Google has this week announced at its Google I/O annual developer conference that it has carried out a major overhaul of its Android operating system.

At its conference, Google said that its Android upgrade improves speed and privacy, as well as adding features to Google Maps and Photos.

Android is by far the most widely used mobile operating system in the world, with 3 billion active devices. That said, last month mobile tech specialist Upstream warned that one in six Android Phones in developing markets are now infected with mobile malware.

Android 12

Android 11 arrived in September 2020 with the promise of delivering easier ways to manage conversations, connected smart devices, and better privacy controls.

But with the Android 12 beta, Google has gone one step further with a major overhaul of the mobile operating system.

The beta version is only available to those with Google Pixel phones, but a few other handset makers including Nokia and OnePlus are in the process of making the beta available.

Android 12 comes with a major new look and feel, which Google has called its Material You design.

Essentially, it features bigger buttons, a large clock on the homescreen that changes in size depending on how many notifications appear, and more colours. Even the pin-entry pad and volume slider are bigger and easier to tap with Android 12.

Better personalisation has also been touted, as has the revamp to various interactions and animations, which Google says should provide faster and smoother responses.

The new OS also takes on performance and battery life, as the new OS will put less strain on processors. Google says underlying Android processes should be up to 22 percent faster as well.

Privacy wise, Android 12 provides users with more transparency about personal data accessed by various apps and ways to control it.

Indeed, a new Privacy Dashboard provides access to permissions’ settings and lets users revoke those permissions from the dashboard. A new indicator tool will also automatically turn on when an app is accessing a user’s microphone or camera.

Google also rolled out a series of productivity updates, including an option to hold the power button to call Google Assistant to make a phone call or ask for an article to be read out loud.

Android 12 will also force apps to give the user a choice between using their precise or approximate location.

A new feature that uses Google Assistant will warn users when their passwords have been compromised and help change them.

A video of all the new Android features can be found here.

Fitbit development

Google is also bringing back its WearOS, its wearable platform for smartwatches.

Google it should be remembered is purchasing wearable fitness tracker company Fitbit for $2.1 billion.

Its wearables vision now include deep Fitbit integration for tracking workouts and movements.

Google is also offering an augmented reality feature (AR View) via Google Maps. This allows users to hover over restaurants, landmarks and get indoor directions, starting later this year.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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