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February 9, 2021
❄ Good morning! So much snow here! It’s been the most snow cover in years I think, and the most I’ve ever seen.
Android 12 features look tasty

We’re heading deeper into February and edging closer to the next major version of Android being released as a developer preview: 

  • Android 10 was released as a developer preview on March 13, 2019
  • Android 11 saw a first build on February 19, 2020.
  • So Android 12 is close, and most reports have suggested a similar timing and release plan as Android 11.
  • Keep in mind it’ll be months until we get an actual Android beta that isn’t recommended just for developers, and we may well again be waiting until September for the official release, and your mileage will vary for the final date for your phone: Pixel phones are fast, OnePlus phones are fast-ish, everything else may take more months as manufacturers wrangle their own Android features and hardware with the Google release.

Anyway, with Android 12 now close, we’ve covered some handy Android 12-likely features out of code commits and information slippage.

But now this could be our first actual look at Android 12, via new UI and privacy screenshots leaked out via XDA-Developers, which said nothing here was fully confirmed. But still!

So, what do we have here? A few quick things I saw:

Privacy emphasis:

pre Android 12 mocks 2
  • See the new camera and microphone indicators at the top right? These, according to XDA, look like they are new and mandatory privacy icons coming with Android 12, that can warn users if an app is actively using their camera or mic, and they can be tapped for more information.
  • Google has been testing various privacy approaches to help users understand what apps and using what privacy features for more than two years, so it may be that Android 12 is when we’ll finally see them.
  • Then, see this next screenshot:
pre Android 12 mocks 1
…which implies that Google is also offering settings to completely switch off or disable the camera, microphone, and location access via new toggles. Nothing beats a hardware button, but smartphones don’t often come with physical sliders, OnePlus-excluded.

This screenshot also shows off a new look and color scheme:

  • Tweaks in the notifications panel: a light-beige backdrop seems to be the new color scheme, possibly depending on if you run dark or light mode themes. Android 12 is rumoured to bring a new theme system, which can manage not only UI changes to the OS, but also apps on your Android devices.
  • Less exciting but noticeable is that notifications in the panel now emphasize rounded corners, too. 
  • And the conversations widget is new here. It looks as though Google is working on re-doing widgets, once a premiere feature in Android and, anecdotally, now much less used.
  • One new one highlighted in the screenshot is the Conversations widget — this looks like it’ll hold “recent messages, missed calls, or activity statuses”. Which, is what the notifications bar has been about.

Mockups, not screenshots?

  • What’s most likely here is that some of these features are real, but the design is just a design mockup, not an implementation. 
  • Multiple sources have said that what tends to happen is that Google briefs its Android partners with mockups just like these to show new features and how they might look.
  • So, I’m not too excited/worried about the look and feel here — more that new buttons are coming. I really like the privacy options and hope we see them by the time Android 12 is actually rolled out.

📸 Xiaomi launched the Mi 11 to global markets, with pricing starting from €799 (Android Authority).

📞 Huawei CEO urges US for open policy, would welcome a phone call from Biden (Android Authority).

🔓 Sigh: Another Google Play Store app hijacked with ad malware (Ars Technica) and an Apple iOS dev has uncovered loads of scam apps that clone good apps, fake reviews, and add subscriptions to haul in cash (The Verge).

🥽 Apple hardware chief Dan Riccio stepped down to focus on AR/VR, which 1,000 engineers are working on according to Bloomberg reporting. What’s really interesting here is Apple is reportedly developing its own high-quality displays, instead of working with Samsung/LG as it does for the iPhone and so on. That may be because it’s working on MicroLED displays, where it owns considerable IP. If it is now fabricating displays, that’s a whole new ballgame (Ars Technica).

💻 If you can avoid it, don’t buy a MacBook Pro now, the much-improved 2021 models are right around the corner… (MacRumors).

⛔ Facebook says it plans to remove posts with false vaccine claims, which is great and all but… about 10 years late? Too late? (NY Times)

💉 I was startled by this: A step-by-step to making a Covid-19 vaccine at home. It can be done, and the ingredients cost about $1,000, mostly in peptide costs (LessWrong).

🦠 All these mutating coronavirus strains need new code names: “As potentially more dangerous variants of Covid-19 spread, scientists are taking a crack at giving them clearer names that’ll help in the fight.” (Wired).

🤑 Reddit raised $250B in cash at a $6B valuation. I have feelings about where Reddit is heading (WSJ, $).

🚱 Computer intruder tried to poison Florida city’s drinking water with lye (Ars Technica).

😬 Also, CD Projekt Red of Cyberpunk 2077 fame has fallen victim to ransomware attack, data leak threatened with the words, “your public image will go down the sh-tter”. It says it won’t pay the ransom, so what happens next might be interesting… (The Verge).

Tesla bought $1.5 billion in bitcoin, and plans to accept it as payment (CNBC).

☎ Mark Cuban is co-founding a podcast app where hosts can talk to fans live and monetize their conversations. Enjoyed this comment: “Leave it to VC and silicon valley to reinvent (checks notes) calling into a radio station.” (The Verge). (Remember Cuban’s app Dust?)

🙅‍♀️ “Google shouldn’t give up on Stadia now that it’s getting good” (Gizmodo).

🌈 “Colourblind people of Reddit, what is one of the most unexpected problems related to colour you face often?” (r/askreddit).

Chart Tuesday

Someone’s posting a bunch of livestock insights via charts that are pretty startling: so far showing where the world’s sheep, cows, and chickens, live.

Here are sheep:

  • The maps have a few small problems, like some regions where there are high concentrations of sheep showing (for example, Alaska, and salt lakes in Australia) but for the most part it’s a pretty good guide to the world.
  • 2,000 comments waiting for you over at r/dataisbeautiful.

All the best,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor

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