Android 11 is here, well kind of. It's in developer preview, and the final version will be available later this year. But we already know many of the features that are coming to Android 11. Remember that starting with Android 10 in 2019, Google decided to drop the dessert names, so Android 11 is simply that. No dessert this time around, unfortunately.
And this is your full run down of everything that is new in Android 11. We will be updating this throughout the year as new developer previews roll out with new features. Leading up to the stable build, which is expected in Q3 of 2020.
Visual Changes In Android 11
One of the biggest changes to Android 11 is the notification overhaul. Google is adding a new notification group for "Conversations". So those notifications from WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Slack, etc, will end up there. And it gets priority over other notification types.
Google is also changing the way the settings look for some settings for the notification logs. As well as testing a feature that Google had back in Android 4.x days and got rid of. That's splitting the quick settings from the notifications. This is just a test right now, and may not actually be available in the final build of Android 11.
Notifications also get a slightly changed look. Adding more padding, which means that there are now more gaps between labeled notification types. This is going to make them easier to read in the long run.
Changes to Do Not Disturb Menu
Google is also making some changes to the Do Not Disturb Menu. It's getting reorganized.
It is being reorganized around three types of notifications. Which include People, Apps, and Alarms and other sources.
Google seems to always make changes to the Do Not Disturb menu with each release of Android. So this doesn't come as a surprise, but it should make the feature more granular.
Changes to the Always-On Display Clock Style
With the Always-on Display Clock, you can now customize the style, in the "styles & wallpaper" settings in the menu.
This is going to be similar to how you can change the font, quick settings colors and icon shape in Android 10. Just another addition to that "styles & wallpaper" setting on the home screen. And there will be an option to make the quick settings multi-colored, as seen below.
Visual changes to the screenshot interface
Google has also changed the screenshot interface with Android 11. It looks really clean now.
Essentially, when you take a screenshot (it's still Power + Volume Down), it will show the screenshot in the left-hand corner and a ribbon coming out of it. Which has Share and Edit buttons. There is also a big X on the screenshot, which you can use to close or dismiss it. It look pretty good and final, but we could see some more changes coming to it before the stable release hits.
Privacy & Security Changes in Android 11
There's only a handful of changes, so far to the privacy and security section of Android 11. Considering Google has made many changes to this section in recent versions of Android, there's likely not much to change here.
With Android 11, you can give temporary and one-time app permissions to apps. This is an extension of the feature it rolled out in Android 10 for location permissions, where some apps could be given the "only when open" option instead of "allow". With Android 11, you'll get an "Only this time" option, so you can choose when each app gets permission for different things like storage, phone calls, location, etc.
Google is bringing back Scoped Storage in Android 11. This is going to make things slower, but it will make things more secure. It was first introduced with Android Q last year, but it is officially launching with Android 11. And developers are going to hate it – in fact they already do.
If you repeatedly deny permission requests, they will now be blocked. Basically, if you deny permission twice, the app is blocked from requesting that permission again.
Finally, there is no more background location access. Google will allow some apps to get an exemption here, but it is telling developers to stop requesting continuous location access. This means that apps can't gather data in the background, only when it is open and running.
New Features in Android 11
Now that we've gone over everything that has changed in Android 11, it's now time to talk about the cool toys that Google is giving us in Android 11. And there's a lot.
There's a trashcan in Android 11
In Android 11 Beta 1, Google introduced the trashcan, which apps can use to throw away files without actually deleting them. This is going to give you 30 days to change your mind or recover them before they are really gone. Similar to a trashcan on your laptop or desktop computer.
Files app gains ability to access other storage sources
The Google Files app, available on the Play Store has gained the ability to access storage sources in other apps. Like Dropbox or Google Drive. This puts it more in line with the AOSP file manager app. And it's not really an Android 11 feature, but it is new with Android 11.
Screen recording is finally available
With Android Q previews last year, a built-in screen recorder was uncovered, but Google ultimately disabled it and removed it before the final version of Android 10 came out. Now, it's back in Android 11, and while it's still buggy, it should hopefully make it to the final release.
Google even updated the interface on the screen recorder between developer preview 1 and 2. There is a Quick Settings toggle to start and stop screen recording. This is a feature that iOS has had for a few years now, so it's good to see it coming to Android finally.
Power Menu gets more useful
The power menu is also getting more useful in Android 11. Now when you hold down on the power button, you'll see the usual options for restarting, powering off, etc at the top. Followed by Google Pay cards – which is actually part a feature drop for the Pixel lineup a few months ago. And at the bottom you'll see Device Controls. This will allow you to control your smart home devices as well as other Bluetooth accessories. So you can easily turn your smart light bulbs on and off, and so forth.
The Google Home app already supports the API for this. So you may see many of your smart home devices appear here.
New screenshot interface
In Android 11, there is also a new screenshot interface. So now when you press power and volume down together, you will take a screenshot as normal. The screenshot will appear in the lower left-hand corner, with an option to share or edit and then a "x" at the top to dismiss it. It's the same options that we've always had, but now it's down in the corner instead of in the notification shade.
It's a big UI change, but the actual functionality has not changed at all.
More useful media controls
On top of new smart home device controls in Android 11, Google is also giving us some new media controls. Which is going to make it quick and convenient to switch the device your audio or videos are playing on. Which means that it's going to be easier to bring your music with you from your TV, to your speakers or even your headphones.
Bubbles for all messaging apps
Surprisingly, Google is stealing a feature from Facebook Messenger. It's bringing Bubbles to Android finally – after teasing it for the past few releases.
With Bubbles, you are going to be able to reply to your messages without leaving the app you're currently in. It works just like Facebook Messenger's Chat Heads, but across all messaging apps.
In the first beta, the Bubble notifications got some more settings. But there are not settings for the Bubbles notifications in each apps' settings. So you can set your details on a per-conversation basis.
Messages will soon support Bubbles on Android 11. Currently, only Facebook Messenger and Telegram support it.
Other smaller features in Android 11
These are smaller features that don't need a lot of explaining. Like the new refresh rate overlay in developer options. This looks a lot like Fraps, and can be very useful for developers that are working on apps or games.
Google has added a new context-aware Bluetooth airplane mode. Basically the way this is going to work is, if you are playing music over Bluetooth headphones (like many of us do on flights) and you toggle on Airplane Mode, Bluetooth won't turn off. It's a very simple feature, but one that is desperately needed.
And Bubble Notifications are back. After being teased in Android 11.
Some other features that we may or may not get in Android 11
In this section, we are listing features that might or might not be coming in Android 11. Essentially, these are features that were found in tearing down the code in Android 11, to see what's new. This doesn't necessarily mean that they are coming to Android 11, and could be coming in a later version of Android. So take this all with a grain of salt.
Battery Share has been detailed in Android 11. But this is likely going to be part of the Pixel 5. Since there needs to be hardware support for this feature too. But if Google does make this available in Android, it means more smartphones can do reverse wireless charging.
There's a new hidden feature inside Android 11, that creates a new double-tap gesture. This is supposedly going to be customizable for a handful of features. This is a feature that needs a lot of work, and could be taken out and re-added with Android 12 next year.
There is also indications in the teardown that there might be system-level support for call recording within third-party dialer apps.
Finally, there is some details in the code for Developer Preview 2 that might suggest that you can do simultaneous audio playback from multiple output devices in Android 11. Of course, there is nothing user-facing here, which is why we put it in this category.
Android 11 Changes for Developers
Not everything new in Android 11 are user-facing features. Some are geared towards developers, which help make Android the platform it is today.
First up, Google is adding better support for "waterfall" displays. This was supposed to be a big trend in 2020 and beyond, so good on Google for supporting it right off the bat. By adding in new APIs for developers to use to build better apps for these phones.
Developers that are using non-public APIs are going to need to double-check their apps to make sure their apps are still working in Android 11. As Google is getting more restrictive starting with Android 11.
Google is giving users support for "soft" reboots. It's not really that fast right now, but with Android 11, it will be.
There will also be a built-in app compatibility tester, which will give developers better tools to test platform changes. Developers can also disable them to see how they might interact with apps.
And finally, wireless ADB is here. If you don't know what ADB is, then this isn't going to matter to you. But Android 11 brings in proper wireless debugging with code and QR-based pairing.
With many smartphone makers giving us different cut out sizes for the cameras on their smartphones lately, Google decided to add more cut out options for developers. So there is the Punch Hole and Waterfall cutout in the settings. Much like the notch cutout options we saw in Android P.
Finally, Google is giving developers more time to fix their app for Android 11. There will be an extra "platform stability milestone". This means that the final SDK and APIs will be available in June. And Google is also noting that apps won't need to be updated to support Android 11 until the end of 2021. This means that developers are going to be able to take their time and make sure their apps are updated properly. Instead of rushing to get everything out.
Android 11 Timeline
Google did four developer previews, and then launched the first public beta in early June. We expect to have two more beta releases before the final release in Q3. We should see the final release in late-August/early-September. Which is the time-frame we got the stable build for Android 9 and 10.
We will be updating this post as we progress on the Android 11 timeline, with new features too.