FYI: How to install the Android 11 Developer Preview right now

About a month earlier than anyone expected, Google launched the first developer preview for the next major version of Android, Android 11, today. Unfortunately, the phrase 'developer preview' isn't the same as the word 'beta', so the Android Beta Program isn't open for the new OS just yet.

As the name suggests, this is for developers, and it's not going to be very stable. Of course, early adopters can still get their hands on it, but you'll have to jump through a few hoops. With the Android Beta Program, it's as simple as enrolling your device and grabbing an OTA update; for a developer preview, you're going to have to flash an image on your phone.

It's not a simple procedure, but that's why we're here. Note that if you follow these instructions, it will delete all of the data on your phone.

Here's how you can get Android 11 on your phone right now:

Prerequisites

  • A Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a, Pixel 3a XL, Pixel 4, or Pixel 4 XL
  • The Android 11 image for your device, which can be downloaded here
  • Android platform-tools, which is most easily obtained by installing Android Studio
    • You may also need the Google USB driver, which can be obtained through the SDK Manager in Android Studio

Prepping your device

  1. Turn on Developer options on your Pixel by going to Settings -> About phone, and pressing the build number seven times
  2. Go to Settings -> System -> Developer options
  3. Turn on OEM unlocking, type your PIN, and agree to the dialog box warning
  4. Turn on USB debugging, and agree to the dialog box warning

Flashing the image

  1. Find the file path of the platform-tools folder
  2. Run CMD to open a Command Prompt
  3. Use a cd\ command to navigate to platform-tools (ex. cd\users\rwood\appdata\local\android\sdk\platform-tools)
  4. Run the command adb devices
  5. Agree to the warning on your phone, and check the box to trust your PC
  6. Run adb devices again, and make sure that your Pixel is listed
  7. Run adb reboot bootloader
  8. Run fastboot flashing unlock
  9. Use the volume keys on your phone to navigate through the fastboot menu, and press the power button to confirm that you want to unlock the bootloader
  10. Unzip the image that you downloaded earlier, and it will be easier if you just unzip it to the platform-tools folder, although it works from anywhere
  11. Use another cd\ command to navigate to where the image files are stored; if you unzipped them to platform-tools, you can skip this step
  12. Run flash-all

It should only take a few minutes, but your Pixel will eventually boot up with the Android 11 developer preview out-of-box-experience. Once that's done, it's recommended that you lock your bootloader again, for security purposes.

Locking the bootloader

  1. Run adb reboot bootloader
  2. Run fastboot flashing lock

That's it. You're free to enjoy Android 11. Google is going to have monthly updates for a while, so if this is too unstable for you, you can wait until March for the next one. Or, the Android Beta Program will start up in May.

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