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Color OS 12 hands-on: A familiar look for Oppo's skin with Android 12
Following the official release of Android 12, the long wait for broader support begins. Oppo is amongst the first to reveal a public timeline for their take on Google’s latest Android version upgrade via its own Color OS skin. We’ve been testing out an alpha release of Color OS 12 over the last week and here are our first impressions.
Oppo is sticking to its guns with Color OS 12 and the Android 12 based skin is an interesting mix of most of the latest features, while still maintaining the Color OS design aesthetic.
Oppo India supplied us a unit of the Find X3 Pro to test out the operating system ahead of release and the first few builds proved to be rather buggy. Over a series of updates over the course of the week, Oppo has smoothened out most of the deal-breaking bugs, and the version on which we’ve based our hands-on was more or less ready to be used as a daily driver. Let’s take a look at all the major (and minor) changes you can expect from Color OS 12 when it rolls out to your phone starting later this year.
Oppo Color OS 12: Look and feel
Oppo is talking refinement and subtle improvements across the skin and that’s exactly what you get. Long-time users of Color OS will feel right at home, but some of the changes like the better text rendering and truncation stood out to me.
Oppo claims that it has worked with linguistic experts to localize text in 67 languages including 13 Indian languages and made sure that text reflows perfectly no matter the language. Take, for example, the Settings page. The text is evenly laid out and aligned. This wasn’t always the case previously.
The wallpaper-based color picker for theme highlights brings a slice of Material You to Color OS.
While you won’t be getting a full-fledged Material You-style overhaul here, Oppo has cherry-picked some features like an automatic color picker in the wallpaper selector. The tool can adjust the color of icons in the base theme to match the choice of wallpaper. Widgets like the clock have also been updated to sport a rounder design in line with Material You guidelines. Additionally, the phone ships with a Material-style icon pack to get you just a bit closer to Google’s vision.
The sidebar feature in Color OS is where we start seeing some of the functional upgrades. A new background stream feature lets you switch off the phone’s display while continuing to stream content from supported services. The feature worked as advertised on both Netflix and Prime Video, and I can see it coming in handy while watching documentaries or videos that don’t need much active attention.
Meanwhile, the battery page in Settings has also been overhauled to give users more visual indicators to gauge battery consumption. A single toggle has also been added to curb power consumption by toggling off features like the 120Hz display, high-performance mode, and more.
Color OS 12 brings with it all the standard Android 12 privacy features including a privacy dashboard to keep a tab on all the permissions being used by apps over the past seven days. Additionally, indicators for camera and microphone access also show up in the status bar whenever a specific app accesses them. Similar to iOS, you can now opt for a more generalized GPS location when giving GPS access to an app.
Color OS 12 packs all the security features touted by Android 12 including a privacy dashboard that works in tandem with Oppo's phone manager app.
This is over and above Oppo’s own Phone Manager app that has also got a minor visual overhaul. The basic settings and additional tools are now split under two separate tabs. There are no new features here, but Color OS already has a very robust set of options to control permissions and, more specifically, what your phone can or cannot do.
Long-time users will find themselves right at home, but the new visual indicators, cleaner look, and tooltips to explain functionality should go a long way towards making it easier for new users to capitalize on the features.
Oppo has also built upon the performance enhancements in Android 12. The company claims that memory occupation is down by 30% while back-end power consumption has also been reduced by 20%. It is hard to effectively test these out on a flagship that already has a top-of-the-line processor and 12GB of RAM. However, the benefits should translate well to a snappier experience on lower-end hardware. Moreover, battery consumption by background tasks has also been reduced by 20% — a change that was very noticeable in later builds of the software where the Find X3 Pro regularly lasted over a day of use.
Color OS 12 features: Additional bits
If the update looks incremental to you, you are not mistaken. Color OS 12 brings a marginal amount of visual tweaks and the privacy essentials from Android 12, and that’s about it. It’s a consistent and mature operating system and Oppo is taking baby steps towards the new interface guidelines to avoid alienating long-term users.
That said, there are a few more features that are still in development that should help differentiate the phones.
- PC Connect: Similar in function to Huawei’s Multiscreen Collaboration utility, PC Connect will let you transfer text, images, and phone calls to your computer. The feature will roll out next year with Color OS 12.1 and will require a companion app on a Windows machine. No Mac or Linux support here.
- Google Apps: Color OS 12 employs the Google Dialer, Contacts, and Messaging apps across the board. Moreover, it also marks the return of the Google Discover feed in the launcher. Swiping from the left pulls up the standard Google Assistant feed for quick access to Google Discover content as well as the search function.
- Omoji avatars: Oppo is following on Apple’s lead with Omoji, the company’s take on the ever-popular Memoji. The virtual avatars offer an extended degree of customization to create a character that comes pretty close to how you look. The virtual character can then mimic your movements using the front-facing camera and users can take photographs or record video messages using the avatar. The feature isn’t available at launch and we weren’t able to test it out in time for the hands-on.
- Conversations: Standard Android 12 features like conversation bubbles and conversation widgets that offer a single point of communication across recent chats on supported platforms are also included.
Color OS 12 release date and eligibility
The Color OS 12 rollout is expected to start with the Find X3 Pro later in December with the Reno and A-series of devices scheduled to receive the Android 12 update in the first half of 2022. Oppo has specifically committed to updating the Find X3 and Find X2-series of phones, as well as Reno 4 lineup. Finally, the Oppo A94, A74 5G, and A75 5G should also get an update early next year.
What do you think about Color OS 12?
Budget-oriented devices in the A-series should get the Color OS 12 update in the second half of next year. In a call with Android Authority, Oppo also confirmed that some of the more budget-oriented devices might get a lighter version of Color OS 12. The company is yet to confirm a timeline for it.
Equally important is the update guarantee. Oppo is now committing to three major updates for the Find X series while the Reno and F series should expect two Android updates along with four years of security patches. The A-series, on the other hand, will get one update alongside three years of security support.
What do you think about Color OS 12? Playing it safe or exactly what you expected?