultaneously pressing the Power and Volume Down buttons.
Step 2: Tap Capture More, and then drag the border of the screenshot you’d like to extend.
Step 3: Tap Save.
Power searching with Android 12
Android 12 has made its global search function even more powerful and useful than before. Now, it will search contacts, shortcuts, settings, and also Pixel Tips, as well as apps and the web.
To use it, simply swipe down on your home screen to open the app drawer. From there, tap the search box at the top of the screen and enter your query.
You can adjust what your phone searches through by following the steps below.
Step 1: Swipe down from the home screen to open the app drawer.
Step 2: Tap More (it looks like three vertical dots) on the right of the search bar. Then tap Preferences.
Step 3: You can now tap the toggle switch next to options in order to switch them on or off. These include Shortcuts, People, Settings, and Pixel Tips.
Get a grip on your notifications
Android 12 has expanded the range of options available for getting a better handle on your notifications. One nice touch is the ability to snooze individual notifications, so that you’re alerted to them at a later interval. You can do this by going to Settings > Notifications > Allow Notification Snoozing. Once you’ve switched on notification snoozing, you can snooze a notification by tapping on the arrow on its side, and by then tapping on the snooze button (it looks like an alarm clock). You can then choose how long you snooze it for, with the interval ranging from 15 minutes to two hours.
One other cool notification-related Android 12 feature is the ability to view your Notification History. Here’s what you do.
Step 1: Go to Settings > Notifications. Then tap Notification History.
Step 2: Next, tap the toggle switch next to Notification History. Enabling this means that new notifications will henceforth appear in this section of the Settings app. You can also check your history by swiping to the bottom of the Notification Shade and tapping History.
Optimize your gaming with Game Mode
While certain Android phone manufacturers have provided their devices with gaming modes over the years, Android 12 now comes with its own dedicated Game Mode baked into it. Basically, it combines two separate features: A game dashboard that appears when you’re playing games and that lets you access various optimization tools, and also a Do Not Disturb Mode for when you’re gaming.
Step 1: Go to Settings > Notifications > Do Not Disturb > Schedules.
Step 2: Once in Schedules, tap Gaming so that it turns on. Next, tap the Settings icon next to it.
Step 3: Once in the Game Settings screen, you can now tap the toggle next to Game Dashboard, which will now appear when playing games. You can also do the same for Do Not Disturb for Games, which will allow notifications only from important contacts and apps when gaming.