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🚒 Good morning! I saw a bunch of tired firefighters this morning, hanging out their gear and drying up. It's not hard to feel anything but admiration for what they do. Anyway, on with the day!
February 19, 2021
Android 12 lands
Android 12 logo on Google Pixel 3 2
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Hooray! Android 12’s first developer preview bounced out of the gates yesterday, and what the next major version of Google’s operating system can do for us is being puzzled out across the Android web.

  • The developer preview 1, is available for download for various Pixel phones.
  • Buuut it’s really only for developers who use a Pixel as a testing and debugging tool, not someone who relies on a Pixel as their daily driver.
  • (I haven’t downloaded it on my Pixel 4a 5G because I rely on it, and don’t have a spare one around at the moment!)

What do we have here?

  • According to Google’s Dave Burke, VP of Engineering, who wrote to developers in an Android 12 blog, the new version update is all about making the OS “more intuitive, better performing, and more secure.” 
  • The first takes on what we’re seeing from the early release reveal under-the-hood changes. That’s because developers need to understand what’s changing to get their apps ready for the months to come.
  • The more obvious consumer-ready Android features will come out a little later during the year.

But wait, what am I doing the explaining for? My colleagues dropped two bits of great insights for you — Joe Hindy with his Android 12 hands-on video, and Jimmy Westenberg with a detailed article explainer.

  • (Extended credit where it’s due: I really like Joe’s videos each year, doing a great job interacting with all the features at rapid pace, and Jimmy’s articles give you a chance to review each detail.)

So, just a few points that caught my eye: 

  • There’s a new one-handed mode called “Silky” (watch it at about the 1:45m mark) which makes icons and text super large to make it easy to touch stuff on a giant device.
  • Other obvious things are the Android notification user interface, including a handy snooze button on notifications, a new Emergency SOS to dial 911 (by default, but can be changed), more choice around media players in your quick settings panel.
  • And the new Wi-Fi sharing feature we talked about possibly making it to the new update a few weeks ago is absolutely in Android 12 too, which is great.
  • Stuff you can’t see that matters: haptic-coupled audio, AVIF image support, MPEG-H playback in passthrough and offload modes, easier rich content insertion in apps, and more.

“Android 12? I’m not even onAndroid 11!”

  • Now, some of this may not matter to you, because your device still hasn’t received Android 11, depending on phone age, manufacturer, and device.
  • Some interesting news is that Google remains very aware of the slow rollout problem and is doing more about it than it has before, at least on the essential bugs/security side.
  • Rob Triggs explains that Google is taking even more control over OS updates with Android 12, but it’s less about becoming platform overlords, more about shipping bug and security fixes in a more timely manner, versus waiting for major version upgrades.
  • In doing so, Google is taking on more responsibility, and will be able to issue important updates through the Play Store.
  • Mind you — smartphone manufacturers may need to agree to participate, first. Google has not clarified if it’s mandatory. Will it get off the ground?
Roundup

📸 DxOMark reviews the first phone with an under-display camera, and it’s bad. We already knew that, but interesting to see the breakdown of where it goes wrong (Android Authority).

🔜 ROG Phone 5 has a launch date …and Asus already has a countdown timer (Android Authority).

🤷‍♂️ You’ll eventually have to accept WhatsApp’s new privacy terms to use the app, even if it’s a bit delayed (Android Authority).

📺 The future of Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, from Gary Sims (YouTube).

🍎 Apple TV+ is now available on Google’s new Chromecast with Google TV (blog.google).

🚖 The UK’s highest court has ruled that Uber drivers are workers, not self-employed. This has potential huge implications for the gig economy there, given Uber drivers would get entitlements such as minimum wage and holiday pay. Or, Uber could up and leave, if it can’t make money? More to come (BBC).

🤔 Waze’s ex-CEO says it probably could have ‘grown faster’ without Google (Reuters). Here’s the blog post that says some really really interesting things about working life at corporations: “The product is a tool to advance the employee’s career, not a passion, mission or economic game changer,” vs the start-up approach of product first. Some points are a little bit old-man-shaking-first-at-cloud, like complaining about employees taking personal days…

📄 Microsoft announces Office 2021 (including dark modes), available for Windows and macOS later this year (The Verge).

🤝 Nvidia is hobbling its new RTX 3060, specifically to disincentivize Ethereum cryptocurrency mining. Also, Nvidia has a new product for mining cryptocurrency: a Cryptocurrency Mining Processor, which won’t handle graphics at all, with no display inputs. Win for games, and miners? (The Verge).

💸 Tesla cuts prices for base-level Model 3 and Model Y, down $1k and $2k respectively (Reuters).

🪓 Valheim is the game currently blowing up on Steam: it’s a survival game, but without the tedium. It’s slow, methodical, but without rigid mechanics/grinding, and the building part is easy, too. PC/Linux only, for now (PC Gamer).

🛩️ “What the f–k does it mean when a sign says “speed enforced by aircraft”?” And, is it a bluff? (r/nostupidquestions).

Fun Friday

Perseverance successfully landing on Mars (NASA) is a burst of joyful fun. The rover survived an array of maneuvers to land, and even managed to quickly pop back a photo of how things look at the Jezero Crater, an enigmatic piece of Mars that may have clues about lifeforms and water. That Crater is a really interesting point of the solar system.

To get there, the systems on the Percy rover (as it’s known to friends and family) had to work hard to find a safe point to land using some state-of-the-art navigation tools. 

Here’s where it ended up on Mars: 

red is bad
NASA/YouTube
Why does that map matter? 

  • As you can see, the rover landed in a narrow strip of blue, acceptable landing spots, surrounded by yellow (not great) and red (avoid).
  • NASA’s Al Chen, who led the Entry, Descent, and Landing team, joked “We did successfully find that parking lot.” 
  • The rover ended up flat and upright, showing a tilt of just 1.2 degrees. But the first images showed rippled sand in the surrounds. 
  • “We might have to drive around the ripple field,” said Jennifer Trosper, the deputy project manager for the rover. “We don’t like sand ripples much.”
  • What’s next: Aside from the rover’s mission, we’ll get more data via flyovers — NASA’s orbiting satellites, Mars Odyssey and the Mars Trace Gas orbiter, will be able to grab large amounts of data from the rover. NASA said that “should be enough” to release video of the landing on Monday.
  • As for right now, you can go play with an unbelievably cool interactive map to explore the area in more normal colors. More images will be uploaded here.

Have a great weekend,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor.

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