Android 12.1 Early Build Brings Dual Panel Notification, new Split-Screen, and more Optimisations for Foldable Screens

An early look at Android 12.1 reveals optimizations that matter to foldable devices.

The next major update is just around the corner. The latest Android 12 update is expected to be pushed next week to Pixel devices first. Also, as per the reports from XDA Developers, Google may push another update, which the XDA Developers call Android 12.1, before the Android 12 update next year. The folks at XDA Developers already put their hands on an Android 12.1 build, which shows a lot of new and redesigned features. However, the most significant thing out of that build is the optimizations for foldable screens.

The Android 12.1 update may bring improvements in handling large foldable screens. The update contains improvements like a better split-screen UI, a lock screen that is more optimized to be used on horizontal space, and a new taskbar for easy navigation around the UI and multiple apps.

In this build, the quick settings and notifications panels are displayed side-by-side. The lock screen is optimized to use the sizeable horizontal space, display clock on one side and notifications on the other side.

Quick Settings & Notifications are displayed side-by-side on Android 12.1
Quick Settings & Notifications are displayed side-by-side on Android 12.1

The update also improves usability while holding a device using one hand as now the field to enter PIN or password can be placed on either side of the display, instead of putting it at the centre.

These optimizations will be much helpful, as manufacturers who make foldable devices won’t have to work on the optimizations on top of Android separately for their foldable devices.

In Android 12.1, there is also a new shortcut in the recent apps menu to open an app in split-screen mode directly. It will let users skip the long press on an app’s icon to open the app in split-screen. The new taskbar in Android 12.1 lets users open recent apps in split-screen mode by dragging and dropping them onto either side of the screen. Also, on Android 12.1, when the user head to settings, a new interface shows the top-level menu items on the left, while the submenus open on the right side of the screen.

Top-level menu items on the left, submenus on the right
Top-level menu items on the left, submenus on the right

Some other improvements are there in this build, like the ability to adjust the time to press and hold the power button to activate Google Assistant. Also, Google’s wallpaper-based theming system seems to be going open source with Android 12.1. As per XDA Developers, Google has added the source code for its theme system to the AOSP internal branch for the build, making it possible for device makers to access the code behind Google’s theming system. It will allow them to integrate the wallpaper-based theming of Stock Android into their own custom skin.

However, the biggest news is undoubtedly the optimizations Android 12.1 brings for foldable devices. Google earlier started showing interest in foldable devices, and the name Pixel Fold came up. Though it is now believed that the Pixel Fold is delayed, Android 12.1 reaffirms that Google is interested in foldable devices.

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