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More Android 12 UI changes are coming, including some 'Material NEXT' tweaks


XDA is on a tear today, releasing piles of details divined about the upcoming Android 12 release. Among those planned is a general UI refresh for Android 12, seemingly overdue given the dialed-back changes in Android 11 last year. Beyond the new theming tweaks that have already been discussed, we can look forward to some lock screen tweaks (including adjustments to the Pixel’s always-on display), notification and Quick Settings panel adjustments, an unknown “letterboxing” feature for framing apps inside a window, dynamic splash screens, and more, including an abstract “Material NEXT” aesthetic beyond current Material Theme designs.

Sadly, there aren’t any images of these features — we assume XDA has its hands on a document or code that indicates the changes verbally — but we have been told in rough terms what to expect.

Android 11’s lock screen and keyguard, for context.

In lock screen-related tweaks, Google will apparently be getting rid of the center-justified version we have now, aligning the clock and smart space (the bit that shows weather and other stuff on the ambient display) to the top of the screen. Owner information will be moved to the bottom of the screen rather than in the keyguard (read: PIN/password entry screen). The Now Playing text on Pixels is also being adjusted somehow — though we don’t understand the details based on the description provided. However, these details will be part of the Google-ified version of Android 12 destined for Pixels and may not materialize on other devices.

Lock screen clock customization options, spotted back in Android 10.

The pattern lock screen is also rumored to get an overhauled interface, though the details aren’t discussed. The snazzy new power menu smart home controls that debuted in Android 11 may also make an appearance on the lock screen or keyguard in some capacity. Long-awaited lock screen clock customization options may also appear in Android 12, which have been worked on since Android 10 and kinda appeared in an Android 11 Developer Preview.

These images could show off a “Silk” theme for Google devices.

On top of the general theme adjustments coming with Android 12, XDA believes the images we’ve seen may represent a theme called “Silk,” which could be a Google-flavored theme that devices like Pixels may see, and Android/Google TVs may also get in on the action. A tweak to the Android Runtime Resource Overlay spotted among these changes may also be what makes this whole theming system possible.

Google is reportedly calling these visual changes to Android 12’s notification interface the “road to Material NEXT,” and while they may never go by that name publicly, it implies a sort of successor to the current Material Design elements, popularly (but inaccurately) called Material Design 2.0. If the images we’ve seen so far are anything to go by, it could mean more drastic changes are planned to accommodate this new style in the future.

When it comes to specific notification shade changes, a thicker brightness slider may also be coming, plus whitespace-reducing cuts in margins, padding, and divider height. A two-column notification shade may also be planned, and Quick Settings could move labels to the sides of their tiles in a reduced two-column layout. Hopefully, this isn’t any worse than the nerf Quick Settings already got on Android 11.

Android 11’s notification shade and Quick Settings.

There’s also an interesting-sounding “letterbox” feature that is planned. Though we don’t have any images for what to expect, it’s described as placing an app inside a frame or window with adjustable rounded colors and configurable background color. I don’t know if this is Slices on steroids, something planned for Android’s nascent native desktop mode, a tweak for improved multi-window performance together with the upcoming App Pairs, or something else entirely. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Android 12 may also address another minor but long-standing issue introduced by Android’s system-level support for dark themes: splash screens. Rather than just hope an app generates its own splash screen correctly according to the system theme (and potentially blind you at night if it doesn’t), Android 12 may be able to generate a splash screen all on its own based on the current theme.

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