Android 12’s color-changing UI isn’t just beautiful—it’s addicting

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Android 12’s color-changing UI isn’t just beautiful—it’s addicting

I can stop changing wallpapers whenever I want — Android 12's "Material You" UI debuts in Be

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I can stop changing wallpapers whenever I want —

Android 12’s “Material You” UI debuts in Beta 2, and we go hands-on.


  • With Android 12 Beta 2, Google’s color-changing UI is live, so we took a trip around the rainbow.


    Ron Amadeo

  • For images with more variety, Monet can knock your socks off with beautiful contrasting colors.


    Ron Amadeo

  • These are all lock screens, by the way. They now show this big clock when you don’t have notifications.


    Ron Amadeo

  • The middle one here is very “Batman.” I like it. By the way, Monet is addicting, so you are getting a lot of these.


    Ron Amadeo

  • Stress test! Android 12 still manages to pick a decent color, even if you feed it a rainbow wallpaper, something with all 16 million RGB colors, or generally anything colorful.


    Ron Amadeo

  • Most of these wallpapers are from the Pixel wallpaper app, by the way.


    Ron Amadeo

  • More.


    Ron Amadeo

  • I can stop whenever I want.


    Ron Amadeo

Android 12 Beta 2 came out this week, and with it, a lot of features we’ve only been able to see screenshots of now actually work. This includes Android’s ambitious color-changing UI codenamed “Monet,” and even though this is only a beta, after some hands-on time, it feels like Android 12’s chameleon-like UI already lives up to the hype.

Monet—or “Material You,” as Google now wants us to call it—effortlessly recolors your phone UI with a matching theme based on your wallpaper. Pick a wallpaper that is primarily blue and Android 12 will change the buttons, sliders, clock, notifications, and settings background to matching shades. This arrangement sounds like something that can’t possibly work outside of an onstage tech demo, but the code is out now, and it really works. I’ve spent the last day maliciously trying to break it, and Android 12 reliably turns in beautiful color schemes without any contrast issues.

Google has been working on wallpaper-defined color schemes for some time, starting in Android 5.0 Lollipop and the “Palette” API back in 2014. Monet represents a second-generation swing at the idea, and while Android 5’s Palette API was barely used, Google now feels confident enough with the idea to use it basically everywhere. Basically, every piece of the Android 12 system UI other than the permanently black Quick Settings background is subject to the systemwide color coordinator.

For the system UI, a rough explanation of the way this works is that Android 12 samples a single hue from your wallpaper and then generates a few colors by tweaking the brightness and saturation. Pick a green-ish wallpaper and you’ll get a bright green, a dark green, a desaturated green, and a nearly white green that will be spread around most of the UI, completely automatically. The Media player notification kind of lives on its own with regard to these color selections, and it picks a wild complimentary color that is somehow based on your wallpaper.

  • Android 12 mostly picks a single hue from your wallpaper and changes the brightness and saturation.


    Ron Amadeo

  • Yellow color swatches. Again, the media player notification is a total outlier when it comes to color.


    Ron Amadeo

  • This is the demo slide from Google I/O, and if we consider this Google’s target, you can see we’re already very close.


    Google

  • Settings and the app drawer get colored, too. Even the light backgrounds are slightly lime flavored.


    Ron Amadeo

  • Dark mode users get considerably less flare from Monet.


    Ron Amadeo

  • The “dark” of dark mode actually gets the slightest whiff of color. It’s almost unnoticeable.


    Ron Amadeo

  • This Google I/O slide shows options for Monet on the bottom row. Ideally you’ll be able to pick what accent color you want.


    Google

  • Perhaps a taste of Monet customizability, there’s a bug where some wallpapers will change color schemes after a reboot.


    Ron Amadeo

If the slides at Google I/O are to be believed, Monet should be even better by the time release rolls around. One slide showed a wallpaper picker that displays multiple flavors of color selections created from your wallpaper. So by the time launch rolls around, Google sounds like it wants to let you nudge the color selection in a certain direction. As a buggy beta, sometimes Monet will pick one color scheme from a wallpaper when you first apply it. Then it will switch to a different color scheme when you reboot, indicating that there is room for variety here, just no controls yet.

Right now, the worst thing you can say about Monet is that it might not pick the accent color hue you want or expect. If you had something like a mostly black-and-white image with a dramatic red highlight somewhere, you might want a red accent color to tie everything together. But Monet might not pick the color you want. Those controls, assuming they actually ship, sound like exactly what the system needs right now.

In Beta 2, Monet only works on the lock screen, system UI, home screen, and settings. But at I/O, Google demoed a color-changing calculator, a phone app, and a messaging app, which will hopefully get built. (How can Google resist the messaging app!) The new widgets, which still aren’t out, will also adopt your color scheme of choice on the home screen. Since we can’t do a color-changing home screen yet, the new lock screen—which displays a huge clock when you don’t have any notifications—is the best demo of Monet in action.

If app developers want to let Monet take the wheel with their designs, Android 12 gives them several color variables to slot into their code, which will be swapped around whenever the wallpaper changes. Developers get three “Accent” colors and two “Neutral” colors chosen by the system based on the wallpaper. On top of that, they get to pick a lightness value for each color.

  • This is what the lock screen looks like when you have notifications, by the way.


    Ron Amadeo

  • The Google I/O slides claim this will apply to apps in the future, too. Here’s a calculator.


    Google

  • A phone app with flavor.


    Google

  • Oh boy, a messaging app! I’m just going to assume this will be a new one.


    Google

Sometimes, Monet knocks your socks off with a dramatic and beautiful color selection. That makes it downright addicting to dig through a wallpaper collection to see what Android will do for each image. “Wallpaper of the day” apps now mean you’ll get a whole new OS color scheme every day! Even in beta, Android 12’s new UI feels exciting and fresh, and it would not surprise me to see this color-changing UI idea copied by other OS vendors in a few years.

Listing image by Android

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