The road to Android 12 is now open. Google today has dropped Android 12 Developer Preview 1 with two more Developer Previews expected to be released in March and April. Non-developers will be able to install four monthly beta previews starting in May with the final public version of Android 12 due to arrive in September. The first three previews are offered to developers to make sure that their apps work as they should with the new Android build.
Android 12 Developer Preview is now available to install on Pixel 3 and later models
On the Android Developers website, Google breaks down what to expect from the first beta preview to the fourth. The latter is when "platform stability" first occurs. As Google states, "Beta 1 gives you a more complete and stable environment for building and testing on Android 12, and it's the first build that we deliver to early adopters who are enrolled in the Android Beta program. During the Beta releases period, early adopters will be using your app on Pixel devices, so we recommend watching for feedback from those users and releasing compatible updates to address any issues, without changing the app's targeting. It's also a good time to begin preparing for changing your app's targeting later.
With Beta 2 and Beta 3 you'll get increasingly complete and stable builds for continuing your testing and development. Starting at Beta 4 in August, Android 12 will reach Platform Stability, meaning that system behaviors and APIs are finalized. This is the time to begin final testing and development work needed to ensure that a compatible version of your app will be ready for users at the final release to the ecosystem. Android 12 will provide a standard API level at this time. Platform Stability is the time to shift focus to final compatibility testing and release your updated apps to users and downstream developers. You can also build with the final APIs and refine any new code that is using the new APIs or features. You can plan your work with confidence that the platform and APIs won't change."
Once Google releases the Beta 4 update bringing Platform Stability to Android 12, no further changes to apps will be made. That is usually a good time for Pixel owners who want a head start on the update to install the Beta. However, Google doesn't expect Platform Stability until August. It might not be a good idea to install any earlier versions of the Android 12 Beta until then, especially if you use your Pixel as your daily driver. That's because most of the Beta releases are not stable and could prevent some apps and features from working. Battery life will also be reduced.
We recently passed along some Android 12 mockups that Google reportedly showed phone manufacturers in order to prepare them for UI changes in Android 12. One of the most anticipated new features of Android 12 will allow users to place rarely used apps in hibernation to create additional storage. While the app remains on the phone, the storage space it takes up will be available to the user. This allows the user to access additional storage without having to uninstall an app from the phone. Google is also beefing up the way Android runs multimedia, and is making changes to how notifications appear on the UI. The update will also allow Pixel users to know when a third-party app is using the phone's camera and the microphone. We should know much more about Android 12 after Google holds its annual Developers Conference (Google I/O) which should take place in May.
Right now, the only way for a developer to install Android 12 Developer Preview 1 is to flash the update although OTA updates will be available for later builds. The Pixel models that are compatible with the update include the Pixel 3 and 3 XL, Pixel 3a and 3a XL, Pixel 4 and 4 XL, Pixel 4a and 4a (5G), and the Pixel 5.