After Android Pie, Google changed its nomenclature from “sweet” things to numerical things. Thus, Android 10 that landed in 2019 was called, well, Android 10, and the next update should then be called Android 11. Even before we could compile and form our wishlist for Android 11, Google dropped the first Developer Preview of Android 11 in February 2020.
Like all other Android enthusiasts, we went ahead and flashed the DP1 on our Pixel 3 XL, used it for some time, and now we’re compiling and presenting all the major changes and updates we could spot in Android 11 DP1 in this roundup. Note that Developer Previews are meant more for developers than actual users, so any feature you see in these builds might not be present in the stable builds, and features you don’t see might make the cut.
Android 11 release date
Google tends to lift the covers off it’s yearly Android update at Google I/O every year. This year, I/O is scheduled to take place from May 12 to 14. Google’s keynote happens on the 1st day of I/O traditionally, so we’re expecting Google to launch Android 11 (Beta) and unveil its major features on the 12th of May, 2020.
After Google unveils Android 11 at I/O in May, brands will get their devices eligible for Android 11. Last year, the OnePlus 7T and 7T Pro were the first non-Pixel phones to come out of the box with Android 10, but it could be another brand this time around.
Android 11 supported devices
As has been the case forever, Google’s Pixel line of phones shall be the first in line to get the Android 11 update. The Developer Preview is now available for Pixel phones, except for the first generation Pixel. Sadly, the Essential PH-1, that got Android previews right after Pixel phones for the past couple of years, won’t be a part of the Android 11 Preview program this year as the company has ceased all operations.
What we know for sure is that all Google Phones, except the first-gen, shall get access to the beta and stable releases by the end of 2020. We’ll make another list of devices that’ll get the Android 11 update sooner or later. A list of devices from other brands shall be shortlisted for beta testing, shortly after the beta builds debut on the Pixel phones.
- Pixel 2 & Pixel 2 XL
- Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, and Pixel 3a
- Pixel 4, Pixel 4XL, and Pixel 4a
Ofcourse, the Pixel 5 series would debut with Android 11 out-of-the-box.
Major Android 11 features, changes & improvements
The first developer preview gave us a glimpse of some interesting features and changes. Here are the major features and changes we could spot and use in the first Developer Preview of Android 11:
Scheduled dark mode
Dark mode was among the most requested features, and it finally shipped in Android 10. However, we only had a soft-switch in the UI to toggle dark mode on-demand, but Android is now getting an option for scheduling dark mode. We can now set a custom time period or have Android switch to dark mode automatically according to your timezone’s sunset and sunrise times.
Android 10 brought a better app permission manager. When you’re in an app and it asked for sensitive permissions, like location, you could either grant the app the permission while you’re using the app or deny it altogether. In Android 11, the permission pop-up adds another option called “Only this time”, which grants one-time permission to the app. The next time the app requests permission, you get the pop-up again. This is a simple, but a large improvement in Android’s privacy and security aspect.
Chat head bubbles
You might have used Facebook Messenger’s chat heads, but we’re likely seeing chat heads expand to other messaging apps. Google has asked developers to make use of the Bubbles API, so we might see other messaging and chat apps use chat head bubbles for better and quicker conversations.
We saw a screen recording toggle in the Android 10 developer builds, but it never really worked, and it was omitted from the Android 10 stable builds. Well, on the DP1, it works. For now, the native screen recording records only the screen and not audio, which we’d like to see. Well, not see, but “hear”. Bad pun. Sorry. Anyways. we could see a working screen recording feature built natively in Android this time.
Edit: 18/03/2020: Developer Preview 2 flaunts a new Screen Recording UI that houses toggles to record microphone audio and show touches on the screen while recording.
Conversations in the notification shade
Conversational notifications will now get their own top-spot on the notification panel, with options to reply with text and media, straight from the notification panel. Non-conversational notifications will sit below the conversational ones. Again, small, but helpful change.
Edit: 18/03/2020: There’s a new ‘Manage Conversations’ setting in the just-released Developer Preview 2. It can be found inside Settings > Notifications > Conversations. It doesn’t seem to work for now, but it’s there.
This is more of a behind-the-scenes change that could improve privacy and speed. Google did test scoped storage with Android 10 developer builds last year, but it didn’t make the cut to the stable builds. Looks like it is finally ready for stable implementation. Scoped storage basically means apps and games will only have the permission to read and write data from/to their own separate folder on your phone’s storage. Presently, if you allow an app to access your storage, it can read and write to your entire storage partition. With scoped storage, the app shall get its own isolated folder where it stores and modifies its data.
Though some phones have this feature already but looks like Android is getting this feature built natively. This means your phones can pass juice to other phones. We’re expecting to see the upcoming Pixel 5 series to flaunt reverse charging.
With the full-screen gestures in Android, the back gesture was kinda hit or miss. With some apps still having that slide-from-edge menu panel, the back gesture had an interference. In the new update, there are slider options that you can use to tweak the sensitivity of the back gesture.
Not just this, Android 11 is also bringing some new contact-less gestures and improvements to the existing ones, but because we’re in India and we didn’t get the Project Soli-powered Pixel 4 phones, we couldn’t test it.
Improved support for curved displays
Curved displays do make devices look beautiful, but also make “space” for accidental touches. Android seems to address this issue with a new API that lets developers define screen-space for interaction, and avoid the curved parts while. Again, this is another behind-the-scenes implementation that we’ll see in action as devs implement the new API.
Pinning apps (again) in the share page
This feature already existed in previous versions of Android but was stripped to make the share menu faster. It is making a comeback, and it’ll let users pin the most-used apps that they use to share stuff. We don’t even know why it was scrapped earlier.
Airplane mode won’t turn off Bluetooth
Finally! Turning on the Airplane mode now wouldn’t turn on Bluetooth, letting to stay connected to your wearables and headphones while turning the network off. This was such a nuisance, but happy to report, it’s going for good.
Muted notifications while using the camera
Imagine recording a nice video with your camera and you get a notification that cruelly injects a notification tone into the recording. On Android 11, notifications are muted automatically while you’re using the camera.
Wireless ADB Debugging
This feature was added in the Developer Preview 2 of Android 11. We had USB debugging already, wireless debugging takes debugging a notch higher.
Other Android 11 features and changes we’re expecting in upcoming builds
There are some features that didn’t show up, or weren’t available for us to check in the first developer preview but are expected to be present in the upcoming builds. Here are some of them:
Another feature we’ve been requesting to have since forever. Android 11 presumably has a disabled “Screenshot UI” in the first dev preview. We’re expecting this feature to enable scrolling screenshots, which was later confirmed by Dave Bruke, who is one of the engineers for Android at Google.
What happens when you swipe a notification away? It’s gone. Well, we could see a new “notification history” option somewhere in the UI that should keep older notification logged. This also has been one of the many features Android users have been asking for a really long time, and we’re hearing that Android 11 brings it.
Edit: 18/03/2020: A new toggle named ‘Notification History’ is now available in Settings > Notifications (Developer Preview 2), and a ‘History’ option is also conveniently placed at the end of the notifications in the notification shade.
Android 11 is said to bring support and enhancements for the next-gen mobile network standard- 5G. Android has two new APIs for apps to check the network meteredness and bandwidth availability to allow for enhanced network usage. We’ll see these improvements in the upcoming builds.
Support and improvements for more screen types
With brands pushing and experimenting with foldable screens and various types of notches, Android 11 is said to bring enhancements and improvements for all the different screen types.
Touch sensitivity improvements
Google is said to implement touch sensitivity tweaks so that the touches are flawless and responsive all the time. Sometimes, screen guards and tempered glasses have an impact on the touch sensitivity, and that’s what Google shall be trying to fix.
Features we wish to see in Android 11 (or later Android versions)
Android is evolving and making itself better with each update, but there still is a lot of scope for improvement. We would like to see some features that would presumably make the Android experience even better:
Android Beam alternative
Android Beam allowed users to share files via NFC by just tapping two phones on their backs. However, Android Beam wasn’t present in Android 10, and we wish Google either brings it back or makes a better file sharing solution for the upcoming Android versions.
Better dark mode
Dark mode is awesome, but it still feels incomplete. Not all apps have a dark theme yet, and on some apps, dark mode is broken. On top of that, there isn’t a complete pitch-black mode yet. We wish Google continues to push improvements for dark mode going forward.
We’ve been waiting for this one for quite some time now. A rollback mechanism would let users roll back to a previous app or system build without uninstalling the app for flashing the device clean. This would be a bit tricky to implement, but if it’s done, it’ll be so much more convenient and useful.
That’s basically it. There’s a heap of other features we’d want to see in Android, but considering Android is evolving gradually, it’d only make sense for us to wish achievable things that would help every Android user out there. We’ll keep updating this post with more content when available.
Did you try Android 11? If yes, let us know what features you liked the most, and if not, still let us know what features you liked the most, ’cause you’ve read the features in this roundup already! What other features you’d want to see in Android 11? The comments section is all yours, light it up!