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ColorOS 12 hands-on: OPPO’s take on Android 12

By Sanuj Bhatia October 11, 2021, 11:00 am
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It’s that time of the year again. The latest version of Android, Android 12, is out. Even though Google is yet to update its Pixel smartphones to Android 12, OEMs have started getting on board and releasing their own flavors of the new Android. OPPO just released its Android 12 based ColorOS 12 today. While there are not many visual changes as one would have thought there would be — simply because the new software is based on Android 12, and Android 12 has brought a major redesign to stock Android UI — OPPO says its operating system has “matured enough” and the company continues to build it on top of the legacy ColorOS 11 left.


Even though the new ColorOS 12 doesn’t bring a major design overhaul, OPPO has packed a ton of customization options and privacy features to the already feature-rich ColorOS 11. Let’s take a bite of Android 12 baked in OPPO flavors.

ColorOS 12: release date, compatible devices, and installation guide

Android 12 has been one of the weirdest major Android releases in years. The stable source code for the operating system was uploaded to AOSP by Google back in the starting of October. However, even Google’s own Pixel devices are yet to receive the latest version of Android. Naturally, it will take time for OPPO and other OEMs to integrate Android 12 into their own flavors as well.

OPPO is releasing the ColorOS 12 beta version starting today, i.e., October 11, 2021. For now, the beta is available only on its latest flagship Find X3 Pro smartphone. Moreover, the beta is a ‘closed’ one meaning not all the users will be able to update to it immediately. Find X3 Pro owners will need to head over to the Settings app on their phone and sign-up for the beta in order to receive ColorOS 12. OPPO says the stable version of ColorOS 12 should be “available in the near future.”

ColorOS 12 roll out timeline

For other devices, the company has announced a ‘tentative’ ColorOS 12 roll-out timeline:

  • November 2021: Find X2, Reno6 Pro 5G, Reno6 Pro 5G Diwali Edition, Reno6 5G
  • December 2021: Reno5 Pro 5G, F19 Pro+, A74 5G
  • First half of 2022: Reno 10x Zoom, Reno3 Pro, Reno4 Pro, F19 Pro, F17 Pro, A53s 5G
  • Second half of 2022: F19, F19s, F17, and A53

Note: Please keep in mind this is only a tentative schedule. OPPO can delay/prepone the release of ColorOS 12 for these devices at any time.

Along with announcing ColorOS 12, OPPO has also announced that it will provide periodic security patches to its devices. The company says it will provide monthly security updates to the Find series devices, including the older generation Find X2 and Find X series. Other devices in OPPO’s lineup, including all Reno, A, and F series, will receive quarterly security updates.

ColorOS 12: Changes and Features


On the face of it, not much has changed in ColorOS 12, Unlike stock Android 12. The whole UI feels familiar yet different from ColorOS 11. OPPO seems to have taken cues from OneUI and even OxygenOS to some extent, wherein the title of the app you’re in appears larger. It then shrinks down as your swipe up or perform some action in the app. As far as user experience is concerned, it all seems to have improved the reachability of each area. It (kind of) has made an app more usable, even though the functionality of the app remains the same.

Let’s take the example of the plain vanilla Phone app. Earlier, you could access the Phone dialer and Contacts within the same app. You can still do that, but since the navigation has moved down to the bottom, it’s a bit easier to switch back and forth, if required. Similarly, in the Clock app, main sections like Alarm, World Clock, Stopwatch, and Timer have moved down to the bottom. Each section has its title written in big towards the top. Even the buttons are a bit easier to access — especially on such a large phone as Find X3 Pro.

In addition to improving the usability of the app, OPPO says the ColorOS 12 brings an all-new “Inclusive” design to the ColorOS operating system. The UI will now look better in local languages as the company has set up a linguistic expert team that aims to improve how the text looks in regional languages.

coloros 11 colors 12 contacts phone app

If you’re expecting anything remotely close to Android 12 on ColorOS 12 in terms of UI, unfortunately, it’s not the case. The design of the system is completely different to Google’s Material You design language.

It’s evident even in the Notification panel area. Google has opted for a notification panel that has large notifications segregated into Conversations, Notifications, and others. In ColorOS 12, notifications are plain like they used to be, with all the notifications in one place. In the quick settings panel as well, Google has opted for large buttons for settings such as WiFi, Bluetooth, and Flashlight. However, OPPO thinks the other way. The company has squashed down as many quick settings buttons as available in one area — which, honestly, I’m not a fan of. Sometimes, it makes things difficult to search — the other day, I spent over 2 minutes searching for the auto-rotate option, which in the end, I had to disable from the Settings itself.

But OPPO makes up for it with a ‘Smart Feature.’ If you’re one of those who want a simple phone with not many elements fussing up your UI and simpler settings, OPPO has added a ‘Simple Mode’ in ColorOS 12 that makes icons and texts larger and settings much more simpler.

Quantum Animation Engine and 3D icons

Instead of the new Material You design, OPPO has taken a different route with 3D icons and ‘frosted glass’ elements. The company says it designed the operating system with the thing in mind that the phone should feel like a part of the world you’re in. With saying so, OPPO has added a new Quantum Animation Engine to ColorOS 12 that gives ‘weight’ to each and every part of the UI. Each object follows the law of inertia as they would in the real world, meaning they would slow down or speed up depending on their weight and their arrangements. Even the widgets have virtual mass based on their shape and size. In addition to the new animation engine, OPPO has also redesigned icons throughout the OS.


ColorOS 12 omoji

They had to, hadn’t they? Apple first came up with Memoji, a custom sticker-type emoji an iOS user can create to use throughput the operating system. Samsung quickly followed with its own AR Emoji, and now OPPO. OPPO has rolled out a new Omojis with ColorOS 12 which works essentially like Memojis on Android 12. You can customize the sticker’s head, face, mouth, beard, glasses, hair, and pretty much everything you need according to your taste — if you ever use it.

Customize screen colors to your eyes

ColorOS 12 color vision test

One of the standout features of ColorOS 12 is the new ability to set screen colors according to the owner’s eyes. As you know, all of us see ever-so-slightly different colors. OPPO says a user’s smartphone should be able to display colors that the owner likes. For this, ColorOS 12 features a new accessibility setting that adjusts screen colors according to the owner’s eyes by performing a test. After you complete the test, screen colors are set according to your eyes.

Improved Phone Manager

ColorOS 12 phone manager

Phone Manager has been OPPO’s one-stop for managing all the needs of a smartphone. With ColorOS 12, OPPO has improved the Phone Manager and made it easy to use. On the front, it gives your phone a score. You can click on ‘Optimize’ to improve your OPPO’s performance. Below the ‘Optimization’ button, you’ll find options to scan your phone for viruses, clean up its storage, improve battery life, and manage permissions.

Privacy Features

ColorOS 12 privacy dashboard

Android 12 brings much-required privacy features to Android. OPPO says it’s one of the first OEMs to integrate all of the stock Android 12 privacy features into its ColorOS 12. First of all, there’s the Privacy Dashboard that Android 12 brought. It’s fully integrated into ColorOS 12. For those of you who don’t remember, Privacy Dashboard is a one-stop manager for managing permissions of all the apps on your smartphone. It shows all the permissions accessed by all the apps in one place. You grant or revoke access to a certain resource of the phone from an app right here.

ColorOS 12 privacy features

Other Android 12 privacy features, such as approximate location sharing, iOS-like microphone and camera indicators, and toggles for complete revoking microphone and camera access, are also here. In addition to these privacy features, OPPO has also improved the security of the whole system. OPPO says the new ColorOS uses strict and secure encryption technologies to achieve encrypted data storage and transmission as well as data desensitization. OPPO says its privacy and security techniques are ePrivacy and ISO27001 certified.

Better battery saver

ColorOS 12 battery saver

There’s a new one-tap power saver feature built into the battery settings of ColorOS 12. When you open the battery settings after a few hours of you using the smartphone, the ColorOS will recommend you to perform some actions to preserve battery life.

New Customization options and wallpaper-based theming

ColorOS 12 personalization

One of the main highlights of Android 12 is the new wallpaper-based themeing engine. For those of you who don’t know, the wallpaper-based themeing is only exclusive to Pixels, for now. There is evidence that Google might open-source the feature in the future, but for now, the feature wherein the operating system will pick up colors from the wallpaper and apply it throughout the system is only limited to Google Pixels.

Nonetheless, themeing has been a core/key part of ROMs from OEMs for quite some time now. Most of the Android smartphone makers, such as OPPO, Vivo, and Xiaomi, have some sort of themeing built-in their OS. Last year’s ColorOS 11 brought in a number of customization options. But this year, OPPO has taken it to the next level in the customization department.

First of all, the “Personalizations” space is a lot cleaner and easy to use now. You can see everything wallpaper, font, icons, theme, and even your always-on display screen at one glance. You can then dwell on each setting and change it to your preference. Most of the settings are the same/similar to how it was with ColorOS 11, but now, it feels a bit more organized. But that isn’t all — there’s one thing that makes ColorOS 12 stand out from ColorOS 11, and even from Android 12.

As mentioned above, Google’s version of wallpaper-based themeing isn’t open-sourced yet, but OPPO has taken an extra step to bring that feature to ColorOS 12. The company has baked in its own custom algorithm that works exactly (and sometimes better) than Google’s version. Under the “Colors” settings in the “Personalization” tab, you can pick how the operating system looks by choosing if the software should pick colors from pre-made options, or should it pick colors from the wallpaper you set.

ColorOS 12 wallpaper theming

What’s better than Google’s Android 12 wallpaper-themeing is that the OS allows you to pick colors from the wallpaper. In Android 12, it might happen that the operating system might not pick the color from the wallpaper that you want it to pick for the system theme. But with ColorOS 12, OPPO has added a functionality that allows you to customize wallpaper-themeing. Once you select “Wallpaper color picking” in the Colors tab, you can select 4 colors from your wallpaper that you would like to see throughout your system. It feels better than Google’s implementation as it gives you granular control over which colors the operating system should choose. You can also set it to choose colors automatically.

For now, Android 12 does not recognize OPPO’s themeing engine color scheme. So apps like Gmail and Calendar are set to their default color scheme, which is a very very light shade of blue. We’ve asked OPPO about the same and we’ll update you regarding this when we have a concrete answer. For now, the color scheme only applies to stock ColorOS 12 apps, and not Google Android 12 updated apps.

New Smart Sidebar

smart sidebar translate ColorOS 12

ColorOS has had the sidebar for quite some time now. It’s used to perform actions faster, such as launching frequently used apps, taking screenshots, and more. With ColorOS 12, Smart Sidebar has become even smarter. Thanks to Google Lens integration, you can now translate text displayed on-screen with just one tap. You can open any page you want to translate to a different language and then select this button to have the entire page translated.

AI System Booster

One of the problems of modern-day smartphones is that after a few years, it all seems to slow down. This is partly the fault of the internals as they become older, but a major reason as to why systems slow down over the course of a few years is that the storage becomes fragmented, meaning the storage isn’t used in a sequential manner. It makes searching for data difficult, thus slowing down the phone. With the new ‘AI System Booster’ in ColorOS 12, OPPO has implemented a system that purges these unfilled fragments and makes the storage work as new. OPPO says after boosting the system performance using the feature, a smartphone’s storage speed should be 97.5% same after three years as it was when it came fresh out of the factory. We haven’t tested it to the full extent, since we’ve only used ColorOS 12 for about 7 days, but OPPO seems pretty confident in its claims.

ColorOS 12 Hands-On: Conclusion

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I’ll be honest. I was looking forward to experiencing the Material You design on this big sheet of AMOLED glass, but OPPO hasn’t taken that route, yet.

Having said that, I’ve enjoyed using ColorOS 12 on my Find X3 Pro. Be it the ever-so-slightly tweaked UI, the new privacy features that I dearly missed on Android switching from iOS, or just the feeling of Android 12, ColorOS 12 has been a thoroughly pleasant experience for me. OPPO’s take on Android 12 makes me feel like I’m not using Android 12, since it doesn’t adopt any kind of Material You design language, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s an improved version of ColorOS 11 that makes me appreciate the different design languages companies have adopted — even though they’re based on the same Android codebase — and how expanded the user choice has become when it comes to choosing a phone by its software and UI.

Video Hands-on

What are your thoughts on ColorOS 12? Do you like its non-Material You design? Or do you prefer Google’s new Material You design? What features do you think Google should bring to stock Android? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!


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