The very first Android 11 Developer Preview landed in the middle of February. Today, we saw the second preview land as DP2. Together, these provide us our first look at the next version of Android, which won’t land in a stable form until the third quarter of the year.
Before we get into all the details, it’s interesting to note that both of these Developer Previews landed quite early. In years past, DPs usually only started in March, so we’re about a month ahead. The reasoning behind this move likely has to do with just how developer-focused Android 11 is at the moment. Most of the changes within the system are not user-facing but could have a dramatic impact on existing and upcoming Android apps.
As such, installing Android 11 on your own phone right now might not be too worth it. There will be a lot of bugs and most of the new features you won’t even see. Though, there are a few new user-facing features like a native screen recorder, chat bubbles, a notification history, and more.
Without further ado, here are all the changes and new features we’ve found so far.
New Android 11 features
- Native screen recording: Google has been toying around with adding a built-in screen recorder to Android, and Android 11 pretty much confirms the feature will launch this year. You could use the screen recorder in the first Android 11 preview but it is much more refined in DP2.
- Muting notifications during video: Don’t you hate when you’re filming your dog or your kid and you get a notification? That’s super annoying. Android 11 will let you mute notifications while you’re recording video.
- Increase touch sensitivity: Those who use screen protectors will love this feature. Google added an “increase touch sensitivity” option to the settings menu that lets you, well, increase the sensitivity of your touchscreen. If you use a screen protector, this should result in fewer missed taps and scrolls.
- Notification History: Android doesn’t make it easy for you to see previously dismissed notifications, with Android 10’s Notification Log basically hidden for users. Android 11 DP1 hinted at a Notification History option and DP2 basically confirmed it. The new feature looks like it will be pretty useful.
Updated or revamped features
- More granular back gesture tweaking: The back gesture can be a little frustrating at times, as you perform a similar gesture to activate hamburger menus. Fortunately, Android 11 has two sliders to let you control the sensitivity of the back gesture — one for the left side of the screen and one for the right. This is a welcome change from the single sensitivity slider in Android 10.
- Airplane mode doesn’t kill Bluetooth: Previously, turning on airplane mode would also kill Bluetooth on your phone, which doesn’t make much sense. People who use airplane mode might have Bluetooth headphones connected, resulting in having to turn on Bluetooth again. In Android 11, Bluetooth stays on when airplane mode is activated.
- Pixel Themes gets clock tweaks: In the Pixel theming section of Settings, you will likely be able to customize how your clock looks on the AOD and lock screen. However, in DP2, there is only one clock option available.
- New Motion Sense option for Pixel 4: We’ve been complaining for a few months that Google seems to be neglecting Motion Sense on the Pixel 4. In Android 11, the company is adding a new way to control your phone without touching it. In Android 11, you can tap the air above the phone to pause your music.
- Pixel 4 Face Unlock will require you to open your eyes: Speaking of the Pixel 4, it looks like Android 11 will offer users the ability to require their eyes be open for Face Unlock to work. This might make unlocks less efficient, but it will certainly make your phone more secure.
- App pinning in the share menu: Android used to let you pin your most frequently used apps to the share sheet, but that option was removed in Android 10. Now it’s back.
- Enhanced notification shade conversations: When you get a text, you can see the most recent message in your notification shade under a new Conversations tab. Not only will you be able to see more of the thread but you’ll also have richer ways to compose messages, including a way to send picture messages right from the notification. Notifications will also look a lot more organized thanks to a revamp of how they look.
- Conversation bubbles: This was actually a feature Google launched in Android 10. However, Google is including it within its own wrap-up of Android 11 features, which leads us to believe Google is going to push harder for this to be adopted by more developers and OEMs.
- Context-aware dark mode: The system-wide dark mode launched with Android 10 will get a “new” trick with Android 11: the ability to automatically activate or deactivate depending on the time of day. As spotted by Android Police, this is actually a feature OEMs such as Samsung have already integrated on their own, but now it will be baked right into Android.
- Enhanced one-time permissions: You know how in Android 10 you can tell apps to grab your location, microphone, or camera data only while the app is open? Now, the OS can let you approve those permissions just a single time and will revoke the permission later.
Features Android 11 hints at
- Scrolling screenshots could be coming: It’s not active in the first Android 11 Developer Preview, but it looks like Google will finally bring scrolling screenshot support to Android!
- Reverse wireless charging for Pixel 5? In Android 11’s settings, you’ll find a feature called Battery Share. This could mean Google is prepping reverse wireless charging for the Pixel 5.
- Multi-colored Quick Settings icons: Through some ADB commands, it turns out you can change the colors of individual Quick Settings icons. This could just be a weird aspect of Android 11 or it could be a sign that Google is testing a UI-based way for users to do this.
- Revamped power menu: It’s possible Android 11 will have a wildly revamped power menu which could even include app shortcuts. The feature is not confirmed but is there in Android’s code if you go looking for it.
- Better support for curved/waterfall displays: Curved screens look great, but they can often be a little annoying to use. This is because apps and things like keyboards spill over the edges, making it tough to interact with these elements. Now, Google is offering an API (similar to the notch/cutout API), letting developers specify the interactive area of a screen.
- New technologies: Android 11 is going to be much better when it comes to working with new technologies, including 5G, foldable displays, and low-latency video decoding for game streaming services such as Google Stadia. There will also be better call screening support, deeper integration of image formats such as HEIF, and support for Google’s own neural networks API.
- Scoped storage: In the interest of better security, apps will now only have access to certain parts of your filesystem. This will essentially “silo” apps to better protect your private data. This is a huge change for Android and is causing quite a stir in the development community. Google acknowledges those issues in its blog post on Android 11, saying it will give more time to developers to fully transition to the new system.
- Enhancements for Project Mainline: Android 10 introduced the ability to update parts of Android right through the Play Store. Android 11 will take this even further by allowing even more parts of Android to get updates without needing to send out a full OTA.
- 5G state API: Developers can now quickly check whether a user is currently connected on a 5G New Radio or Non-Standalone network.
- Call screening service improvements: Google is adding new APIs to let call-screening apps do more to keep calls from bugging users. These apps will now be able to report a call rejection reason, as well as see if a call is being made to or from a number in the user’s contacts.
- Synchronized IME transitions: Google is introducing a new set of APIs that let you sync your app’s content with the onscreen keyboard and system bars as they animate on and offscreen. This will hopefully allow devs to create more natural, intuitive, and “jank-free” IME transitions.
- Variable refresh rate: In Android 11, apps and games can now set a preferred frame rate for each window. On devices with variable refresh rates, the system will now use the app’s preferred frame rate to choose the best refresh rate for the app. You can read more about this new API here.
- Resume on reboot: Scheduled overnight OTA software updates can be a tricky thing, but Android 11 is improving the process. In Developer Preview 2, resume on reboot will let applications access Credential Encrypted (CE) storage after the OTA reboot without the user needing to unlock the device first. This means apps can resume normal functionality and receive messages right away.
Keep in mind there are tons of other updates out there that are far more technical in nature that the general user will never see. However, many new features will likely pop up in future Developer Previews between now and the stable launch of Android 11. Stay tuned!