Samsung has announced that it’s rolling out a public beta of Android 12 for Galaxy S21 devices, just a few weeks ahead of when we expect the final OS to be officially available for the first time on Pixel phones. Samsung is touting that it is managing to get these betas out earlier every year, though this year it’s only by a week or two compared to 2020.
Registration for the beta program will begin on September 14th, the same day the iPhone 13 is announced. Users will need to register in the Samsung Members app to try it — and if Samsung repeats the past, the number of open slots will be limited. It’s only available in the U.S. as of now.
The beta is actually for Samsung’s One UI 4, its version of Android. That distinction is important because one of the major changes in Android 12 is how different it looks. On a Pixel phone, all the buttons are big and the colors change dynamically based on your wallpaper, a style Google’s calling “Material You.”
On a Galaxy S21 phone, we don’t yet know exactly how much of Google’s design language Samsung intends to use. One UI already had lots of theming options — and Samsung’s store was chock full of more users could buy (though most are fairly garish). Sure enough, Samsungs rundown of what’s new in One UI 4 specifically calls out “theme options.” Here is Samsung’s official list:
A wealth of theme options let you adjust the look and functionality of your device, giving you tools to configure your home screen, icons, notifications, wallpapers and much more.
Redesigned, upgraded widgets offer deep customization — from visibility to appearance.
You also get convenient access to a more robust and diverse array of emojis all in one place
Samsung also is adopting Android 12’s visual indicators for when the microphone and camera are in use. It will also have toggles for turning those sensors off completely.
New widgets will also be welcome — most of them across most versions of Android have begun feeling a little antiquated. As you can see at the top of this post, Samsung’s widgets look clean, at least, and have big rounded corners. They don’t go quite as far as Google’s new widgets, however.
As Google itself becomes more opinionated on what Android looks like on its Pixel phones with Material You, a big question will be whether those opinions work well on non-Google phones. Samsung itself has been moving in a relatively coherent aesthetic direction for the last few years, but it’s been one that uses more white space and larger fonts than Google’s recent designs. We can see that Samsung is adopting some of the bigger, bubbly rounded corners for notifications, though.
Are the two looks compatible? Will Google widgets look out of place on a Samsung homescreen? Will Samsung adopt the new locations for various Android system functions that have been moved? Galaxy S21 owners will find out soon enough as they dig deeper into the pubic beta.