Google has just released the public beta version of Android 11, and for most of us, this will be our first opportunity to preview new changes in the operating system. The 1.72GB update is expected to make a lot of improvements in messaging, navigation, multitasking, and privacy, not to mention developer backend enhancements.
If you are willing to exchange a stable Android experience for a potentially problematic preview, and have Pixel 2 or later, you can sign up for the Beta version of the program and test it immediately.
But remember, if you change your mind after getting a preview and want to return to regular Android, the data will be erased.
Messaging with better organization and reminders
One of the most compelling updates on Android 11 is Bubbles, a bubble floating above all other applications on the screen, allowing you to open a messaging window anywhere. This is very similar to the chat header in Facebook Messenger, and any application that uses this API can access Bubbles.
Currently, the only application that uses Bubbles is Facebook Messenger. Strangely, it seems to support Android Messages is Google’s animated images, thereby demonstrating the new feature. But during my testing, Bubbles didn’t work at all.
Developers must enable Bubbles for you to start seeing more apps related to this. We have contacted Telegram and WhatsApp to find out if they plan to support this feature, and the latter declined to comment. Telegram has not yet responded, and Google said that Messages support is coming.
Whether you like Telegram, WhatsApp, Messages, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, or the many chat apps available today, staying ahead of everyone who tries to contact you can be resistance. Android 11 Beta has an area in the notification shadow, which merges all your messages, so you can handle the alerts that need to be answered, and then follow Instagram likes or Twitter hearts.
If you can’t reply immediately, you can also set a reminder for later use. I like to organize all the conversations neatly at the top, but some other things also take up space in the notification bar, such as media controls, which may make this no longer confusing like Marie Kondo-ing.
Suggested app bar and other minor adjustments
By better understanding, your operation, and providing more appropriate suggestions, the use of Android 11 will also be more intuitive. For example, keyboards and autocomplete applications will be able to “securely provide context-specific entities and strings” directly in the suggestion bar.
Except for the map pin of the restaurant you mentioned in the chat room or the Labrador GIF talking about the laboratory instead of the Corgi, it is not clear what this means. For users who mainly use voice control to interact with mobile phones, Android 11 will become more sensible.
It allows users to understand the content on the screen more wisely and generate labels for elements such as images or menus to simplify navigation.
None of these adjustments can be tested because developers must establish support for them in their applications. But I do have a chance to see the new application line recommended by Google.
When installing the preview, the Pixel app will prompt you to enable this feature. If you do this, a new row of icons will appear above the search bar and below the bottom row of existing apps on the home screen.
I haven’t tested Android Beta for so long, so it’s no surprise that the suggested app is not very useful. It initially showed content such as YouTube, Clock, Gmail, Tips, and Netflix, although after I installed the Google Home app, it replaced it with Netflix.
As far as the current situation is concerned, I’m not sure if I want to give up a row of space for apps that I don’t normally want to use. You can turn it off in “Settings”, but it will make a row of empty spaces on your homepage, which was not there before.
However, I do thank Android 11 for the new one-time permission option. When I install TikTok and have to grant the application access to my microphone and camera, I can choose “When using the application”, “Only once” or completely denied.
There are no longer settings that allow applications to always access, which is great. I am also very grateful for one-time permissions because I tend to install apps just to check if they work properly, and then forget to uninstall them.
This reassures me that rogue applications cannot access my location or microphone in the background.
Simplify device and media control
One of the spaces that may need to be occupied by the “Quick Settings” area above the notification list is the new persistent media player. In this Beta version, you must first enable the developer option and then enable the “Recovery Media” setting. If you don’t do this, the media controls will look the same as in Android 10.
After activating the function, a widget with a size of about 3×2 quick setting icons appeared, which provided buttons for play/pause, next and previous tracks. This is a smart way for Google to easily access these controls without taking up space in the alert list below, although it will not display album art like notification-based controls.
What impressed me was that by expanding to two channels and squeezing the original set of options to the right, Google retained the same six shortcuts (formerly single-line icons) in the Quick Settings panel. In this way, it managed to place the media widget on the left for more control. If you want to use a simpler interface, you can disable media recovery.
In Android 11, long-press the power button will pop up more settings. In addition to the same Google Pay shortcuts, emergency information, shutdown, and restart as before, this page will also display the device you are connected to.
I must make sure that the Google Home app is installed first, then all sync lights. My smart speaker, monitor, and the clock did not. Google said that not all devices are currently displayed on the Home app, and “we are working to add support for more devices.”
Each light has a separate tile, and the first tile of the grid controls all these tiles-if you want, you can rearrange this order. I have only connected about four devices, so this page is fairly easy to manage, but I think if more than eight or ten devices are connected, it will become awkward. Tap the “All Lights” tile once to turn them all to 8%.
Google to clarify how it works and will update it when we receive a response. However, I cannot find a way to add other settings, such as setting it to 8% and then setting it to 50%, so I may still rely on Google Home to set the preset lighting profile.
We have many unfinished changes, mainly because they are back-end features that require more testing. For example, things like better 5G support and resetting permissions after a long period of non-use will require more time than this quick hands-on operation.
Besides, more developers need to support some new features so that we can better understand their actual use.
Although the most compelling new features in Android 11 Beta are not groundbreaking, they can make the operating system more useful and better organized. It only needs more developer support.
Now, most people should skip this preview. Just wait for the stable version to be released, and we expect it to take place when Google is expected to launch the new Pixel flagship in October.