Like clockwork, Google announces its next generation of Android every May.
This typically happens in person at Google I/O, its annual developer conference, but with Covid-19, that was switched to a series of online events and pushed into June. Android 11’s unveiling was then moved to last week, but Google made the right call to hold off and keep the focus on the protests around the country.
Android 11 is here now, and rather than a live stream, Google has revealed the features and released Beta 1 of Android 11. Beta 1 is out for a plethora of Pixel devices now.
As always, this is beta software and likely will have a few bugs. We would recommend putting it on a secondary device if you have one, and not the primary, although there are features that might tempt you.
There’s a new way to control connected devices — and not just Bluetooth ones to your phone, but the overarching smart home.
By long-pressing the power button, you will open a quick control panel. On-device controls like power and your digital wallet will appear on top, but there are smart home controls below, like the ability to lock or unlock a door and turn on a thermostat, among many others.
It seems like this new quick control menu will give you easy access to pertinent information as well. Notably, in the digital wallet, you’ll see credit and debit cards, along with boarding passes. This one-stop-shop can ensure you have everything you need for your travel, while also securing the house.
Additionally, there are updated media controls in quick settings.
These, of course, live in the notification bar and are easily accessible through a quick swipe down from the top of your Android phone. You’ll now get a clear view of what’s playing, its source, where it’s playing (i.e. Pixel Buds or the phone itself) and playback controls. By the look of it, this seems like an intuitive feature that will see a lot of use.
Like notifications on iOS, notifications on Android can be a lot to sift through from time-to-time. For instance, you may use Messages, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Signal on the same device. With that setup, you might be inundated with tons of notifications from messaging apps.
Well, Android 11 will attempt to help you clean these up by grouping them. This way, it takes up one bar instead of several.
Tapping on the Message notifications will expand to show you the separate ones. You can even tag specific conversations as a priority, so you don’t miss those. When marked as a priority, they will show up on your screen and can even be seen when Do Not Disturb is turned on. We’re excited to try this solution.
Also new with conversations are Bubbles, which are little profile pictures of who you’re messaging that live around your user interface. It’s similar to what Facebook Messenger uses, and lets you have quick access to an important conversation. Just promise us you won’t clutter your screen with Bubbles.
These are the big hitters of Android 11, but as with any software release, there is a focus on privacy.
A neat one is one-time permissions, which will be handy for when you want an app to have access to location, a microphone or a camera just for one session. You can grant this as you would any other permission, and when it expires, you’ll need to regrant that access. Additionally, Android will reset permissions if the app hasn’t been used for an extended period of time.
We’ve asked for how long that will be, and are awaiting a response. Even if it resets, Android will remember the previous permissions.
Android 11 seems stellar, and while it’s not the largest update we’ve seen, the features it delivers are nice. We’re excited about the new control panel that merges the smart home and digital wallet.
Plus, the new media controls will be handy. We’ll be going hands-on with the beta soon and we’ll report back on our first impressions.
If you have Pixel 2, 2 XL, 3, 3XL, 3a, 3a XL, 4 or 4 XL, you receive the first beta of Android 11 right now.
Remember, this is a beta and there will be bugs. We’d recommend installing it on a secondary device, and if you opt to install it on your main device, we suggest to back up your data.
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