Android 11 features: Developer preview explored

The first developer preview of Android 11 dropped, which means we get a sneak peak at some of the new features Google has in store for us in its next version of smartphone software. 

Currently, it’s only available to download for a few Pixel phones, and it’s not a public beta. That means to install it you have to go through the process of wiping and flashing your phone.

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It does feel kinda cool and nerdy when you do it, but it’s really not worth trying if your Pixel is your primary phone. This is a developer preview, so treat as such for now. The public beta will be here in a few weeks, so just hold out until then.

So here’s a look at new features so far..

Message bubbles

When you receive a message through the regular messages app, you can have it show up a notification in a floating bubble on the screen similar to how Facebook Messenger’s Chat Heads works.

Eventually this will be available to other third party apps, but currently it’s just the one. To use it, just long-press a message notification and tap “show in a bubble”, and now you get your bubbles.

From this point on – until you remove the bubble from the screen – any new messages will popup up as a window from this bubble. We presume this same method will apply if and when developers for apps like WhatsApp and Telegram implement the capability in their apps. 

Screen recording

One cool new feature which some other Android phones already do – like the OnePlus 7 and 7T series phones – is easy screen recording. Drop down the quick setting shade, and the option is right there. 

Once you tap on the screen recording quick setting tile there’s a pop-up window asking you to confirm whether you want to definitely start recording. Once confirmed, it’ll record whatever you’re doing on your phone before you decide to stop and save the footage. You can also cancel the recording any time. 

‘Conversation’ notifications grouped

What’s cool is that Android 11 breaks out and sorts notifications into relevant groups, so conversations – like the aforementioned SMS messages – appear at the top in their own easy to read section, making it easier to quickly reply and carry on with your tasks. Splitting them away from the other stuff you probably don’t care about as much.

Dark mode scheduling

Dark Mode first appeared as a system wide setting on Android 10, and with Android 11 you can schedule and automated it. Set the time you want it to switch on or off each day manually by setting the time within the settings.

Like so many apps and other Android phones you can also choose to have it come on at sunset, and switch off at sunrise. 

Single time app permissions

Single time permissions is perhaps one of the biggest privacy based features. It lets you tell an app it can only access your location just that one time you’re using the app, rather having to choose between ‘all the time’, ‘only when I’m using it’ or ‘never’. It gives you a lot more control.

Pin apps to top of share sheet

Lastly in our list of things we can actually show you – is pinning apps to the top of your share sheet. If you regularly use the same few apps to share links or files to, you can have them right at the top of the pop-up share window, making them easier to get to.

Of course there are other changes. Pixel 4 users are getting new air gestures they can use to control the phone using the front facing Soli motion sensor chip.

There are also enhancements and better support for foldable displays and phones with different style notches and hole-punch cutouts as well as better 5G support that can tell when it’s appropriate to ramp up the quality of the video or music you’re streaming. As well as some other developer focussed changes.

There are other subtle changes, but a lot of what’s coming will be revealed at Google IO a little later this year, when we’re also expecting to see the public beta arrive.

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