Android 12L is Google’s iPadOS Moment

Posted on October 28, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 38 Comments

Google revealed today that it will ship something called Android 12L in 2022 that will target tablets, foldables, and Chromebooks.

“Large screens have seen some incredible momentum: a 92 percent year-over-year growth in Chrome OS, making it the fastest-growing desktop OS in the world, a 20 percent growth in [Android] tablet sales in the last year, and a 2.5x growth in foldables sales, the newest and most innovate form factor,” Google vice president Sagar Kamdar explains. “Altogether, those represent over 250 million active large-screen Android devices.”

To target this growing market, Google in 2022 will release a new Android variant called Android 12L—yes, “L” that stands for “large”—that is optimized for larger screens. Available now in Developer Preview, Android 12L will offer more powerful and intuitive multitasking capabilities, better compatibility for apps not tailored for larger displays, and other unique features.

Despite Google’s push for Android apps on Chrome OS, something like Android 12L is inarguably overdue: Google’s previous efforts pretty much left it up to developers to support larger displays; most did not. And Apple’s push to separate iPadOS from iOS proves that two systems are needed, even in an ecosystem in which most developers are compliant.

You can learn more on the Android Developer website.

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Comments (38)

38 responses to “Android 12L is Google’s iPadOS Moment”

  1. ianbetteridge

    We have been through this before, though, with Android Honeycomb in 2011. Google, as Google almost always does, lost interest and never followed through with further big screen-focused versions.

    • red.radar

      I think Google sees it through this time. Because Apple is locking Google and Facebook out with their improved privacy protections they need to have a fully credible hardware eco system to compete with Apple. Otherwise they will loose access to the precious data that feeds the targeted advertising revenue stream.

  2. bentessier

    I doubt it will ever come to life. They claim 92% growth. 92% growth of what? I have not seen an Android tablet of sort in ages. The most recent being the ones with two screens. And when I say "seen" I mean I saw them in a store and not in anyone's hand.

  3. waethorn

    So are they giving up on Fuchsia then? And what about ChromeOS? Or is this just all talk to see if any OEM's actually follow up on it?

  4. digiguy

    It took foldable, including the rumored pixel one, to push google to do this. Given that a big developer is now porting the best iPad video editor to Android, this starts to become promising for Android tablets

  5. MikeCerm

    Isn't this just Honeycomb all over again? They made a UI for tablets, and then they just gave up and merged it into "regular" Android when Ice Cream Sandwich was released. Really, it makes sense for these things to be the same thing and then just have the UI respond correctly for display size/density. Samsung Dex should be the model here. You want that big-screen UI built into regular Android so when you connect an Android phone to an external display (which should be standard option on any phone with an USB-C connection, but sadly still is not), you get something that looks like a "desktop" OS. Samsung tablets that support Dex have a switch that lets you toggle Dex on and off, so if you want to use it like a big phone, you can, and if you want to use it more like a desktop with floating windows, you can. This is what Google should be copying, not having a separate OS that's 90% the same, but just different enough to cause compatibility issues.

  6. mike2thel73

    Too little too late, Google's own apps are better on iOS & iPadOS than they are on their own platform. Combine that with the fact that like the comments above (Google drops support too quick on a lot of things they start PLUS the lack of most developer interest to truly design apps for Android and not port from iOS) and to me it's a waste.

    I was looking forward to the pixel 6 (non-pro) because of the fingerprint reader (no pulling down face mask for face I'd) but after a few well known reviewers dumbing down the speed of that in screen fingerprint reader I'm truly going fruit.

    After 9 years of overpricing & compromise with Android hardware (OnePlus & Google) and Android software (OnePlus & Samsung);. I'm throwing in the towel.

  7. jg1170

    Just bought an elderly family member a chromebook. As expected, they had a very hard time understanding why some apps showed up in tabs and others not. They also had a lot of trouble grasping a few other things that our brains can wrap themselves around easily but theirs cannot, despite understanding a smartphone just fine. I would have gladly returned it and got an android tablet instead but the ONLY realistic alternative with a nice keyboard AND a trackpad is a Galaxy Tab S7. That this is too dang pricey! Lenovo has alternatives no, but also very pricey. I think there is a huge untapped market for decent, sub $300 Android tablets/laptops with full keyboard and trackpads! But Google is ramming ChromeOS down everyone's throat instead.

    • david.thunderbird

      I took an $80 University surplus older w10 put Chromium OS on it a few years back. Works great on the internet. Yes, gooGle now owns Neverware's Cloudready.

    • jg1170

      So actually, Lenovo has just dropped their P-11 and keyboard attachment down to around $300. So it seems like I can finally recommend a nice android "laptop" to so many non-tech people I know who aren't anxious to spend $500+ on iPad Pros. Curiously, Best Buy sells a different version of the P-11 that does NOT come with pogo pins and therefore is incompatible with the keyboard cover. I smell a rat named Google. Google must know that a good, sub $300 android tablet with POGO keyboard+trackpad will only eat away at chromebook sales, and told Lenovo/Best Buy to cripple it.

  8. macguy59

    I still see this more as an app issue. Who wants to use phone apps (along with its constraints) on a tablet ?

  9. innitrichie

    The problem is users on the Android side are much less willing to pay a premium for desktop-class app experiences on a tablet. So you end up with mainly scaled up phone apps. To be fair, the scaling up on Android works better than iPad. Instagram on an Android tablet looks a lot better than the 2x zoom iPhone version on an iPad. The Android version goes full screen, the iPad zooming only utilises some of the display.

    Apple customers on the other hand are happy being rinsed often, and so developers are willing to invest in building quality iPadOS experiences. That's never really happened on Android in terms of tablet apps.

    • jg1170

      Totally true. Android apps on tablet get a bad rap. Yes, some/most aren't optimized, but almost all work just fine despite that...and a few key ones ARE optimized. Now, yes there is a TERRIBLE issue with some apps not complying with landscape mode, (which I personally resolve with third party "rotation anywhere"). That is inexcusable. I can only hope that Android 11, and especially 12 have solved that rotation issue on tablets, as it is the only real deal-breaker. The biggest problem with Android tablets is that no OEM (until very recently) bothered to make a decent one that had full keyboard and trackpad support (not Bluetooth garbage). I suspect it was Google preventing this segment from existing in order to promote their clunky Chromebooks.

      • jg1170

        Clarification...decent AND affordable ($300). No non-enthusiast is buying a Galaxy Tab S7 + keyboard case.

  10. macguy59

    I once had an Android developer tell me "Android users are too cheap"

  11. scovious

    It's funny how similar android 12.1 is compared to all of Microsoft's design choices with Surface Duo.

  12. ebraiter

    Aren't they competing against themselves then in some areas?

  13. christianwilson

    I am happy to see this renewed interest in large screens, but if app developers don't put effort into this like they do iPad apps, this isn't going to matter much.

    • hastin

      As someone who is now using a Samsung Galaxy Fold 3 (the big one), I'm actually surprised how many core apps outside of Google/Samsung already support large screens fairly well. Many app developers are already dealing with odd screen sizes and form factors. There's a few exceptions, but mostly apps just work even on the large internal screen, and many of them use a two-column approach, plus almost 100% of the apps at least support multi-view and pop-up window.

      • jgraebner

        I've had a similar experience with the Fold 3, but part of the reason for that is that many of the features that Google is implementing in Android 12L are already part of Samsung's customizations.

      • christianwilson

        That's good to know, and perhaps helps explain why Google has taken an interest in supporting large screens in Android again.

      • rob_segal

        My bad experience with Android's tablet ecosystem is a big reason why I didn't consider purchasing a Fold 3 and still won't consider it. It's so far behind Apple, it wasn't worth it for me. I'm not sure what Google can do to convince developers that they are serious about Android's tablet experience for the long term, even if they released Pixel tablets.

        • digiguy

          Well the developer of the best iPad video editor is porting Lumafusion to Android, I think it's a great start.

      • aretzios

        One should take a look at the recent software updates (September '21) for Samsung's TabS7 and S7+. Not only it makes multitasking in large screen very effective (and very usable), Samsung can also "tame" applications that want to present themselves only in "portrait" mode. It is amazingly effective. Especially in the tab S7+ (with its 12.5-inch screen), the whole thing is simply amazing!!

        • ids

          I use an S7 myself and its a damn fine piece of kit. Have used them since the S3 as I have no intention of going back to Apple kit. Got burned one to many times. I don't personally use Dexx but can see the attraction. This incentive from Google can only be a good thing

          • aretzios

            Forget DeX, in fact, the September 2021 update with the application dock, window controls and window sizing create very effective multitasking straight in Android 11 and this easily makes DeX obsolete. The settings are not easily found, of course, but there are number of tutorials for it in YouTube

          • aretzios

            By the way, in the latest Samsung Tab S7/7+ update, if you go to the setting "Labs", it allows you to reset any application that does not "auto-rotate" to do just that. For example, Reddit stays always in portrait mode in Android. However, if you go to "Labs" and indicate that you want "Reddit" to auto-rotate, the app is "fixed" permanently and works fantastic in all tablet directions.

            I am sure that because of Google and Samsung collaboration, Google is simply going to bring all these Samsung specific additions to the OS to all Android devices.

        • jdawgnoonan

          I have the Z Fold 3 as well, and I am surprised by how truly great it is. Plus, the multi-tasking is (in my opinion) far more intuitive than iPad OS. So Samsung is already doing a good job. Hopefully Google adding more support to the base OS will result in Samsung's efforts being more native.

        • jdawgnoonan

          I replied to the wrong person and the comment system won't let me fix it:

          I have the Z Fold 3 as well, and I am surprised by how truly great it is. Plus, the multi-tasking is (in my opinion) far more intuitive than iPad OS. So Samsung is already doing a good job. Hopefully Google adding more support to the base OS will result in Samsung's efforts being more native.

  14. dcdevito

    Only Google already had this in 2011 but dropped tablets altogether. You can't trust them as a dev (or user these days)

  15. jg1170

    Pretty dumb imo to re-brand a popular series with a number that, to the layman at least, will sound like a downgrade. If you're going to pick a round number to use a number after you just used 888, either reboot into a whole new series (like "Xbox One" did) or use, I don't know, a NINE or higher?