Android 12 beta: How to download and install Google’s new phone OS right now

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Android at Google I/O 2021

Android 12 is ready for your feedback. We’ll tell you how to get started and what to know. 


James Martin/CNET

Google just gave us the first in-depth look at Android 12 at Google I/O and it looks stunning. Not only did we get a preview of the new design and features, but Google also released the first public beta of Android 12 that anyone with a compatible device can install and help test the newest mobile software. 

For those who are brave enough to try this early version, the Android 12 beta will include features such as improved privacy controls and an adaptive interface that changes the color of your phone’s looks to match your wallpaper. Android devices will also now work better with other devices like Chromebooks and Android TVs. 

If you’re an early adopter ready to help Google test the next Android operating system, here’s everything you need to know about getting Android 12 on your phone right now. 

The Android 12 beta starts with the Pixel line

As is usually the case, Google is releasing the first Android 12 public beta for its line of Pixel phones. Here are the specific Pixel models that can take part in testing right now: 

  • Pixel 5
  • Pixel 4a
  • Pixel 4a (5G)
  • Pixel 4
  • Pixel 3a
  • Pixel 3a XL
  • Pixel 3
  • Pixel 3 XL

Google announced there are other device-makers taking part in the Android 12 beta. More on that below. 

pixel-phones-opt-in-android-12.png

Pick which device you want to install Android 12 on. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Have a Pixel? Here’s how to test Android 12

If you have one of the above Pixel phones and are ready to start testing Android 12, start by visiting the Android Beta Program website. Sign in to the site using the same Google account you’re using on your phone. Google will present you with some warnings about using a beta operating system. Read through the information and agree to it when you’re done. 

At the bottom of the page will be a list of phones linked to your account that are eligible to participate in the beta. Click the Opt-In button for the phone you want to enroll in the program. Accept the terms and conditions and click Confirm and Enroll when you’re finished. 

Right now, the website is going up and down, and I’m experiencing random errors. Keep trying, or wait an hour or two and try again if you’re experiencing any issues. 

Next, grab your phone and go to Settings > System > Advanced > System Update > Check for update. Your phone may need a few minutes to show the update, so if you don’t see a pending update the first time you tap on the update button, give it a few minutes and try again. Once your phone does show the update, install it as you would any other update. But this time when your phone reboots, it will be running this early test version of Android 12. 

android-12-beta-partners.png

There are plenty of partners this year. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

What if I don’t have a Pixel phone?

During the keynote, Google said that it has partners that will also release the first beta of Android 12 for some devices. The list shared during the keynote mentioned OnePlus, ZTE, TCL, Oppo, RealMe, Sharp, Tecno, Vivi, Xiaomi and Asus. 

In the past, the installation process for each vendor has been different. Most of them require you to install the update using a wired connection to your computer, and more often than not, you’ll need to factory-reset your phone during the update process. Google’s developer website published a one-stop website that includes links directly to the instructions for every hardware partner that’s taking part in the beta program. Currently, some of the links to the directions for respective partners aren’t working — I assume they’ll go live throughout the rest of the day. 

Yes, you can leave the beta. But there’s a catch

If you decide that the Android 12 beta is too buggy or battery life isn’t great, you can leave the beta program. But… and this is a big but… you’ll need to factory-reset your phone to go back to Android 11. You should be able to use an old backup to restore your phone to its Android 11 form, but it’s entirely possible you’ll lose some data during the transition. 

To leave the beta, visit the beta website again, but this time click on the Opt-Out button below your device. Wait a minute or two, then check for a software update on your phone in Settings > System > Advanced > System Update > Check for update. Install the update, which will factory-reset your phone, and when it’s done you’ll need to set your phone back up, starting with signing into your Google account. 

My best advice? Wait until Android 12 is closer to final release before installing the beta. As Google continues to work on and refine the update, it’ll become more stable and battery life will improve (not to mention app developers will be able to release updates ensuring that third-party apps are compatible).



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