Android 2021: A year in review

We made it by means of one other yr, and Android was there by our aspect for higher or worse. Jack Wallen discusses a couple of highs and some lows of the yr that introduced us Android 12 and Materials You.


Picture: sdx15/Shutterstock

The yr is nearly over … and, wow, did it fly by. It appears solely yesterday I used to be writing in regards to the 2020 yr in assessment and right here I’m, one other yr older and one other yr … older.

I might say the identical holds true for Android. It is one other yr (and launch) older, however has it change into any wiser than it already was? I need to bounce proper in and say, “Sure!” however I am not 100% sure I can. In spite of everything, the platform nonetheless faces a few of the usual issues it has for some time.

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But it surely’s not all unhealthy. In reality, 2021 caused a few of the brightest spots within the historical past of the OS. Accompanying that brightness, it did not actually endure any main sidelines (main being the key phrase). Though it stumbled a couple of occasions, Android appeared to have a internet optimistic yr in the long run. 

Let’s dive in and take a look at a couple of of the highlights and a few of the lowlights for the yr the time forgot.

Android 12

Now we have to start out this out with the twelfth iteration of the Android working system. Though probably the most essential adjustments to the platform will get its personal subhead (extra on that in a bit), there was a lot enchancment occurring with the OS: This launch wound up (for a lot of, together with myself) to be one of the best tackle Android to have ever been launched.

The brand new options added to Android 12 included scrolling screenshots, AppSearch, One-Handed mode, wealthy content material insertion, overview options, extra gesture controls, haptic suggestions with audio, unused apps, Sport Mode, HEVC media transcoding, AVIF picture assist, multi-channel audio, optimizations for non-standard shows, common splash screens, Privateness Dashboard, mic and digicam indicators, mic and digicam kill switches, approximate location permission and Android Compute Core. One other crucial enchancment in Android 12 was that the builders and designers lastly put in some effort to repair the pores and skin tone issues for the digicam. With this newest launch, non-white faces will see extra correct representations of darker pores and skin coloration and pure hair. This was an essential (and obligatory) step ahead for Google.

All of those new additions come collectively to make for a quicker, extra dependable and safe expertise. However total, each certainly one of these additions was overshadowed by one explicit change.

Materials You

Indubitably, Materials You was the headline within the Android 12 present. This new Android UI has been lengthy overdue and, wow, did it ever impress. Materials You was not only a reskinning of the outdated interface however made is such that your UI could be fully distinctive to your telephone. How? Materials You labored with dynamic highlights for UI components, utilizing colours out of your present dwelling display screen wallpaper. Say, for example, you had a picture of a Mars panorama on your house display screen. Your spotlight colours is perhaps rust, brown and pink.

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But it surely’s not simply in regards to the colours. Materials You is an entire redesign of the interface. Widgets are higher wanting, the notification display screen is way simpler to work together with, navigation is best, animations are smoother (and extra attention-grabbing), every part on the show is extra readable and (total) it simply appears extra trendy.

Pixel 6

The discharge of the Google Pixel 6 was much-anticipated. Though the Pixel 5 was a stable entry within the line, it all the time felt underpowered and could not legitimately be thought-about a flagship telephone. Given the Pixel line was all the time meant to function a option to showcase what all Android might do, the fifth iteration failed at that process.

Google knew this and needed to convey the Pixel again to prominence.

And, for probably the most half, it did. The Pixel 6 is a superb machine (with a couple of points). It is highly effective, stunning and the digicam is astonishing.

But it surely wasn’t (and hasn’t been) all unicorns and lollipops for the Pixel machine. First, the discharge was a catastrophe. The lead-up to the massive day was just about devoid of selling. And when the massive day got here, the flexibility to really buy a tool was marred by non-functioning procuring carts, web site errors and 0 accountability. This was an unacceptable failure on Google’s half and triggered lots of people to overlook out on buying the newest Pixel telephone.

For many who did handle to finish the acquisition (I acquired fortunate), every part began out nice. However then little points began to look. The largest for me was a repeat situation from the Pixel 4. I would be in the course of a telephone name and, out of the blue, the individual on the opposite finish of the decision could not hear me. Or, even worse, I would place a name and the one who answered could not hear me. It doesn’t matter what I attempted, I could not resolve the problem. I began to consider it was a {hardware} situation, so I returned the telephone. No luck. One other return … no luck. It wasn’t till Google issued a software program replace that the issue was fastened.

That situation is again. Thus far it is occurred with roughly 10% of my telephone calls. The one repair in the meanwhile is to reboot the machine. I am not going to return this telephone as a result of my previous expertise tells me that may be a useless finish. But it surely does make it very clear that Google must keep in mind that smartphones do nonetheless embrace the phrase “telephone,” so they should focus a bit extra Q&A on that finish of the equation.


Malware. I should not should say one other phrase. However I’ll. Factor is, each working system, {hardware} and app maker understands they stay in a relentless state of two steps behind these creating malicious software program and growing new assaults. 

That is by no means going to alter. So long as a tool is on-line, it is weak. And Android shouldn’t be resistant to that. Do a fast seek for Android malware and you will find loads of articles outlining the hazards. However there’s one factor on the heart of the problem … purposes. I’ve made it a precedence to (at the least twice a yr) remind Android customers of the hazards they face when putting in purposes. As soon as upon a time, I might solely warn customers towards putting in from third-party sources. Now, nevertheless, I provide that warning with out the third-party bit. Should you set up an utility in your Android telephone, there’s all the time a danger. 

With 2021 we noticed malware equivalent to Joker, GriftHorse, FakeDolphin, GinMaster, ExoBot, Android Police Virus, FakeInst, BlackRock, OpFake, BaseBridge, KungFu and Ghost Push. The checklist of apps that contained malware was even longer, together with All Good PDF Scanner, Buzz, Blue Scanner, Paper Doc Scanner, Care Message, WiFi Password Cracker, Need Translate, SecureIt, Axgle, Direct Messenger, Tangram App Lock, Wallpaper Ladies, Hummingbird PDF Converter – Picture to PDF, AppleProtect, Meticulous Scanner, Thought Safety, Distinctive Keyboard, Expertise Picture Editor – Blur Focus, Mint Leaf Message-Your Non-public Message, Shortcut Identify, One Sentence Translator – Multifunction Translator, Half Message, Non-public SMS, Fashion Picture Collage, System Replace, Auxiliary Message, Component Scanner, Free CamScanner, Go Messages, Tremendous Message, Tremendous SMS and Journey Wallpapers. 

Foldable Telephones

I might have sworn, on the finish of 2020, that foldable telephones would have vanished from the market. They did not. In reality, Samsung proved the foldable telephone might work with the Z Fold3. Not solely was it a really well-designed machine but it surely was additionally sturdy, waterproof, provided twin 120Hz shows and confirmed off the true energy of multitasking on an Android machine. 

The large downfall was that the lofty price ticket ($1,799 upon launch) would maintain it out of the fingers of common customers.  

Even so, 2021 proved that foldable telephones usually are not only a risk, however a actuality that won’t be going away any time quickly. Possibly 2022 would be the yr the foldable turns into extra frequent than most of us ever imagined.

And there you could have it, Android in assessment for 2021. It wasn’t one of the best of occasions, but it surely definitely wasn’t the worst of occasions. And given how loopy the world is today, I am calling {that a} win.

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