Apple isn't the only major phone maker with big news today. Samsung rolled out its Android 12 beta to Galaxy S21, S21+, and S21 Ultra phones, which brings many new features—most notably, for people who read a lot of my work, eSIM support.
This version of Android 12, which Samsung calls "One UI 4," doesn't have all the features Google promised in its Android 12 announcement. Most importantly, Samsung is not using the "Material You" interface Google is teasing for the Pixel 6 phone. Samsung has its own set of screens, icons, and widgets that it's pretty proud of. It's updating them, but they're all Samsung.
I got the update this morning, and as you'll see below, it has new features that are going to impact many aspects of your S21 experience. At the moment, I really like the media search in the Messages app and how the Camera now shows zoom levels as numbers rather than as little pictures of trees. There are a lot of new widget options, and the privacy dashboard now lets you see which apps requested what permissions over the past seven days.
Downloading any beta OS is a risk—back up your data!—but this upgrade looks worth it.
How Do I Get the Android 12 (One UI 4) Update?
On your Galaxy S21 family phone, go to the Samsung Members app. Tap Benefits. Then scroll down to the bottom. You'll see a panel called "One UI Beta Program." Tap on it and sign up for the beta. Wait about 15 minutes. Then go to Settings > Software Update > Download and Install. The software should be available to install.
According to some posts on the Samsung members' forums, not all US S21 users are seeing the update. You are more likely to see it if you have a T-Mobile or unlocked model than if you have a Verizon or AT&T model.
Does the Android 12 Update Enable eSIM?
YES IT DOES. On my unlocked S21 Ultra, the update enabled the eSIM functionality, letting me install a second service plan. However, it's not as easy to use as on a iPhone or iPad, where you can just pick a new carrier from a list. On this S21, you need to get a QR code from your secondary carrier and scan it.
Is Android 12 Buggy?
Yes. In my first 10 minutes of use, I already froze the Messages app. That's not too bad. I restarted it and it was fine. But I wouldn't download this if 100% stability is your priority.
What Are the Android 12 (One UI 4) Release Notes?
The new software version is full of improvements. Here's what the release notes bring, along with some of my own screen shots.
Home screen widgets have been redesigned to give you more information at a glance while also making your Home screen more stylish. You'll also get recommendations for widgets that may be useful for you.
You can now change the audio output to a different device, such as headphones or a speaker, right from the Lock screen. You'll also get customized controls depending on which music app you're using.
A new Voice Recorder widget for the Lock screen lets you record voice memos without unlocking your phone.
A monthly calendar appears on the Calendar widget to help you keep track of your events from the Lock screen.
Always On Display
You can set the Always On Display turn on whenever you receive a notification.
New animated stickers are available.
Manage your notifications more comfortably with an enhanced layout and an integrated section of alert and silent notifications.
The brightness bar in the quick panel is larger so it's easier to see and adjust.
Wallpapers, icons, and illustrations are now darkened automatically to provide a more consistent look and more comfort for your eyes.
New visual effects appear when you start charging to help you check the charging speed.
Get to your emojis, GIFS, and stickers directly from the keyboard with a single button. Self-expression is a tap away.
Looking to express something new? Combine two emojis, then add an animation so you can really get your feelings across.
New animated stickers are available for download.
Keep your grammar and spelling on point with the new Writing assistant, powered by Grammarly (English only).
Preview videos now appear when you enter the Tips app, helping you learn everything your Galaxy can do.
You can customize the list of apps that appear on the share panel to reduce clutter, and scroll left and right across the lists of apps and people for quicker access.
When you try to share pictures that have problems like poor focus or framing, you'll get suggestions for fixing them so your pictures always look their best.
Enjoy a simpler, clearer layout with a preview that shows only the information you need. The scene optimizer button will only appear in Photo mode if there's low light or you're scanning a document.
Settings for Portrait and Night modes are now more intuitive.
Lens and zoom: See the zoom level on the lens icons for easier zooming, even in modes that only support one lens.
Video that never misses a moment: Recording now starts immediately after you tap the Record button, instead of when you release it. In Photo mode, touch and hold the Shutter button to start recording a video. Drag your finger to the Lock icon to continue recording without having to hold down the button.
Single take: Add extra time while recording in Single Take so you don't miss important moments. After recording is finished, the content selection menu has been improved to help you easily choose the perfect shots.
Pro mode: Settings have been reorganized for a cleaner look. When grid lines are on, horizontal level indicators help you line up the perfect shot.
Enhanced scan features: After scanning a document, you can zoom in for fine editing. When you scan a QR code, you can choose from several options depending on the type of QR code.
Stories now show a video preview on the cover and a highlight video inside. You can also see where each picture in a story was taken on a map.
More options are available for sorting albums that contain lots of photos.
Album covers are now shown at the top of the screen when you open albums.
Search suggestions have been improved to help you find pictures and videos. Recent searches are also suggested.
Remastered pictures can be reverted to their original versions at any time, even after they're saved.
You can now edit the date, time, and location that pictures and videos were taken.
Photo and video editor
Add fun emojis and stickers to your pictures and videos.
Create video collages by combining multiple images and videos from your Gallery.
The new Light balance option lets you edit the tone of pictures more easily.
The Highlight reel editor has also been enhanced to give you even more control.
Revert edited videos back to their original versions at any time, even after they're saved.
Cut out a face, pet, building, or any other object from a photo and paste it onto a different one.
Use an AR emoji as your profile picture in Contacts and Samsung account. You can choose from over 10 poses or create your own expressions.
New AR emoji stickers that show only your face have been added. Have fun decorating your photos and sharing them with your friends.
Make cool dance videos with your AR emojis. Choose templates from 1 0 different categories including #Fun, #Cute, and #Party.
Use your own drawings to create unique clothes for your AR emojis.
Pin the window option menu to the top of a pop-up window to make it easier to access.
Easily resize picture-in-picture windows with pinch zoom.
Keep your current app in view while using edge panels. Blurring has been removed to help you see more at once.
The new Safety and emergency menu lets you manage your emergency contacts and safety information all in one place.
Improved search features help you find the settings you need, when you need them. You'll get suggestions for related features depending on what you search for.
Keep your eyes on the road with the new Driving monitor. You'll get reports on how much you used your phone and which apps you used.
The dual clock widget now shows different background colors for each city depending on whether it's day or night.
The new Calendar layout lets you add events instantly. You can also find events more easily with improved search features.
A new Home screen widget shows your monthly calendar along with today's events.
Create shared calendars and invite other Galaxy users to join.
Photos, videos, web links, and other content will now appear in search results in the Messages app.
Search features have been improved. You can still find the files you're looking for, even if there's a typo.
The Recent files area has been expanded to help you more easily find files you've used recently.
Get more search suggestions when you enter text in the address bar. Results will appear with an all new design.
The new search widget helps you find what you're looking for, right from the Home screen.
To protect your privacy, Samsung Internet will automatically start in Secret mode if you were using Secret mode during your last browsing session.
App compatibility has been improved, making more apps resizable.
Change the touchpad scrolling direction in Dex settings to match your personal preference.
The main screen shows battery and security issues, making it easier to solve problems quickly.
Your phone's overall status is shown as an emoji, helping you check the status at a glance.
Now you can get right to Samsung Members diagnostics from Device Care. If something seems wrong with your phone, try the diagnostic tests to find out what the problem is and get suggestions for solving it.
A new tab layout at the bottom of the screen helps you access the features you need more easily.
The new My page tab shows your profile, weekly summary, badges, and personal bests.
For your gender selection, you can now choose "Other" or "Prefer not to say."
It's now easier to invite your friends to team challenges by sending a link.
Additional snacks have been added to the food tracker.
More conditions are available for your routines. Start a routine during a call or when a certain notification arrives.
Make your routines do more. You can now turn on Enhanced processing with a routine. There are also more options for connecting and disconnecting Bluetooth devices.
Reorder actions by touching and holding actions on the edit page. Advanced options have also been added to let you wait before an action starts, confirm actions, and more.
We've removed restrictions for some combinations of conditions and actions so you can do even more with your routines.
Create custom icons for your routines using the Camera or an image from Gallery.
Perform actions more quickly by moving your mouse pointer to one of the 4 corners of the screen.
Adjust contrast and size at the same time with custom Display mode (High contrast or Large display).
Access accessibility features more quickly with a floating button that's always available.
More visibility options are available to meet your needs. You can reduce transparency and blur or make the screen extra dim.
Set different colors for each app's notifications so you can easily determine where notifications are coming from.
Magnifier window has been merged with the new Magnification menu, giving you more options and more control for magnifying content on the screen.
See which apps are accessing sensitive permissions such as Location, Camera, or Microphone in Permission usage history. You can deny permissions for any apps you don't feel comfortable with.
A green dot will appear in the upper-right corner of the screen when any app is using the camera or microphone so you can see if an app is recording you without your consent. You can also use quick panel controls to temporarily block all apps from using the camera or microphone.
Take more control over apps that want to access your location. For apps that only need to know your general area, such as weather apps, you can allow access to your approximate location so they can't determine exactly where you are.
Sometimes you need to copy sensitive information, like passwords or credit card numbers, but you don't want it to fall into the wrong hands. You can choose to be notified any time an app accesses content copied to the clipboard in another app.
Like What You're Reading?
Sign up for Race to 5G newsletter to get our top mobile tech stories delivered right to your inbox.
Thanks for signing up!
Your subscription has been confirmed. Keep an eye on your inbox!Sign up for other newsletters