Android 12L explained: what is it and which devices support it?

Android 12L explained: what is it and which devices support it?

The big screen experience of Android has always left something to be desired. Poor user experience and lack of apps optimized for large displays were among the main reasons Android tablets never really took off. But then COVID-19 hit and tablet sales soared. Google realized that the Android experience was behind the competition and decided to do something about it.


Following the release of Android 12 in 2021, the company announced Android 12L at the end of October 2021 during the Android Developer Summit. The build promised to optimize the operating system for the best Android tablets and foldable devices. This release is even more important given the upcoming release of the Google Pixel Tablet and Pixel Fold. So what is Android 12L, how is it different from regular Android 12, and how can you install the large screen OS?

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How is Android 12L different from Android 12?

Android 12L is a tablet operating system with improved multitasking support, redesigned widgets, and other optimizations that take advantage of the extra screen real estate. Its main purpose is to make multitasking easier on large screen Android devices by introducing a taskbar. It’s designed for tablets and foldables like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and tablets like the Galaxy Tab S8, while Android 12 is optimized for smartphones. This also means that your Android phone will not get the Android 12L update. Instead, it will jump straight to Android 13.

Changes to notifications on tablets and foldable phones

Devices with large screens have two separate columns in the notification area. The Quick Settings bar and Notifications area are on the left. Previously, the notification shade was a single column, similar to what you see on a phone. A vertically split notification shade makes sense on a widescreen display.

The Android 12L notification shade is divided into quick settings on the left and notifications on the right
Source: Google

This implementation may vary between Android manufacturers.

Application bar

Android 12L adds a taskbar to make multitasking easier. The feature is enabled by default on tablets and foldables. If you want to use it on your Pixel phone, you’ll need to enable it in developer options. The app tray at the bottom of the screen lets you quickly launch apps in split-screen or multitasking mode. You can also use the taskbar to quickly switch between open apps.

Android 12L: Shows two apps running in split mode

Adaptive design

Android 12L is more than just an OS overhaul. Adds adaptive design, a feature that lets you view apps side-by-side instead of loading a new page. The Settings app is a perfect example of adaptive design in action. In it, the primary fields are displayed in the left half of the screen. When you tap a setting, additional options appear on the right side of the screen.

The lock screen on Android 12L lets you put the security pattern on the side instead of scaling the display like it would on a phone. This layout is great when you’re using a large tablet in landscape mode and can’t immediately put it down to enter a pattern or passcode in the center of the display.

Android 12l adaptive design demonstrated with an inbox showing left navigation and open messages on the right side of the screen

Simplified app compatibility

App compatibility has taken a huge leap forward with Android 12L. Apps no longer stretch and resize to fill the screen. Instead, Android 12L has a compatibility mode for legacy smartphone apps. Compatibility mode runs any non-optimized app in a windowed view, at an aspect ratio that the app can handle, giving users a solid compromise when an app isn’t going to perform well.

Android 12L also forces scaling of all apps. Expand multitasking support to apps that previously didn’t allow it. Instagram is a popular app that doesn’t play well with windowed or split-screen multitasking.

an android app in compatibility mode with black bars to the left and right of the app

Home screen changes

Android 12L also changes the home screen to take advantage of huge tablets and foldable displays. Denser icon grids (an option on many Android custom ROMs and manufacturer skins) are available on the Android 12L home screen. This means that you can further adjust the number of icons and widgets that fit on your home screen.

Android 12L made it easier for developers to switch from app UI to a responsive layout. Google has also added guides and tools needed in Jetpack Compose to build quality large screen applications with an adaptive user interface.

Which devices support Android 12L?

Google rolled out Android 12L to its Pixel devices as part of the March 2022 Feature Drop. Since then, it has continued rolling out the Android 13 update and another feature release. If you have a recent Pixel phone, it’s likely running Android 13 right now.

Samsung has been among the leading Android device manufacturers to roll out Android 12L to its devices. The Korean giant has released the Android 12L-based One UI 4.1.1 version for its Galaxy Tab S8 range, Tab S7 series, and previous-generation foldable devices such as the Galaxy Z Fold 3, Fold 2, and the original Galaxy Fold. It has further improved the taskbar to show up to eight apps for a better multitasking experience. You can even save a pair of apps to open them in a split screen view.

Microsoft launched Android 12L for Surface Duo and Duo 2 in late October 2022, more than six months after the operating system first launched. As for Lenovo, it has announced the second generation Tab P11 Pro series with Android 12L out of the box.

Except for the Pixels, no other Android phones have received the Android 12L update. Instead, they have been or will be updated directly to Android 13. This is not surprising, as the release has focused only on foldable devices and tablets.

How can I install Android 12L?

Android 12L update for Pixel phones was released in March 2022. After that, Google released Android 13 in mid-August. If your Pixel is running the latest version of Android, it includes all the changes and improvements included in Android 12L.

On Samsung tablets and foldable devices, go to Settings > Software update > Download and install. Your Galaxy device automatically checks for and downloads the latest available update. Samsung has updated most of its tablets to Android 13-based One UI 5, which packs even more features and refinements.

How is Android 12L different from Android 13?

There are differences between Android 12L and Android 13. The latter is a regular version of Android that all eligible devices, including tablets and foldable devices, will get. Includes all changes that are part of Android 12L. It also includes additional features and improvements such as deeper Material You integration, per-app language setting, easier copy/paste of text and images, and more. Check out the best new features of Android 13 to get an overview of what’s new in the latest version of Android.

Android 13 further builds on the tablet-specific improvements introduced by Google in Android 12L. This includes further system UI changes and other improvements to aid one-handed usability and make the most of the larger screen. The lock screen pattern and PIN entry menu appear on the side of the tablet for easy access. On the foldouts, Google has tweaked the home screen grid and improved the transition animation.

Google plans to release Android 13L?

Google has announced Android 14, with the operating system available in beta for compatible Pixel phones. The company apparently has no plans to announce Android 13L.

However, the Pixel Tablet, which is expected to debut at Google I/O 2023, may be running a special version of Android 13 with more tablets and specific optimizations for foldable devices. Android 12L has been listed as a Feature Drop by Google, and the Pixel Tablet launch could coincide with the June 2023 Feature Drop. Even if that happens, it’s unlikely that Google is referring to the build as Android 13L, especially since we haven’t seen any references. to it in AOSP.

Android 12L laid the foundation for Google’s tablet and foldable ambitions

Two years after the release of Android 12L, its importance is more evident than ever. It laid the groundwork for Google to work on its own tablet and foldable. Before launching the Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet, the company knew it needed to prepare Android and the ecosystem for large-screen devices. Android 12L made the right optimizations and gave the ecosystem the right boost to achieve this.

A lot of work needs to be done, though. Many third-party apps still don’t work well on Android tablets or foldable devices. This is an area Google needs to address, as a lack of high-quality apps could jeopardize the future of the Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet. Apple continues to have the edge over Android tablets in this area, as tablet-optimized third-party apps are a major lure for anyone looking to buy a tablet.

Android 12L and big-screen optimized apps help the ecosystem grow

Android 12L wasn’t a major update, but it was the first OS release in years that focused on optimizing for the big screen. This was important given the growing popularity of leaflets. The release also led to Google tweaking its tablet and foldable apps to make the most of the bigger screen. This includes adding drag-and-drop support and dual-pane views to Google Drive apps for better multitasking.

These improvements have helped grow the list of best Android apps optimized for tablets even further, so the experience offered by an Android tablet will now be superior than in recent years.

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