The other day, Michael pointed out a new feature in Android 12 that I didn’t realize was there. It’s a small change that makes a huge difference in my daily use and now that I know it is there, I lean into it with great regularity. What is it? Glad you asked. The small, important feature we’re looking at in this post is the ability for Android 12 to seamlessly move from one audio source to the next with a delicious cross-fade.
Before we move on, if you aren’t aware, a cross-fade is simply a technique used in audio that simultaneously turns down one source of audio while increasing the volume of another. It’s great for a variety of things, but in this case it simply makes Android 12 feel more polished and complete than versions that have come before.
You’ve likely experienced the lack of this feature if you’ve ever been listening to music on your phone and switched over to check out a YouTube video or TikTok. In older versions of Android, the current music would stop abruptly as the new audio crashed in with no warning whatsoever. It was jarring and felt unfinished. The new way Android handles this is anything but, and once you experience it, you won’t want to go back.
Before going on, I’d encourage you to pull up some music, start the track, and then start playing a video. If you are on Android 12, listen to the smooth fade from one source to another and take in how smooth and enjoyable it is to hear audio move from one thing to another so effortlessly. It really is nice!
Not on Chromebooks. Yet.
If you do have a phone with Android 12 and need a refresher of what it sounds like pre-12, open up your Chromebook and start a video. Then, open YouTube Music (or something like it) and start that playback. Assuming the apps you are using are the type that stop playback when another media source begins, you’ll hear the abrupt jump from one to another. Again, it just feels a bit unfinished and raw versus the smooth and clean audio transitions now in Android 12. While we don’t have a lead on this feature coming to Chromebooks, I’m hoping that the arrival of Android 12L in 2022 might come with this update.
It’s worth noting that for Android, it seems the only apps that get this cross-fade treatment are those that also support background playback. So, apps like YouTube, YouTube TV, YouTube Music, Netflix, etc. will all hand off audio in this cross-faded way. With Chrome OS, there are lots of web apps that technically support background playback because – well – they are simply web apps. This means you can have audio for multiple things playing at one time if you want. However, almost all audio playing on your Chromebook routes through the Media Hub, so there’s a chance that Google could add some mute functionality in that hub to let you smoothly switch between audio sources on the fly.
With this feature on the way for Android apps on Chromebooks (we’d assume, anyway) with Android 12L around the corner, it would be awesome to see Google extend this ability to all media on Chromebooks across the board. I know it’s a small thing, but Chrome OS is getting to the point where small things matter and people coming over from Windows or Mac OS are going to be on the lookout for these more fleshed-out creature comforts. Adding this small tweak could be a great move in that direction.