Built for foldables, Android 12L is hitting Surface Duo 'later this year,' according to Google

Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover
Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • In a new blog post, Google gave more details on the Android 12L update coming "later this year."
  • For the first time, Google revealed that "planned updates" for 12L are coming to Microsoft devices.
  • Android 12L is not a separate branch of Android but rather a specific release focused on optimizing for new foldable Android devices that will morph into Android 13 and beyond.

Google has been working on its '12L' version of Android, an update to the mobile OS that is coming later this year to select devices. Optimized for larger screens and ones that fold (including dual screens), the OS is set to catapult the next generation of mobile devices while also giving developers the tools needed to improve their apps.

Today, in a short blog post VP of Engineering, Android, Andrei Popescu, gave some more details about Android 12L, including highlighting some new OS features that are part of the update.

But the more important news is the mention at the end of the post:

"Starting later this year, we'll bring 12L to your favorite tablets and foldables with planned updates from Samsung, Lenovo and Microsoft. And we'll continue to build more features and functionalities to help you make the most of your larger screen devices in Android 13 and beyond."

While Windows Central has heard from sources that Microsoft would be skipping Android 12 on Surface Duo/Surface Duo 2 and going right to Android 12L, this is the first public confirmation of that effort.

Source: Google (Image credit: Source: Google)

Interestingly, there was some confusion that Android 12L was some unique "fork" or branch of Android built for these devices, but that is not the case. While Android 12L focuses on new form factors, its core changes will be, pardon the pun, folded into Android 13 and later:

The features demonstrated in the article are nothing new. Google shows off how users can "drag-and-drop any app from the taskbar to enter split-screen mode so you can do two things at once," something that Surface Duo (via Microsoft Launcher) has been doing since day one. The dual-paned notification screen also gives quick controls on one side and notifications on the other, which was revealed in late 2021 when Android 12L was first announced.

While the new UX changes are welcomed in Android 12L, OEMs don't necessarily have to utilize them. Microsoft Launcher already handles many of these tasks, but in an effort to reduce redundancy, Microsoft may opt to lean on Google's more native implementation should it prove superior.

As far as a timeline for the release of Android 12L, Google states, "later this year." The OS is expected to be finished before June and could hit devices closer towards the fall (although it is uncertain at this time).

Perhaps the bigger deal for Surface Duo and Surface Duo 2 is not the OS itself, but the APIs for developers, who can then optimize applications for dual screens, folding displays, and those with larger formats. Those apps will significantly impact Surface Duo than some native changes found in Android 12L as an OS.

For those still interested in Surface Duo 2, Microsoft has officially dropped the price by $250 online and through Best Buy. The entry-level model now begins at $1,250 instead of $1,500.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.