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Google starts Android 11 rollout - a taste of what's new

21 Sep 2020

Android 11 is now live – but if you don’t have one of the ‘selected’ OnePlus, OPPO, Pixel, Realme, or Xiaomi phones, you might be in for a bit of a wait.

While Android users play the waiting game (or at least, Android users with devices from manufacturers who still bother with OS upgrades), here’s what you can expect from Android 11.

Google is calling Android 11 “The OS that gets to what’s important”, which basically translates to putting the most valuable apps – like messaging, privacy, and accessibility – first.

Messaging

Messaging apps will have their own dedicated place within your notifications, where users can view, answer, and control messages. This will be in a ‘conversations’ section when you swipe down to access notifications on your screen. Users will also be able to pin priority conversations for easy access from notifications.

A feature called Bubbles allows users to pin conversations so they’re always on top of other apps. This means you can keep track of your chats and keep using other apps on your phone without switching back and forth between the two.

Device control

Next is more capabilities to control connected smart devices. A long press of the power button takes users to device control so you can turn control your smart home devices without opening separate apps. Google hasn’t said which devices this will work with, but we hope third party smart device providers will be included.

The music control system has been redesigned to allow quick switching between devices (for example, a phone and a Bluetooth speaker), and Android Auto on devices that run Android 11 will operate wirelessly on compatible vehicles.

Privacy

Another big feature is privacy, which Google has been refining and making more prominent on recent versions of Android. Android 11 is no exception.

Google Play system update modules will start delivering security and privacy fixes, similar to how Google Play updates apps, without having to go through operating system updates.

One-time permissions will allow for single-use access to things such as device location, camera, and microphone. This means apps don’t have ongoing permission to use these functions. They must ask for permission every time they want to access these device features.

Android 11 will also ‘auto-reset’ permissions for unused apps so that they don’t always have access to user data. Of course, users can grant permissions again the next time they use the app.

Android Enterprise

Android Enterprise users will also provide privacy protections that enable IT departments to manage devices without tracking personal profile data or activity on the device. Users will also get a notification if IT administrators have enabled location services on their work device.

Accessibility and usability

Accessibility updates include voice access with offline support, which enables people to control and use their phone through speech. Android 11 will also include a talkback braille keyboard, and new Lookout modes (Scan Document and Food Label) to help blind or low vision to get things done. Lookout also turns on the device’s torch.

Other usability enhancements include a built-in screen recorder (no need for third-party apps anymore!), smart folders, better call screening, picture-in-picture adjustment, ethernet tethering, and much more.

Google says more partners will launch and upgrade their devices over the coming months.