Samsung is shipping Android 12 to its flagship phone in record time. The OS shipped for Pixel phones slightly less than a month ago, and today already, Samsung is pushing out Android 12 updates for the flagship Galaxy S21 series.
Samsung’s version of Android 12 is called “One UI 4” and is heavily skinned. It paves over all of Google’s Material You design in the new OS, replacing it with Samsung’s own version. Material You’s most striking feature is the ability to color-match your UI with your wallpaper, which hasn’t survived in Samsung’s skin. You can manually pick a “color palette” through a UI that looks a lot like Material You, but the color isn’t applied in as many places as Google’s UI. Mostly it seems to color buttons and switches.
With no new UI, you’re mostly getting the under-the-hood changes and features. The Android 12 privacy indicators made the cut, which shows a green indicator in the top-left corner any time the camera or microphone is active. Samsung also has its own take on the Android 12 Privacy Dashboard. Most of the changes seem to be Samsung revving its own Android skin, though, with features like new widgets for Samsung-specific apps like Bixby and Samsung calendar, new emojis, and changes to Samsung’s custom share sheet and lock screen.
This is the fastest Samsung has ever shipped an Android update, and the secret just seems to be starting earlier. Android 11 shipped in early September 2020, but Samsung didn’t ship a beta of Android 11 until the end of October. For Android 12, Samsung was actually shipping betas before Google’s final OS release, with the first beta build of One UI 4 landing on September 25.
Of course, the S21 series isn’t the only phone line getting an Android 12 update. The fine print in Samsung’s press release says: “At a later date the update will also be available on the Galaxy S20, S20+, S20 Ultra, S20 FE, Note20, Note20 Ultra, S10, S10e, S10+, S10 5G, Note10, Note 10+, Galaxy Fold, Z Fold3, Z Flip3, Z Fold2, Z Flip, Z Flip 5G, Galaxy A82 5G, A72, A52, A52 5G, A52s 5G, A42 5G, and Galaxy Tab S7 and Tab S7+.” If you bought your Samsung phone from a carrier, there’s a good chance that will delay the release date a bit, too.