After briefly mentioning a few new features in mistake, Google finally officially launched the Developer Preview version of Android 11 in February, giving an overview of the new features we can expect on our smartphones at the end of the year. Google has therefore taken a step ahead of its usual schedule for this first preview.
On March 18, 2020, the Developer Preview 2 was deployed, adding some new features to the list, before the DP3 in April which essentially brought new APIs for developers.
Scheduled for Google I / O in May, the first beta of Android 11 has been postponed, first due to the Covid-19, then protests following the death of George Floyd in the United States. It finally arrived on June 10, making some changes for the end-user.
Android 11 Features: What’s New
Android 11 brings a lot of changes that Google classifies into 4 categories, even if these concern developers more at the moment:
- privacy and security,
- updates and compatibility,
- and finally what you could call the refinement of the detail.
Note that these are the first new features announced by Google, but others may have been integrated into the system. We will add them as and when they are discovered.
Android 11 Features: 5G Experiences
With the advent of 5G, Google is preparing for some big changes, of course, made primarily by application developers. Android 11, therefore, includes new APIs (programming interfaces) allowing developers to estimate the bandwidth of the smartphone more simply and more precisely, and this dynamically. From DP2, it is also possible to recognize the type of network, and whether it is 5G New Radio or Non-Standalone.
The interest is to improve the reactivity of applications during streaming for example, for videos or cloud gaming. The interest does not stop there and can be found in many other applications, in mixed reality for example.
New Screen Types
After framing the notches in Android 9.0 Pie, Google is now looking at the new and more popular screen formats in 2020. The aim is to allow better integration of the eccentricities of manufacturers in the application ecosystem.
Thus, developers will be able to take more account of the “bubbles” of the pierced screens, but also the “waterfall” screens which extend on the sides. This could eventually allow more applications to take advantage of these often dead and more disturbing areas in the future than anything else.
New APIs are also calculating the screen tilt angle for foldable smartphones to create new uses for this promising new format. We can thus imagine applications that would adapt their interface if the screen is half folded, for example.
Finally, applications can manage the screen refresh rate themselves if necessary. This is a point that should be particularly important in games, to opt for better performance, greater fluidity, or more extended autonomy.
Contacts and Conversations
The conversations being a primordial point on a smartphone, Google wanted to put them back in the heart of Android 11. So we find in the notifications panel shortcuts to our current conversations, a messaging system in the form of bubbles, like Facebook Messenger (an element already seen in the beta of Android Q elsewhere). Finally, copy/paste in this notification area allows you to paste images that would have been copied beforehand.
Android 11 Features: Machine learning
Android 11 contains new APIs dedicated to machine learning to speed up its execution. Google promises that more is coming and that a close partnership is linked with different manufacturers and frameworks like TensorFlow to improve the integration of neural learning within applications.
Android 11 Features: Single permit
Like on iOS, Android 11 has a unique permission system. Instead of accepting or refusing sensitive permission, you can now accept it … only this time. Permission is then granted but should be requested again when the next need arises.
As with geolocation, apps that require microphone or camera access will need to request additional permission if they want to do so in the background. No more bad surprises!
Besides, all applications that have been unused for too long (the exact frequency is not specified by Google) will lose the authorizations granted and will have to request them again from the user.
Android 11 Features: Safer storage
With Android 10, Google had changed its management of the internal memory of the smartphone with the Scoped Storage. This effectively isolates the space made available for each application, with public and private data, thereby improving data security.
On Android 11, this system has been improved, in particular, to simplify its use by developers.
Android 11 Features: Security
The biometric system has been improved with Android 11 to be better integrated by different applications, with more flexibility for developers. Identification by fingerprint recognition or facial recognition should be facilitated.
Other elements have been improved to secure application data and help developers discover certain memory leaks that could lead to poor performance or security breaches.
Android 11 Features: Google Play updates
More and more elements of the system are now updated by Google Play. Android 11 goes from 10 to 22 modules thus updated via Google Play system updates. The goal is to simplify the update process for future releases, but also to further secure the system by locking down sensitive items and allowing them to be updated regardless of a full system update.
Android 11 Features: Application compatibility
Android 11 also gives developers more flexibility in terms of compatibility of applications with different versions of the system. Google has sought to “minimize behavioral changes that could affect applications” to avoid bugs when updating to Android 11. Many other resources have been made available to developers to facilitate testing and debugging.
The applications will have more connectivity possibilities, will be able to offer more information for call screening, facilitate the management of WiFi connections, receive more information on the quality of networks, etc.
Image and camera
A new API allows you to decode and create HEIF animations, saving a lot of space compared to GIFs. Other improvements have also been made to the decoding of JPEG, PNG, and WebP formats.
Camera applications can force silence the vibrator and calls, and recover metadata from the sensor for application if possible a bokeh, including video.
Android 11 Features: Low latency
Video latency and codec management have been improved to make streaming services like Google Stadia more efficient. Applications can also send a request to activate a “low latency” mode on an external monitor.
Transitions can now be synchronized with the interface, specifically the keyboard and system bars. If this may seem anecdotal as a novelty, the interface greatly gains in fluidity since these elements become much more integrated into the heart of the applications.
Keyboard animations in Android 11 DP2
Other small elements have also been incorporated into the updates, such as a slight zoom of the wallpaper when opening the notification panel. Subtle details that will not catch your eye, but that give the impression of better overall system cohesion.
Android 11 Features: Notifications are improving
In terms of notifications, the DP2 has brought a rather particular interface, with very marked sections with transparent boundaries. This is very special and it would be surprising given the first feedback that Google would keep this idea until the final version of Android 11.
However, two very good ideas are also in the game: the possibility of assigning an “important” status to a type of notification (for a given application and contact in particular), as well as a history of the last notifications received. Unfortunately, the latter only appears if you have notifications. Too bad if you deleted everything by mistake …
Android 11 Features: Screen video recording
Already available from many manufacturers or via third-party applications, the video screen capture is finally integrated natively on Android 11. To launch it, just click on the corresponding tile in the quick settings panel.
Android 11 Features: Improved Bluetooth with airplane mode
The airplane mode of Android 11 no longer cuts Bluetooth. With the widespread use of wireless headsets, this has become an important point for those who regularly travel. Now switching to airplane mode while listening to music is completely transparent.
New gesture with SOLI on the Pixel 4: Android 11 Features:
The radar detection system of Google Pixel 4 and 4 XL is improving a bit with Android 11. A new gesture has appeared in this Developer Preview, to pause the playback of a multimedia file.
To do this, you have to put the palm of your hand in front of the phone, with a back-and-forth motion, as if you were going to crush something on its screen. This method is not yet fully developed, however, and our tests have not been particularly successful.
The Pixel 4 is also getting better with a new option to limit facial recognition so that it only works with eyes open. An aberration that should have been fixed much earlier than with Android 11 DP2.
New Power Menu
Certainly, one of the biggest changes to Android 11 – which has basically overhauled some of the deeper mechanisms in the system – the Power Menu that appears when you hold down the power button has been completely redesigned. This gives access to the different payment cards saved in Google Pay, as well as to the various compatible home automation elements linked to your Google Home application.
Instead of the usual dock of 5 fixed applications at the bottom of the home screen, it is now possible, if desired, to have a selection of suggested applications depending on the place and time. From our first observations, the suggestions are quite consistent as long as the phone is not new (without usage history), but those who use a large number of applications may soon be limited.
Audio output management
The multimedia panel has also been redesigned to make it easier to choose the audio output. A button on the player allows you to quickly review the available outputs and thus to switch from the phone’s speakers to an external device such as a speaker or headphones.
Multimedia control on Android 11
For the moment, beta 1 is not as convincing at this level as on the image shown above by Google (the reader is higher, making it very difficult to access this option), but the passage of an exit to the other is effectively done easily.
Smartphones compatible with the Android 11 update
Android 11 is still in beta at the moment. Compatible smartphones are therefore reduced essentially to pixels, with the exception of the first generation. But that’s not all: the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro also have the right to it.
The following are therefore compatible with Android 11:
Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL;
Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL;
Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL;
Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL.
OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro
Google promises that more smartphones will follow “in the coming weeks.” Among the lucky ones, we already know that there will be devices from Xiaomi, Realme, and Oppo.
The launch date of the final version of Android 11 is expected in the third quarter of 2020.