Android 12 Beta 2 came out this week, and with it, many features we have only been able to see screenshots of now actually work. This includes Android’s ambitious color-changing user interface codenamed “Monet”, and although this is just a beta, after some convenient time, it feels like Android 12’s chameleon-like user interface is already living up to the hype.
Monet – or “Material You”, as Google now wants us to call it, repaints the phone’s user interface without any problems with a matching theme based on the background. Choose a background image that is primarily blue, and Android 12 will change the buttons, sliders, clock, alerts, and settings background to matching shades. This event sounds like something impossible to do 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 shows beautiful color choices without contrast issues.
Google has been working on background-defined color schemes for a while, starting with Android 5.0 Lollipop and “Palette” API back in 2014. Monet represents a second-generation turn to the idea, and while Android 5s Palette API was barely used, Google now feels confident enough with the idea of using it pretty much everywhere. Basically, all parts of the Android 12 system interface except the permanently black quick setting background are subject to the system-wide color coordinator.
For the system interface, a rough explanation of how this works is that Android 12 tries a single hue from your wallpaper and then generates a few colors by adjusting the brightness and saturation. Choose a green wallpaper and you will get a light green, a dark green, an unsaturated green and an almost white green that will spread around most of the user interface, completely automatically. The media player alert lives on its own while applying these color choices, and it picks a wild complementary color that is somehow based on the background.
If you are to believe the slides on Google I / O, Monet should be even better when the release rolls around. One slide showed a background selector showing multiple flavors of color choices created from the background. So when the launch rolls around, Google sounds like it will let you push the color scheme in a certain direction. As a buggy beta, Monet will sometimes choose a color scheme from a wallpaper when you first use it. Then it will switch to a different color scheme when you start again, which indicates that there is room for variation here, just no controls yet.
Right now, the worst thing you can say about Monet is that it may not choose the color 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 it all together. But Monet may not choose the color you want. These controls, provided they are actually sent, sound like exactly what the system needs right now.
In Beta 2, Monet only works on the lock screen, system interface, home screen, and settings. But with I / O demos, Google demos a color-changing calculator, a phone app and a messaging app, which will hopefully be built. (How can Google resist the messaging app!) The new widgets, which are still not out, will also adopt the color scheme you choose on the home screen. Since we can not make a color-changing home screen yet, the new lock screen – which shows a huge clock when you have no alerts – 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 more color variables that they can place in the code, which will be swapped around when the background changes. Developers get three “Accent” colors and two “Neutral” colors selected by the system based on the wallpaper. On top of that, they get to choose a brightness value for each color.
Sometimes Monet turns off your socks with a dramatic and beautiful color choice. It makes it directly addictive to dig through a background collection to see what Android will do for each image. The “Background of the Day” apps now mean you get a whole new OS color scheme every day! Even in beta, Android 12’s new user interface feels exciting and fresh, and it would not surprise me to see this color-changing user interface idea copied by other operating system vendors in a few years.
Entry image of Android