The beta for Android 11 is available for Pixel phones. So let’s talk about the new features of Android 11. Now, overall, Android is a mature operating system, which means that the fundamentals are really not going to change that much. There are a few new important features but the main thing here is that android already does a lot. And so a lot of the features aren’t necessarily about doing new things but to help you to do all of the things, that Android already does, easily. One of the biggest jobs that a mature operating system does is managing complexity. So, here’s a question, how well can Android 11 manage all the things that android already does?
So to start, every version of Android does something new with notifications. And we are not actually complaining about this because notifications are a huge source of complexity. And we much prefer the year-over-year changes that Google tries to make with Android to improve it than the way that Apple does things with the iPhone, which is to almost never change anything about notifications.
See, notifications went from a way for you to see your text messages into this nightmare, catch-all of everything. News, and media controls, and thirsty apps trying to urge you to re-engage with their content, and alerts that apps are using your background location. It’s just a lot. So, in Android 11, Google is separating out your notifications into three really clear and distinct sections with big, obvious labels. Conversations, Alerting notifications, and Silent notifications.
Chat Bubble for all conversation apps
The new section here is Conversations, which separates out the notifications from your chat apps into their own section at the top of all other notifications. The first thing is you can bubble those notifications, which turns them into bubble chat heads that sit on the top of other apps. You might have seen it in apps like Facebook Messenger, where there’s this head floating around, you will be able to put it wherever you want, you tap on it, and it opens up the conversation. That is going to be available to any chat app on Android. And by default, that’s just gonna show like the whole chat up inside little window, but developers can customize it if they want.
The other thing that the conversations let you do is you can long-press on them, and you can mark a person’s conversation inside a chat app as a priority. And what that means is they’re gonna be able to break through your do not disturb settings. And also when you look at your little notification tray at the top of your screen, you’re gonna see their face instead of just the icon for the app.
Google also took what used to be a really weird hacky thing and they made it official. You can enter into your Settings and find your Notification history. So in case, you accidentally dismiss a notification, you can go to Settings and find it again.
Media Playback Controls
So there is one other thing to talk about with notifications. We had our media playback control in our notification shade, and Google’s now moving that up into the quick settings. So it’s sort of part of the notification shade, but sort of not.
Power Button Menu
The next interaction zone that Google has beefed up for Android 11 is the power menu. It’s the thing that you get when you long-press the power sleep-wake button. It has your usual power options like before, Emergency, Power off, Restart.
There is a menu of other small features that you can access in your power button menu, but unfortunately, it’s hidden under a three-dot menu button. Underneath that, there are your Google Wallet passes, your bank cards and your boarding pass if you ever get to go on a plane again, got that? XD
What’s new is that Google is putting smart home control buttons underneath here. So it’s sort of like what the iPhone does with home controls and control center. But on Android, it’s in this power menu. This section is powered by the Google Home app. And that’s good because it’s one less thing that you have to set up. But, it does mean that different companies are gonna do different things with this power menu. So if you buy a Samsung phone, you could expect to see Samsung Pay and Samsung Smart Home controls in the section here.
Easify the Recent Screen (or you can call it Multitasking Screen)
There’s also the multitasking screen or you might call it the recent screen, and there are three new buttons on the bottom here. So if you tap Screenshot, it pulls a screenshot of the app that’s front most in multitasking. You can tap Select, and it’ll show you what text is selectable to directly copy in your clipboard. Or you can tap Share, and it’ll grab a screenshot of that frontmost app and bring up the Share sheet automatically.
Speaking of screenshots, when a screenshot is taken, it no longer goes into notifications, it creates this tiny interface down in the lower left-hand corner where you’ll be able to tap Share or Edit. It’s just like the way that the iPhone does it.
Android is getting strict with Permissions
So location permissions are becoming stricter in Android 11. From now on, apps will be able to ask for only three different kinds.
- One time
- While the app is open
- Or just straight-up Deny
That one-time thing is new and it’s something that the iPhone already has. Now, if an app really wants constant background permission, it needs to send you deep into Android settings where you turn on permanent access there. Also, if you hit deny multiple times when the app asks you for location permission, Android will just tell the app not to ask you again and it won’t be able to do it again.
Other features that can Hopefully make it to the final release
Well, we’ve seen a bunch of stuff in the betas that are hopefully gonna stick around, but there’s no guarantee.
- So, we are talking about screen recording. It’s here in the beta. It was in the beta last year and they removed it, but we hope it sticks around this year.
- We’ve also seen evidence of native scrolling screenshots that are gonna let you grab the entire web page.
- Airplane mode won’t disable Bluetooth if you don’t want it to.
- There’s still a picture in the picture, but now you can resize the video.
- Dark mode has better scheduling options.
- There are more icon styles for Pixels theming.
- Gboard is getting some updates for almost all Android phones, they’ve got more emoji kitchen fun little options, and it’s getting autofill.
There’s just a lot of little things. So these are the new features in Android 11. Or at least it’s all the stuff we can think to talk about. And if you just look at the bullet list of all of those features, you’ll see that it’s a lot of filling out the corners and adding new little bits here and there. But like we said, we think that Android is a mature operating system, so that makes sense. Beyond those new features though, what Android 11 is really about is making the stuff that you actually want to do, a little bit easier to find.
So, Did Google get to where it’s trying to go? Does Android 11 make sense, is it intuitive? Well, we have to wait until the final release of this software in the fall, because right now, it’s still a beta, and they’re Google, and they could totally move stuff around.
What do you think about Android 11, do you know any hidden feature that we missed in this topic? Tell us in the comments below. And don’t forget to share it with your Techy friends or tell them about the new features just to make them jealous ;).