12 October 2021
Google released the Android 12 final beta build earlier this month and is preparing to roll out the stable version. In the meantime, XDA folks have got their hands on the Android 12.1 build that the team is working on. It has been a long time since Google released an incremental upgrade for a major Android version but this time around, we might see one this year.
As per XDA's investigation, the Android 12.1 build features major visual design changes that are optimized for foldable devices. This is a significant move from Google considering how popular foldable devices are becoming. The UI improvements have been done to make full use of the bigger display area.
The major theme is to making everything bigger so that things are easier to read as well as access. It is actually quite similar to how Android UI works for tablets. The system settings interface has a two-pane approach where the left pane lists main settings and the right pane offers all sub-settings depending on the one that is selected.
One major difference is that the new Android 12.1 UI also has a taskbar at the bottom. It will allow users to access their favorite or commonly used apps with just one tap and regardless of whatever app they are currently on. You can refer to the screenshots shared above to get an idea of what Google is working on.
Google itself is rumored to be working on a foldable phone that will presumably be called Pixel Fold. It is speculated to get official during the fourth quarter of the year. This seems to be the reason we are seeing Google developing a custom Android UI specifically designed for foldable devices.