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Google announces Android 12L taking aim at foldables and dual-screen devices like Surface Duo 2

Surface Duo 2 Hero
Surface Duo 2 Hero (Image credit: 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.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

19 Comments
  • This is cool. Hopefully it fixes a lot of the software issues since Microsoft shouldn't have to do as much modification to the OS
  • Yeah, if you think it long-term, this saves a lot of work/investment by MS into "hacking" Android to fit the vision. They did some of that for Android 10 and had to undo a lot of it for Android 11. MS has the hardware nailed for Duo in terms of quality/experience (it can always improve, of course), but 12L could go a long way to making the OS match that hardware. The next 9 months should be very interesting. There are even bits here like the Play Store showing/highlighting apps optimized for these types of devices.
  • Whilst this may help Microsoft in short term, you can also see how it may undercut them somewhat. One of the beauties of Duo (2) is how multi-tasking is baked into the device, through the use of 2 screens. If Google builds that feature into the OS, then foldables made by other OEM (or Google itself) could be able to offer something very similar. Convergence to a useful and practical expandable form factor may well be great for the consumer. But Microsoft, one of the first onto the scene, may not be the ultimate winner.
  • " If Google builds that feature into the OS, then foldables made by other OEM (or Google itself) could be able to offer something very similar."
    But this is literally what Microsoft wants and is the #1 reason why MS has not customized Android to do dual-screen things (or why calls for MS to "fork" Android was never realistic). It's also the reason why MS has published SDKs for all OEMs to optimize Android apps for dual-screen devices. It knows for this form factor to catch on it can't do it all itself with one device. It also has Android SDKs for inking, too. MS releases the kernel source and factory image for these reasons. It's open about what it does on Duo so others can crib. Microsofts wants more foldable, more dual-screen devices. It's confident it can do the hardware but wants Google to do the software so it doesn't have to. All MS wants is to focus on the hardware, making good MS Android apps, and making Duo a "Microsoft 365" device. That seems to be starting to happen.
  • Fair point Dan, thanks for reply. Put like that, you can see Microsoft and Google in a fairly symbiotic relationship here. Google provides the optimised OS for this form factor and Microsoft makes (one of) the hero devices that make it attractive to consumers (high end & business initially). If the common "enemy" is Apple developing something similar, can see that being an effective strategy. Very interesting times.
  • Yup, but I also agree, we have to wait and see how much this actually helps Microsoft. But we know MS/Google talk on this and Duo had Google's blessing.
  • I'll happily wait for 12.1 if they use that time to make Launcher feature complete.
  • By the time Google finishes 12L next year, MS will probably decide to focus on Duo 3 instead, lol.
  • "By the time Google finishes 12L next year"
    This year. It's finishing dev work this year with a release for early 2022.
    "We plan to release the 12L feature drop early next year, in time for the next wave of Android 12 tablets and foldables. We’re already working with our OEM partners to bring these features to their large screen devices - watch for the developer preview of 12L coming soon to the Lenovo P12 Pro. With the features coming to devices in the fe