Google has released the first beta of Android 11, which includes many new features, and privacy and performance improvements.
“We [previously] postponed our beta release of Android 11 so that people could focus on important discussions about racial justice,” Google vice president Dave Burke writes in a new post to the Google Blog. “Today’s release looks differently than originally planned. Instead of a livestream event, we’re sharing a few videos and online resources to consume at your own pace when the time is right for you. We humbly thank those who are able to offer feedback on this release at this time. Your feedback is essential in building a helpful mobile platform for billions of people, developers[,] and manufacturers around the world.”
Here’s what’s new:
Conversations area in the notification shade. Google is moving all conversations across multiple messaging apps to a new Conversations area in the notification shade that is separate from other notifications. “This makes it easy to see, respond to and manage your conversations all in one place,” Mr. Burke notes. “You can mark a conversation as priority to give it preference so you never miss an important message.”
Bubbles. This long-awaited feature helps you respond to important conversations without switching back and forth between what you’re doing and the messaging app. Instead, you can open a conversation bubble from the notification and multitask with the current app.
Gboard improvements. Google’s virtual keyboard is picking up secure and private automatic suggestions for emoji and text that work on-device and never transmit any information to Google.
Integrated smart device control. Now, you can long-press on your handset’s Power button to access a new smart device dashboard without having to navigating to multiple apps. This looks like Apple’s HomeKit to me.
New media controls. Now, you can easily switch the device your audio or video content is playing on via a button in the media app’s Now Playing notification.
Voice Access improvements. Those who control their phone by voice can now use an “on-device visual cortex” that understands screen content and context, and generates labels and access points for accessibility commands.
Privacy improvements. Android 11 provides more granular controls permissions, including one-time permissions and an auto-reset of granted permissions for apps that haven’t been used for a long time.
But wait there’s more. Android 11 Beta 1 also brings a screen recorder, updated Voice Access, improved performance, and an improved share menu, Google says.
Android 11 Beta 1 is available on Google Pixel handsets (Pixel 2 or newer) today, with support for other devices coming in the weeks ahead. In addition, Google is releasing Android Studio 4.1 Beta with support for Android 11 devices, plus new features for Kotlin, Jetpack, and the Google Play Console. You can learn more about the developer features here.