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The best Android 12 hidden features we’ve found digging through Google’s OS

The best Android 12 hidden features we've found digging through Google's OS

The best Android 12 hidden features we’ve found digging through Google’s OS

What’s inside Google’s new Android 12 operating system for phones? We found some tricks that fly under the radar. 


James Martin/CNET

Google started rolling out its latest mobile operating system, Android 12, last month following the debut of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. The new OS is available to all Google phones from the Pixel 3 and up. (Here’s how to install Android 12 right now if your phone is compatible.) The mobile software will come to other Android devices, including phones from Samsung, OnePlus and Xiaomi, later this year. 

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Brett Pearce/CNET

Android 12 has several new features to differentiate itself from Android 11, including new privacy tools, a redesign called Material You and more. (Here’s how Android 12 compares to Android 11.) But, as I often say when new operating systems are released, the best features are usually the hidden ones. These are features that haven’t been announced, but ones you have to dig into the operating system to find. For example, there’s a dedicated game mode in Android 12, but it’s buried in the Settings app. There’s also a shortcut to your device’s notification history for when you accidentally dismiss an alert.

Read more: You gotta change your Pixel 6’s default settings

We’re still digging through Android 12 and what it has to offer, but so far we’ve found four hidden features that are sure to be useful. (If you’re an Apple user, here’s everything we know about iOS 15, some hidden features we’ve found and 20 iPhone settings you should change.) 

Android 12 keeps your notification history a tap away

Do you ever clear out a notification without reading it? I do it all the time. Android has offered device notification history for some time now, but you either had to know where to look, 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’ll see a new History button. Tap it, and you’ll see recently cleared notifications as well as alerts from the last 24 hours. 

If you see Manage instead of History, that’s because Notification History isn’t turned on. Enable it by tapping on Manage, then select Notification History and slide the switch to the On position. 

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You now have quick access to your past notifications. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Android 12 makes big phones feel smaller

A new one-handed mode in Android 12 may not be a headlining feature, but it’s one that could make a big difference in how you use your phone. This is especially true if you’re using a phone with a big display, like the Galaxy S21 Ultra

The new one-handed mode moves the top half of whatever’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, but once you get the gesture figured out, it’s easy to reproduce. 

Before you can do that, though, you’ll need to turn it on by going to Settings > System > Gestures > One-Handed Mode and slide the switch to the On position. Below the switch to enable the feature, you’ll have two options: Pull screen into reach or Show notifications. Select the first option and then close out the Settings app.

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Use the new Game Mode in Android 12 to boost performance or live stream on YouTube. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

There’s a dedicated gaming mode in Android 12

If you play a lot of games on your Android device, you’ll be happy to know that Google is adding a dedicated Gaming Mode to Android 12. When it’s turned on, your phone will do things like automatically turn on do not disturb when you start playing. 

But you’d never know the mode existed if you didn’t venture deep into, of all places, your notification settings. More specifically, go to Settings > Notifications > Do Not Disturb > Schedules. Once there, check the box next to Game Mode to turn it on. Next, tap on the Settings gear icon to and toggle both items.

In my brief experience testing it, game mode doesn’t work in every game (looking at you, Asphalt 9). It does work in Call of Duty Mobile, however. When it’s active, you can do things like force your phone to optimize itself for gaming in a single-tap or view your device’s current frames per second.

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Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Android 12 has a new app layout option, but it might be Pixel-only

The app grid on your phone’s home screen normally ranges for a 4×4, 5×5 or 6×6 grid (or similar combinations). However, in Android 12 on the Pixel 5, there’s a new app grid option that’s downright funny at first glance — 2×2. I assume this is limited to just Pixel phones, but hopefully, other phone-makers adopt it, as it’s a huge accessibility feature for those in need of larger app icons. 

Switch to the new 2×2 layout with a long-press on your home screen, then select Styles & Wallpapers> Grid > 2×2

For more, check out the best Android phones to buy in 2021, every reason why you should give Pixel phones another chance and how the Pixel 6 with its Tensor chip is more exciting than the iPhone 13

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