Google is only allowing some to downgrade from Android 13 to Android 12

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C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

TL;DR

  • Google has made it possible to downgrade from Android 13 to Android 12.
  • The downgrade option is available for the Pixel 6a, Pixel 6, and Pixel 6 Pro.
  • Only developers will be allowed to go back to Android 12 or 12L.

When Android 13 first started rolling out a few weeks ago, it was discovered that users wouldn’t be able to go back to Android 12 after updating. Now, Google is allowing some Pixel owners to go back to Android 12.

In a story we reported on earlier this month, it was found that Android 13 contained an update for its bootloader, enabling an anti-rollback counter. As a result, once you updated to Android 13, you were stuck with it. This is something that applied to all Pixel users, including developers.

While the move may appear a bit strict from an outside perspective, the point of enabling the anti-rollback counter was to prevent vulnerabilities from being exploited. However, despite it being a well-intentioned safety precaution, blocking developers from going back to Android 12 has caused some issues.

According to Android Central, Google is now correcting that mistake by releasing “Developer Support images” that will allow its Pixel 6 devices to safely downgrade to an image of Android 12 or 12L. Although these images are based on stable versions of Android 12 and 12L, these builds are only meant to be used by developers.

On Google’s developer site, the company explains Pixel 6 devices can be rolled back to an Android 12 Developer Support image, but can’t be rolled back to any other Android 12 images.

The search engine giant warns:

  • Developer Support builds are for developers only and aren’t suitable for general use.
  • Devices using developer support builds don’t receive OTA security updates like other devices, and Developer Support images aren’t rebuilt with the latest security fixes. Only an updated bootloader version is included, with its own security fixes and an incremented anti-rollback counter.
  • Developer Support builds aren’t Compatibility Test Suite (CTS)‑approved, but they have passed preliminary testing and provide a stable set of APIs for developers. Apps that depend on CTS-approved builds or use SafetyNet APIs might not work normally on Android 12 Developer Support builds.

Google also warns that, “flashing to a Developer Support build from a public build — or going back to a public build from a Developer Support build — requires a full device reset.”

If you’re a general user, none of this should have any impact on you since there aren’t really any reasons for you to downgrade. But allowing developers to go back to Android 12 will help those who need to do app development and testing.

In addition to anti-rollback, Android 13 introduced a variety of other security and privacy improvements. This includes notification permissions, the private photo picker feature, and more. To see the full list of features, check out our article on the biggest additions in Android 13.

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