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Android 11 beta 3 lands, requires users to opt-in to Exposure Notifications API

This will likely be the final beta update for Android 11. The next update should be a stable launch!

Published onAugust 6, 2020

Android 11 logo stock photo on smartphone 11
  • Google just launched Android 11 beta 3 for its line of Pixel phones.
  • This will very likely be the last beta update, with the next iteration of A11 expected to be a stable launch.
  • The most notable new feature of this version is the whitelisting of Google and Apple’s Exposure Notifications System.

Today, Google is pushing out Android 11 beta 3. This is the eighth official release of the platform overall and likely will be the last one before we see a stable launch.

If you own a Google Pixel smartphone (any except for the original Pixel and Pixel XL), you can feel free to give this third beta a shot. Aside from the eventual full release, this is the best and most stable version of Android 11 you can try. As such, you are likely safe to use this as a daily driver (but still use with caution).

Related: The most notable new Android 11 features we’ve found so far

Check out our guide on how to install the Android 11 beta 3 release on your Pixel phone here. If you just want to know what’s going on with this version, read on!

Android 11 beta 3: All-in on Exposure Notifications

02 COVID 19 Exposure Notifications Sample Public Health Authority App Positive Result Android

If you’ll remember, with the second Android 11 beta, we saw Google reach a new milestone known as Platform Stability. That means that the previous beta had all app-facing features and systems finalized. As such, there aren’t going to be too many user-facing changes in Android 11 beta 3.

The most notable change is that Google is essentially whitelisting the Exposure Notifications System in Android 11. This is the platform developed by both Google and Apple that allows official health organizations to create contact tracing applications for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Related: Google, Apple lay out strict rules for Exposure Notification API, no GPS data

Prior to this newest beta launch, Android 11 users would need to manually allow the Exposure Notifications System to access location services on their phones. With this third beta, though, Google is giving a notable and exclusive exception to the system and automatically switching that approval on. Google won’t be allowing this for any other app, API, or system.

This rolls back on Google’s previous assertion that location services control for the ENS would remain at the user’s discretion.

Wait, isn’t that a violation of privacy?

This all might alarm some of our readers who would say this is a security and privacy risk. However, the Exposure Notifications System was created in such a way that, even with access to location services, it can’t use Bluetooth scanning to infer your location. So even though forcing you to give location access to the API sounds scary, it’s just a necessity to make sure the API works as it’s supposed to. You can read more about what this means here.

Google’s reasoning behind this change is likely purely pragmatic: in order for the Exposure Notifications System to do the best job it can at finding COVID-19 cases and then helping to stop the spread, it needs to be active on as many devices as possible. Google has probably weighed user backlash to the decision against the possibility for it to save more lives and decided that whitelisting the API is worth it.

You can read more about the Exposure Notifications System within Android 11 beta 3 here.

So what’s next?

Android 11 logo stock photo on smartphone 3

Now that we have the third Android 11 beta, the next step is the most exciting one: the stable launch! As per its schedule, Google’s next launch of Android 11 should be a stable release for all Pixel phones from 2017 onward. This will likely happen in early September.

Shortly thereafter, we should see other OEMs push out Android 11 to their major flagships. We know OnePlus, Samsung, Xiaomi, and a few others are already working on their releases, so it shouldn’t be long before we see them land as stable.

In the meantime, catch yourself up on all the latest Android 11 features in our roundup here.

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