Android 12 QPR3 Beta 1 brings a new level of complication to Android betas

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Enlarge / This is how it feels to cover the latest Android versions.

Android is going to have a busy month, and this is likely to be the new normal for the future. So listen. On Monday, Android 12L left beta and launched as a new stable build of Android, with some release strings calling it “Android 12.1”. Today Google starts Another Android Beta, the slickly named “Android 12 QPR3 Beta 1.” We’re also expecting the second Android 13 Developer Preview any day. That’s three recent Android releases, all coexisting and offering different glimpses of what’s to come.

You know Chrome has three release channels named “Stable”, “Beta” and “Dev”? Android looks like it will now.

Android usually releases a major release every October. There are also behind-the-scenes pushes for “Quarterly Platform Releases (QPR)” that don’t typically get much promotion, although Google has started pumping up these releases for Pixel users by calling them “Pixel Feature Drops.” This year’s Android 12L is a specific tablet-focused midcycle release, but it’s also a souped-up Android 12 Quarterly Platform Release 2. Given the new API level and tablet changes, we can see why 12L has a three-month beta would have. But now Google is immediately launching quarterly platform version 3 beta 1, although there are no drastic 12L-style changes.

If you’re wondering what’s new in Android 12 QPR3 Beta 1, the answer is probably not very exciting. Google has a bunch of release notes on developer.android.com, and they’re pretty barren. Google says, “While these updates don’t include API changes that affect the app, we provide images of the latest QPR beta builds so you can test your app against those builds if you need to.” The notes state that this is the first beta of the June 2022 Feature Drop for Pixel, but that’s a bit misleading. The Pixel Feature Drops are always proprietary Google app updates and you will not beta test them. They’re testing the under-the-hood changes in the beta version of the Android platform, which will probably just fix a few bugs.

As for the supported devices of QPR3 Beta 1, they are the usual Pixel phones, with one notable exception. If you have the Pixel 6, 5, 5a, 4, or 4a you can install the update, but the Pixel 3a looks like it’s near the end of the road. On Google’s official support page, support for the Pixel 3a ends in May 2022, which means there is no June 2022 update.

what do you call it

“Android 12 QPR3 Beta 1” is a perennial favorite in the “Google is bad at branding” compendium. Google seems to be at odds over the names of these quarterly releases, and the Android 12L branding is also an atrocity. Google calls it “12L” in blog posts, “Android 12.1” on the factory photo page, and “Android 12” on the phone’s “About” screen. The new beta would be so much easier to understand if Android 12L was simply called “Android 12.1” generically. Then we could call today’s release Android 12.2 Beta 1.

We can only speculate as to why Google isn’t doing this, but we suspect it has to do with the root of all Android evil: OEM updates. If a Samsung phone says “Android 12” and a Google phone says “Android 12.2”, the Samsung would likely be dissatisfied and users would likely complain. By simply naming each Android 12 release “Android 12,” Android hardware manufacturers’ legendary inability to provide timely updates is less emphasized.

If you’re wondering when the Android version of Chrome’s nightly “Canary” builds will come out, this one do already exist. These are called “Dogfood” builds and are intended for Google employees only.


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