Google is taking another run at actually usable Android tablets in the form of Android 12L, which was announced and released as a developer preview back in October. And today, Google has released the first beta build that will run on actual hardware ahead of a planned final release later this year.
Unfortunately, even though it will run on real hardware, the initial Android 12L beta’s support list won’t actually allow many people to try its new features. It’s available for the Pixel 3a, 4a, 5a, 4, and 5, but “you won’t see the large screen features on smaller screens.” And the only tablet it will run on is the Lenovo Tab P12 Pro, a relatively expensive and hard-to-find device. You could, however, also roll the dice with the Generic System Image (GSI) for other recent Android tablets. As with the dev build, Google suggests that the best place to try the large-screen features of Android 12L is in the Android emulator.
Android 12L and apps optimized for it should take better advantage of devices with large screens, whether they’re tablets, foldable phones, or laptops. Google has implemented a new interface for split-screen multitasking and has published guidelines for developing multicolumn apps that make better use of large screens, rather than the huge amounts of unused whitespace you currently get when you run a phone-sized app on a tablet-sized screen.