The first Android 11 beta is here and Google dialed in some major changes to the way the Android 11 notifications drop-down shade works. Moreover, media controls have been updated, smart home controls have been relocated to the notification shade, and chat bubbles offer a new way to multitask between conversations.
The idea behind all the below changes is that of a “dedicated, persistent space,” says Google. According to user feedback, people want specific places in the user interface to take care of certain tasks. Thus, Google created a series of dedicated, persistent spaces in Android 11 to address these requests.
Let’s explore each of these just a bit.
Android 11 notifications: Priority conversations
Android 11 now prioritizes messaging conversations in the notification shade. A new section header for conversations appears at the top of the shade. It encompasses several changes so users can quickly see and respond to them
First, the message count indicator is bigger and more legible. Google says this will help people see how many unread messages are waiting in a given inbox. Similarly, sender and chat names are larger and easier to read. The primary action toggle is also now bigger and less of a pain to tap with your fingertip. Last, avatars are now in the front of each conversation. Not only are the avatars larger, it’s obvious when more than one recipient is part of a conversation.
In the action front, Google says it improved the functionality of a feature from Android 10. Long-pressing a conversation will mark it as important so it appears first, as well as breaks through Do Not Disturb. Users will now have a clearer idea of what’s going on when they take this particular action.
Developers will need to use the MessagingStyle API and add the shortcut ID to get this all to run smoothly. It applies to most messaging apps. The remainder of your notifications will lineup below conversations.
Google wants you to know that bubbles have graduated from a developer preview feature to a full, user-facing feature. As long as developers toggle the newest version of the BubbleMetadata API, users will be able to grab a conversation in which they are actively engaged and drag it to the home screen where a chat bubble will persist.
This feature is similar to Facebook’s chat heads for Messenger. The bubble floats on top of the phone display as a multitasking feature. Bubbles will automatically use the shortcut’s adaptive icon for resizing purposes. Tapping a bubble brings up a card with the conversation that overlays other apps.
Google says it will have more details for developers on this feature in the coming weeks. We weren’t able to get bubbles working on our devices yet, for what it’s worth.
Media playback controls
The Android 11 notifications shade reworks a dedicated, persistent space for all media players so end users can quickly control and even resume content.
Media controls now live in the shade as a persistent card no matter which app is running up front or what notifications have been received. Moreover, the media controls will always be available on the lock screen. New to Android 11 is an output picker, available from the notification shade, that allows people to send audio to headphones, a Bluetooth speaker, or the phone speaker.
Most importantly, Google says that as long as developers toggle the MediaBrowserService API, the media controls will persist even when media sessions are destroyed, or if the phone is rebooted. This means users can quickly jump right back to where they were in that two-hour podcast or playlist.
Smart home controls in the power menu
Last up in the Android 11 notifications shade is a whole new way to manage smart home and IoT devices. Google created a dedicated spot so users can quickly find and manage their home tech.
In order to do this, Google redesigned the entire power menu. People can choose the controls they want to end up in the power menu, complete with diverse providers, as well as devices, such as lights, printers, thermostats, and cameras. A long press opens the menu and then a quick tap toggles lights and other gear on/off as desired.
Google debuted a brand new set of APIs to handle this, called the Android.service.controls APIs. They are the first of Google’s Java 9 APIs and are meant specifically for device control providers. The idea is to give people a single spot for smart home stuff, outside of the Google Home app.