The first Android 11 beta build was released by Google last week and it gives us a good look at all the new features the next major release of Android will bring to the table. While Google had released the first Developer Preview of Android 11 in February itself, a beta release means that the company has finalized on the feature set. Going forward, future beta releases of Android 11 are going to pack minor changes as the company will primarily focus on bug fixes and stability improvements and only make some changes that are necessary.
With Android 11, Google has focused on making communication easier, easily control connected devices and media playback, and made some other privacy-focused improvements. Below are all the major new features in Android 11 that you need to be aware of.
'Conversations' in the notification panel
Google is heavily focusing on making communication simple with Android 11. To make it easier to manage notifications from various chat apps, the company is moving conversation notifications from all messaging apps under the 'Conversations' area in the notification panel. This makes it easier to see all your ongoing conversations across various chat apps.
There's also the option of marking a conversation as a priority which will allow its notification to bypass Do Not Disturb and also show up on Always-on Display. Additionally, the status bar icon for that chat will turn to the recipient's display image instead of the app icon so that you can easily identify that you have a priority notification.
Bubbles is another conversation-focused feature in Android 11. If you have used the Messenger app from Facebook on your device, you will be aware of how chat heads come up on your screen for an active chat. You can move this chat head anywhere on the screen you wish to and they allow you to continue doing whatever you want to while still being able to bring up the chat window in just a tap. This is exactly what Bubbles does in Android 11. Google is basically making the chat heads feature available for all messaging apps with the next version of Android.
Granular privacy controls
Google introduced a new permission model in Android 10 and with Android 11, it is further building on it. Users will have the option of granting apps with sensitive permissions on a one-time basis. This includes camera, location, and microphone. The next time you launch any app and it requires any of the three permissions, it will have to ask you for it again. There's no option to grant apps with access to the location data in the background.
Additionally, if you don't use an app for a long time, all the permissions granted to it will be auto-reset. This means if you launch an app after a month or so, it will request you again for the necessary permissions.
Limited background location access
Google is going to make it more difficult for apps to use location data in the background and they will have to go through an approval process for this. The company will only give the necessary approval to apps whose core functionality will be affected without background location access.
To make the transition easier for developers, Google is not going to enforce this policy for existing apps until 2021. It will automatically start reviewing all apps on the Play Store and notify developers about it through the Play Console if it deems any changes are required. Eventually, all apps that require location data in the background will first have to be approved by Google before they can go live on the Play Store.
Revamped power menu
The power menu is getting a massive revamp as a part of Android 11. Instead of just showing the buttons to shut down or restart the device, it will now also provide one with quick access to their Google Pay cards as well as their smart home controls. Google has already introduced this feature on its Pixel phones with the third feature drop, but with Android 11, it will make the feature available for all devices.
New media controls
Google is moving the media controls in Android 11 from the notification panel to the Quick Settings panel. Additionally, you can now tap on the media controls to select the output device connected to your phone i.e. paired Bluetooth speakers or earbuds, any nearby Google Cast device, etc.
Google is finally adding a native screen recorder feature in Android 11. There's a tile in the Quick Settings panel using which one can start screen recording on their device. The feature also has the option to record audio from the device microphone and show the touches on the screen.
New screenshot preview UI
There is a new screenshot preview UI in Android 11 that's very similar to Apple's implementation on iPhones. After you take a screenshot, a floating preview of it will show up on the bottom left corner of the screen with buttons to quickly share or edit it.
You can now view your notification history on Android 11. Tucked under Settings -> Apps & notifications -> Notification history, you can get an overview of all your recent and snoozed notifications.
Do Not Disturb interruptions
Do Not Disturb in Android 11 will allow one to specify certain apps and contacts that can bypass the notification restrictions. There are granular controls for this, so you can set only your priority conversations to interrupt Do Not Disturb or all conversations, etc. You can also add only specific notifications from an app to bypass Do Not Disturb.
Better autofill suggestions
Autofill suggestions will now show up directly in the prediction bar of the keyboard you are using instead of showing up as a drop-down menu. This is similar to the new autofill UI that Google plans to roll out to Chrome for Android with its next major release.
Dark mode scheduling
Google introduced Dark mode in Android 10 and with Android 11, it is adding a scheduling feature to it. This will allow users to schedule Dark mode to automatically enable itself during a set time every day or from sunset to sunrise. The Dark mode scheduling feature is already a part of many other OEM skins like One UI and OxygenOS.
App suggestions on the home screen
The Pixel launcher in Android 10 had gained an app suggestions feature in the app drawer. Google is now bringing this functionality to the home screen in Android 11. The app suggestions are dynamic and will change depending on your usage and time of the day. The dock icons are filled with app suggestions, though if you don't like this functionality, Google is offering an option to turn it off as well. There is also an option of preventing certain apps from being suggested.
There are plenty of other minor changes and improvements in Android 11 that I have not mentioned above. This includes improved Priority notifications, improved Voice Access and Project Mainline, and more.
The final release of Android 11 is scheduled to release in Q3 this year and if you own a non-Pixel device, the update is going to take even longer to be available for your device. If you wish to, you can install the Android 11 beta on your Pixel by following this guide.