Android 12 QPR 3 Beta 1 is not a football score, but the next release of Android 12, following the recent launch of Android 12L on some Pixel devices earlier this month. If you’re a little confused, you’re not alone. It seems like there’s an alphabet soup of different Android 12 varieties to choose from right now, especially when it comes to beta and pre-release versions.

First, there’s Android 12 itself, which was released last October and has been rolled out to several phones over the past few months.

There’s Android 12L, which launched primarily as an update for large screens, but recently rolled out to some Pixel phones as the “March Feature Drop”.

And now there’s the new Android 12 QPR3, which stands for Quarterly Platform Release 3 and is available for testing through the Android beta program ahead of its June launch, along with the next Google Pixel ‘Feature Drop’.

In any of those cases, however, if you look under System > About Phone on a device with a baseline Android 12 or 12L, or even the new Android 12 QPR3, you’ll only see “Android 12”. Google doesn’t provide details on which exact flavor of Android 12 you’re using.

What does all this mean?

Android 12 QPR3 beta update

Credit: Alex Dobie/Android Central

The problem here isn’t really with the software itself, but with the opacity of the branding surrounding it. Given Google’s posts, many people can assume that Android 12L is only for tablets and foldable devices – a separate branch of Android for these devices, similar to the old tablet-exclusive Android 3.0 Honeycomb.

“QPR3” also implies the existence of previous quarterly platform releases – so if this latest beta is really the third QPR for Android 12, what happened to the first two? And is this “QPR” continuation of Android 12L or is it a separate branch of Android 12? It is not clear at all about branding.

Google (sorta) explains what’s going on in this statement on its official developer site:

“After the stable release of Android 12 for AOSP, we will continue to update the platform with fixes and enhancements that will then be rolled out to supported devices. These releases will occur quarterly through Quarterly Platform Releases (QPRs), which will be delivered to AOSP and to Google Pixel devices as part of Feature Drops.”

In the past, Google has been quietly working on QPRs for earlier Android versions like Android 11, 10 and 9 without much public fanfare. (And before that, in older versions like Android Oreo, they were called maintenance releases — MRs — and weren’t tied to a quarterly schedule).

So QPRs are not new. But the fact that Google is testing them publicly is new — and probably not a bad thing given the relatively flawed state of early Android 12 builds. On Google’s latest handsets, in particular, an embarrassing procession of software bugs resulted in the first major software update for the Pixel 6 being withdrawn in late 2021, leaving users on an older build with a different (though less severe) menagerie of bugs up until mid-20s. – January 2022.

By publicly testing the third Quarterly Platform Release for Android 12 a few months before launch, Google hopes to prevent a repeat of that situation.

As for the excellent first and second quarter platform releases of Android 12, it turns out they really exist.

Such as Esper’s Mishaal Rahman explains on TwitterQPR1 was the big Android 12 bug-fixing update that came out in December — the one that was eventually discontinued on Pixel 6 phones due to pending bugs. QPR2 was the recently launched Android 12L – which included several minor updates for phones in addition to the much-discussed tablet and foldable features.

Android 12L Tablet and Phone

Credit: Alex Dobie/Android Central

There’s no fragmentation here – Android 12L includes everything that was already in that December patch. And QPR3 includes everything in Android 12L.

However, there are some unusual things going on: first, Google is now talking about QPRs and letting Pixel owners test them months before release. And second, we had the anomaly of Android 12L that combines the second QPR with a bunch of new tablet and foldable features and new APIs for developers.

A look back at the past

Android statues at Google headquarters

(Image credit: Android Central)

To further demystify these things, let’s look back at how Android releases used to be numbered, before we had L’s and QPR’s. Android had a decimal version number similar to many other types of software.

The major Android versions are the ones that used to be nicknamed sweet – the big annual Android releases with a ton of new user-centric features and new developer APIs that allow apps to do new things. They would usually arrive in late summer and be accompanied by a new Nexus or Pixel phone – think Android 6.0, 7.0 or 8.0.

Then you sometimes have point releases, such as Android 5.1, 5.2 or 7.1. These weren’t major issues in terms of new user-facing features, but they did introduce new APIs for developers. New APIs tended to increase the version number by 0.1.

Finally, there were minor Android updates like Android 5.1.1 or 7.1.1 – mostly minor bug fix updates that changed a few things behind the scenes but didn’t introduce new APIs or anything as big as a full release.

If Google were still numbering Android releases this way, it would have been shuffled like this:

Baseline Android 12 would obviously be Android 12.0. Then that December 2021 first major bug fix update would have been QPR1, Android 12.0.1. Android 12L, with its new APIs for tablets and foldables, would have been Android 12.1. And then Android 12 QPR3, which contains no new APIs, would have finally appeared as Android 12.1.1.

Google Pixel 6 Pro + Pixel 6

Credit: Alex Dobie/Android Central

The old numbered releases give a better idea of ​​what goes on behind the scenes and how important each subsequent release is. But they also give the impression that once a point release comes along, the original release is old. That’s not really the case, especially since we now have monthly Android security patches that arrive on your device regardless of the Android version.

That’s probably a big part of why you’re only now seeing “Android 12” when you look at the version number on your phone’s “About” screen. Google doesn’t want you to stick too much to anything other than whatever major, annual release of the operating system you’re using. (And of course the date of the Android security patch).

With the advent of public betas for Android QPR builds, we’re moving to three software “channels” for Pixel phones. Like Google Chrome and Chrome OS, these offer different levels of stability depending on how fast you want to play with new things.

First, you have developer preview builds – the stage that Android 13 is currently in, where you can expect things to be early and potentially quite broken. These need to be manually flashed, so they are aimed at tech-savvy users, engineers, and developers. In the middle there is the Android beta program, aimed at a more general audience. It’s technically still a pre-release, but things like Google Pay and DRM still work, and you can play around with new Android features up to three months early. And then there are the stable builds, which the vast majority of Pixel phones will use.

So what’s next for Android?

The new Android 12 QPR3 beta gives Android fans the chance to test the next minor operating system update ahead of its launch with the June Feature Drop in a few months. This version is the successor to Android 12L and will eventually be superseded by Android 13. Once it’s launched, you can expect Android 13 QPR1 beta testing to begin in earnest by the end of 2022, followed by QPR2 in early 2023. This is likely. are the new normal cadence for Android beta releases.

All this should mean that future Android versions will be a lot more stable on the best Android phones of the day, especially compared to the early days of Android 12. By getting a closer look at the coming QPR months before launch, Google will also hope to never have to pull a major software update from devices again, as it did with QPR1 for the Pixel 6 in December.

While the branding can be a little confusing, more beta testing means a more stable Android going forward.

This post From the Editors: Why Are There So Many Android Betas?

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