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Android 12L unveiled for big-screen devices — here’s what’s different

android 12l announcement image
(Image credit: Google)

Fresh on the heels of the Pixel 6 madness, Google took the wraps off the next big thing for Android, Android 12L. What many had previously referred to as Android 12.1, the 12L release is focused on big screens. That means tablets and foldables will finally get a UI that scales properly.

This isn't a new version of Android. Google instead calls it "a special feature drop that makes Android 12 even better on large screens." Feature drops are usually reserved for Pixels with some pieces later coming to the public builds of Android.

A feature drop also means that Google is not forking Android into separate phone and tablet builds, as Apple did last year with iOS and iPadOS. Basically, your Pixel will run Android 12L, but you just won't see its big screen features. Instead, those features are meant for displays over 600 dp, or density-independent pixels. 

What does Android 12L offer? It comes down to a new UI that better takes advantage of the screen real estate and additional multitasking options like multi-window and a taskbar. Basically, think of what Samsung has done with the Galaxy Z Fold 3, only now Google is building in some of those features into Android itself.

android 12l split screen

(Image credit: Google)

From the notification shade and Quick Settings to the lock and home screens, Android 12L has refined the whole look and feel while keeping the main Material You vibe and tone. And the new multitasking option coincides with the taskbar, where you just drag the app you want onto the screen to split-view it. Every app will support split-screen, whereas before it was a developer opt-in.

android 12l multitasking gif

(Image credit: Google)

Google hasn't taken big screens seriously in a very long time, even back in the days when it made tablets. To see the sudden interest now is certainly intriguing. After all, rumors leading up to Android 12L suggested that the update would coincide with Google releasing its own foldable, which is rumored to be called the Pixel Fold. But that could be us grasping at straws. Perhaps Google sees the growing popularity of foldables, especially among other Android device makers, and wants to make sure its partners (notably Samsung) have an easier time of things.

Android 12L is due out early next year, with Google saying it'll be "in time for the next wave of Android 12 tablets, Chromebooks, and foldables.”

Jordan Palmer

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over five years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Jordan tends to lurk on social media, but you can best reach him on Twitter.