Android 12 is Google’s biggest OS release in years. That Google has managed to sneak in even more features before the stable release is impressive, though to be fair, it’s no secret that they’ve been working on the features announced today.
So what exactly did Google add to Android 12 Beta 3? According to the official blog post, notable new features in Beta 3 include a faster display auto-rotation and scrollable screenshots.
With scrolling screenshots in Android 12, you can capture a screenshot of content that’s scrollable. This means you won’t have to capture screenshots one-by-one and then stitch them together manually. Google has been working on this feature since last year’s Android 11 developer preview, but it didn’t make the cut for that release since the team had limited resources (due to COVID-19) and wanted to implement it the right way. However, Google quietly resumed development on the feature, and we caught a glimpse of it in the first Android 12 developer preview. The scrolling screenshots implementation was hidden from subsequent developer previews and beta releases, but we saw a near-final version of the feature a few months ago thanks to a leaked internal build.
As we suspected, the way scrolling screenshots work in Android 12 is based on Views rather than the image stitching found in OEM implementations. When users capture a screenshot of content that’s scrollable, a new “capture more” button is shown that, when tapped, extends the screenshot to show the whole screen that the user can then adjust to crop.
Google says that scrolling screenshots will work out-of-the-box for most apps, provided the app uses a standard View-based UI. If an app or UI toolkit doesn’t use a View-based UI or uses a heavily customized UI, then it’ll need to implement the new ScrollCapture API to tell the system how to capture the screen. Google is working on making its scrolling screenshots implementation work in more cases, such as for scrolling ListViews (coming in Beta 4) and WebViews. Support for the latter may be coming natively to Google Chrome, but it’ll be nice to see a generic implementation that’ll work in any app that uses a WebView.
Better, faster autorotate
Android 12 is finally improving upon one of the most basic features of the OS: autorotation. Starting in Beta 3, Android’s auto-rotate feature has been enhanced with face detection, which uses the front-facing camera to more accurately detect when the screen should be rotated. This should hopefully lead to fewer unintended screen rotations when you’re lying down on a couch or in bed. Images captured by Android’s enhanced autorotation feature are processed on-device within Android 12’s Private Compute Core, so they never leave the device.
Google says that this face-based autorotation feature is available in Beta 3 on the Pixel 4 and later Pixel devices, but all devices running Android 12 can take advantage of the other improvements made to screen rotation. These improvements include optimizations to the animation and redrawing of the screen as well as an added ML-driven gesture detection algorithm, reducing the latency of the base auto-rotate feature by 25%.
Face-based autorotate was one of the earliest features rumored to be coming to Android 12, and we confirmed its existence in early developer preview builds. Based on our analysis, it seems that Google’s face-based autorotation feature is handled by the Device Personalization Services app, so it may be possible to enable it on other Pixel devices.