Android’s 12L feature drop aims to be a big improvement for folding phones

By Emma Roth

Inside The Samsung Unpacked Product Launch Event

At this year’s Android Dev Summit, Google announced an upcoming update for devices with larger screens, which includes tablets, foldables, and devices that run ChromeOS. Google is calling the update 12L, and it’s supposed to make Android 12 run smoother on big screens. We first heard the possibility of a “12.1” update in late September, and it looks like many of the rumored features are true.

12L optimizes the layout of a device’s UI, adjusting the placement of the home screen, lock screen, notifications, Quick Settings, and more. Google notes that any screen 600 density-independent pixels (dp) and above will display a two-column layout that makes use of the entire screen. In the example Google shows, the Quick Settings menu is pushed towards the left side of the screen, while the notifications panel is locked to the right, giving you the ability to access both simultaneously — all without opening one app and closing another.

Android 12L two columns Photo by Google

12L also introduces a new taskbar that makes it easier for users to quickly switch between different apps. Dragging and dropping an app from the taskbar opens it up in split-screen mode, which Google notes it has enabled for all apps, whether they’re resizable or not.

12L multitasking Photo by Google

Another change coming with 12L is improved letterboxing that should make apps look more appealing. Google is letting device manufacturers change the size, shape, and color of letterboxing, as well as add rounded corners and tweak the position of the inset window.

12L is set to release early next year, but you can try out the new features in advance on its 12L developer preview page. From there, you can download the 12L emulator to get started. Google also says that it's working with OEM partners to roll out the 12L update, and that a developer preview of 12L for the Lenovo P12 Pro tablet is in the works.

With so many new foldable phones coming to market, it’s not much of a surprise that Google decided to roll out an update specifically for them (and tablets, too, of course). While Google reportedly has two foldable phones in the works, Samsung is experimenting with a monitor that can fold into a tablet. It’s a year for foldable devices, and the trend shows no sign of stopping — they’re becoming so mainstream that even Best Buy is offering in-store repairs for Samsung’s foldables.