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Android 12: 4 hidden features that you are sure to enjoy from day one

Android 12 logo

Android 12 is (almost) here.

James Martin / CNET

The first public beta of Android 1

2 is available for anyone who wants to help Google test the new operating system and has a compatible device. Along with the Android 12 beta, Google has announced a slew of new features we can expect by the time the OS is ready for official release later this year, including improved privacy controls, a new Android TV remote control and the biggest change in the overall appearance of Android to date.


Brett Pearce / CNET

As I often say when new operating systems are released, the best features are usually the hidden ones: features that have not been announced, but that you have to search the operating system to find them. For example, there is a dedicated game mode in Android 12, but it’s buried in the Settings app. There is also a shortcut to your device’s notification history for those times when you accidentally ignore an alert.

I’m still digging through Android 12 and what it has to offer, but so far I’ve found four hidden features that are sure to be useful. Google will release a few more updates to Android 12 ahead of its official launch later this year, adding more of the revealed changes (the privacy features are currently MIA, for example), and certainly adding more hidden features. This is what I have found so far.

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Android 12 Beta hands-on


Notification history is easier to find in Android 12

Do you ever delete a notification without actually reading it? I do it all the time. Android has been providing your device’s notification history for a while, but you either had to know where to look to find it, or you had to install a third-party app to see it.

In Android 12, all you have to do is scroll to the bottom of your notification shade, where you can find a new one History button. Tap it and you’ll see recently cleared notifications and alerts from the last 24 hours.

When you see it Management instead of History, that is because Notification history is not turned on. Turn it on by tapping Managementand select Notification history and slide the switch to On position.


You now have quick access to your previous notifications.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

One-handed mode in Android 12 is made for large phones

A new one-handed mode in Android 12 might not be a headlining feature, but it can make a big difference in how you use your phone on a daily basis. Especially if you’re using a phone with a large screen, such as the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

The new one-handed mode moves the top half of what’s on your screen to the bottom half, making it easier to tap a quick settings tile or a notification. To use it, place a finger on the small bar at the bottom of your phone’s screen and swipe down. It may take a few tries to get it, but once you figure out the gesture, it’s easy to reproduce.

However, before you can do that, you need to enable it by going to Settings > System > Gestures > One-handed mode and slide the switch to On position.

Pixel 5

Google is getting serious about mobile gaming. Or so it seems.

Juan Garzon / CNET

There is a special game mode in Android 12, but good luck if you find it yourself

If you play a lot of games on your Android phone, you will be happy to know that Google is adding a special game mode to Android 12. When enabled, your phone will do things like turn on automatically, do not disturb when you start playing.

But you’d never know the mode existed if you didn’t venture deep into your phone’s notification settings.

Go to Settings > notifications > Do not disturb > Schematics. Check the box next to it Game mode to enable it. You can tap the settings gear icon to view the various options included in game mode, such as showing your current FPS, switching screenshots, or streaming live on YouTube.


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

Android 12, at least on the Pixel, has an interesting new app layout option

The app grid on your phone’s home screen normally varies for a 4×4, 5×5, or 6×6 grid (or a similar combination). In Android 12 on the Pixel 5, there is a new app grid option that is downright funny at first glance – 2×2. I assume this is limited to Pixel phones only, but hopefully other phone manufacturers will take over as it’s a huge accessibility feature for those who need bigger app icons.

Switch to the new 2×2 layout with a long press on your home screen, then select Styles and backgrounds> Grid > 2×2.

As Google continues to update the public beta and we get closer to the official launch later this year, more features will be added and more features will be discovered. Make sure to check out until then our favorite Android 12 features yet. And when you’re ready (read: brave enough) to take the plunge, here it is how to install Android 12 now.

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