Surface Duo 2 HeroSource: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central

What you need to know

  • Google announced Android 12L at its Android Dev Summit today.
  • Android 12L is built for devices with large screens, such as tablets and foldable phones.
  • Devices running Android 12L will better handle multitasking and spanning content across large screens.

At its Android Dev Summit, Google announced Android 12L. It's a feature update built for devices with large screens, including Android tablets, devices with folding screens like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, and foldables like the Surface Duo 2. Alongside Android 12L, Google announced new APIs, tools, and guidance to better utilize the large screens of devices.

Android 12L makes multitasking more powerful and intuitive, according to Google. The feature update refines the overall UI on large screens, including notifications, quick settings, the lockscreen, overview, the home screen, and more. For example, the notification shade and lockscreen face each other on screens above 600dp.

Google also introduced a taskbar as part of Android 12L. This makes it simple to switch apps quickly. It also makes it easier to launch apps in split-screen mode. Dragging and dropping an item from the taskbar will make an app run in split-screen mode. Google has also automatically enabled all apps to enter split screen mode, even if the apps aren't resizable.

Many of these features will look familiar to those that have used the Surface Duo 2. Microsoft took a similar approach when adapting Android to its foldable device with two screens. The Surface Duo 2 features a taskbar, emphasizes split-screen mode, and is geared towards productivity. Now, we get to see those ideas implemented by Google on an OS level in Android 12L.

Google plans to release Android 12L early in 2022. The company highlighted that this is before the next wave of Android 12 tablets. Google is also working with OEMs to bring Android 12L to existing devices.

A developer preview of Android 12L is available starting today.

What about Surface Duo 1 & 2?

While Surface Duo 1 is still waiting on Android 11 (now due "before the end of the year," according to Microsoft), some may wonder about Android 12.

It seems safe at this time to assume that Microsoft is going to pass on Android 12.0 and head right to 12L (aka 12.1). That version of Android is the first to really take into account foldables and dual-screen devices (even Google is rumored to be doing its own foldables), and Microsoft would likely benefit from it instead of pushing 12.0 only to get rush 12L out so soon after.

Going by the testing and release schedule, Microsoft could have Android 12L on devices sometime in summer 2022, should they deliver on rapid deployment. We'll have to wait and see if that happens as, so far, the company does not have a great track record.