How to install the Android 12 Developer Preview on your Google Pixel smartphone

March 4, 2021 | Android Tutorial | Lex

It’s that time of year again! The first Developer Preview build of Android 12 is now available for supported devices starting today. This won’t give you the full Android 12 experience as it’s still very much a work-in-progress, but for lucky owners of the Google Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a, Pixel 3a XL, Pixel 4, Pixel 4 XL, Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G, or Pixel 5, you’ll be among the first users to see what new OS update has to offer.

If you have any of the aforementioned Pixel smartphone running stable Android 11 and wondering how you can install Android 12, just scroll down as we have a tutorial ready for you. Since Google will not be providing regular OTAs in case of developer previews, the update can only be installed via manually flashing OTA files or factory images. It means you will need a PC/Mac with ADB and Fastboot installed to successfully execute the installation process, once you have downloaded the relevant Android 12 Developer Preview files.

Warning: The updates are intended for developers only, so don’t install them on your daily-driver. These builds are early releases and contain bugs and other system instabilities. Even if the flashing process doesn’t necessarily wipe your device, it is highly recommended that you back up your data before proceeding. Users are advised to exercise caution.


Method 1: Sideload Android 12 Developer Preview via Recovery and ADB

To install the Developer Preview builds, you need to sideload the appropriate OTA package for your device from Recovery through ADB. This method will also work for devices with a locked bootloader.

  1. Download the update .zip file on your computer from here. For convenience, you can rename this file to a simpler name and place the file in the directory where ADB is located on your computer.
  2. Optional but recommended: Verify the SHA-256 checksum of the file you have downloaded to ensure that the file has been downloaded completely and correctly.
  3. Enable USB Debugging on your phone — Go to Settings > About Phone > Tap “Build Number” 7 times, (optionally) enter your pattern, PIN or password to enable Developer Options, and then navigate to Settings > Developer Options > Enable “USB Debugging”.
  4. Connect your phone to your computer. Authorize your computer connection on your phone when the prompt comes up on your phone, if this is the first time you are connecting with this ADB computer.
  5. On your computer, run the command:
    adb reboot recovery
  6. Your phone should now be in Recovery mode.
  7. On your phone, select the option “Apply Update from ADB”
  8. On your computer, run the command:
    adb devices

    This should return a device serial with the “sideload” next to its name, indicating that your device is connected to the computer in sideload mode.

  9. On your computer, run the command:
    adb sideload "filename".zip

    Where “filename” is to be replaced with the name of the file downloaded in Step 1

  10. The update should install on your phone. Once the installation is complete, choose “Reboot system now” on your phone to reboot into Android 12.

Method 2: Flashing full Factory Image via Fastboot

If you have an unlocked bootloader, you need to flash the full factory image of the Android 12 Developer Preview via Fastboot. Usually, this is done through a flash-all.sh or flash-all.bat script file that is included in the downloaded file, but its default configuration also wipes the device completely. You can, however, retain your data by deleting the “-w” wipe attribute from the command within the script.

  1. Download the factory image .zip file on your computer from here.
  2. Optional but recommended: Verify the SHA-256 checksum of the file you have downloaded to ensure that the file has been downloaded completely and correctly.
  3. Extract the .zip file, and copy and paste the resultant files onto your ADB and fastboot folder on your computer for convenience.
  4. Optional: The resultant files would contain a flash-all.sh or flash-all.bat script file. Using a text editor, open the flash-all.sh if you’re on macOS/Linux or the flash-all.bat script file if you’re on Windows. Find and remove/delete the -w flag in the fastboot update command. This will skip the data wipe for your phone. To avoid compatibility issues, a data wipe is recommended though.
  5. Enable USB Debugging on your phone — Go to Settings > About Phone > Tap “Build Number” 7 times, (optionally) enter your pattern, PIN or password to enable Developer Options, and then navigate to Settings > Developer Options > Enable “USB Debugging”.
  6. Connect your phone to your computer. Authorize your computer connection on your phone when the prompt comes up on your phone, if this is the first time you are connecting with this ADB computer.
  7. On your computer, run:
    adb reboot bootloader

    This will reboot your phone into Fastboot mode.

  8. On your Mac/Linux PC, run:
    flash-all

    This command executes the flash-all.sh script file, which will then install the necessary bootloader, baseband firmware, and operating system. If you are on Windows, you can simply double click the flash-all.bat file.

  9. Once the script finishes, your device will reboot into the new OS.
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