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Android 11 Features: The biggest changes we know about so far

Google took most people by surprise when it released the first Developer Preview of Android 11 in February − significantly earlier than expected. As its name suggests, this software is an early build that’s intended for use by developers only, and since then, developer previews 2, 3 and 4 have also been released. The test software given us a sneak peek at the upcoming Android 11 features that could launch later this year − here’s a rundown including a look at when it might be released.

Android 11 release schedule

Google initially said that there would be three Android 11 developer previews, with the first Android 11 beta for non-developers to try out to follow in May.

However, due to the spread of coronavirus, the company has had to change many of its plans. It has cancelled Google I/O, its annual conference of developers, and decided to roll out four Android 11 developer previews.

android 11 timeline

The first of three Android 11 beta was then set to be announced on June 3, however Google delayed this again. We’re now a little in the dark about the true release schedule, even if it does appear some users are already seeing the first beta hit their devices.

As for a full release, this usually comes around the same time as Google announces its flagship handset for the year. We expect to see the Pixel 5 around October, likely a few months after the long-awaited Pixel 4a gets its official release.

What new features are in Android 11?

Dark mode scheduling

Android 10 introduced a system-wide Dark Mode, but if you don’t want to have it enabled all the time, Android 11 may allow you to set Dark Mode to switch on and off automatically at specific times of the day. For instance, it could turn on automatically at sunset, and disable itself at sunrise.

Scrolling screenshots

Scrolling screenshots let you capture much more of a page than what’s visible on your screen, and the functionality could finally come to stock Android with Android 11. Dave Burke, Android’s vice president of engineering, last year said that the feature was in the pipeline, and it looks like he’s kept his promise.

Related: Best Android phones

Screen recording

Android 11 could finally allow you to easily record what’s on your screen too. The feature will be accessible in the Quick Settings menu, and once you’ve started a recording you’ll see options to pause, stop, cancel and Chromecast the recording.

Colourful quick settings

The Quick Settings menu could get a splash of colour in Android 11. Usually the icons switch between grey and blue, but you may soon be able to mix and match with yellows, reds and greens too.

Distinct chat notifications

Messages could sit separately from other notifications in Android 11’s notification shade, and you might even be able to reply to a message with a picture directly from a notification, instead of having to dive into the app first.

Chat bubbles

We had been expecting Chat Bubbles to launch with Android 10, but that didn’t happen, and it’s looking like the feature will arrive with Android 11 instead.

By long-pressing a message notification, you’ll be able to open the conversation in a miniature floating bubble that will be overlaid on top of everything else on your screen, in a similar manner to Facebook Messenger’s floating heads. You’ll be able to move chat bubbles around too.

Muted alerts during camera use

With Android 11, your phone could automatically mute notification sounds and vibrations while you’re using the camera app, which means you’ll no longer be able to blame your friends for shaky video footage.

Related: Best camera phones

Better motion senses

The Pixel 4’s gesture controls failed to convince, but Google looks set to enhance them in Android 11. There’ll be a new pause gesture that works when you tap the air in front of your phone, and Android Police reports that the entire gesture controls system is being improved, and will work a lot more smoothly.

Double-tap functionality

There’s a new “double-tap” gesture in the works for Android 11 too. By tapping the back of your phone twice, you’ll be able to control a wide range of features. Here’s the list of choices, according to XDA Developers:

  • Dismiss timer
  • Launch camera
  • Launch Google Assistant
  • Play/pause media
  • Collapse status bar
  • Silence incoming phone calls
  • Snooze alarms
  • Unpin notifications
  • Perform a “user selected action”

Improved gesture navigation

Android’s fiddly gesture navigation system is set for some tweaks too, and Android 11 could let you increase or decrease the sensitivity of certain controls, like the back gesture, in order to make it easier to use.

Tools to improve 5G bandwidth and metering

Google is also getting ready for the influx of 5G phones in 2020, with tools to improve 5G bandwidth and metering. Android 11 will check if you have an unlimited 5G tariff and will boost the resolution of video in order to make sure you’re getting the best viewing experience possible.

Related: Best smartphone

Refresh rate viewer

Whether fixed or variable, higher screen refresh rates are becoming increasing common on smartphones, and Android 11 could give you the option to view your display’s refresh rate all the time. The number, most likely either 60Hz, 90Hz or 120Hz, will appear in the top-left corner of the screen.

New permission options

Last but absolutely not least, Android 11 will introduce a few new permission options, to help you keep on top of the data you’re sharing.

When you first fire up an app, you’ll have the option to grant it certain permissions on a one-time-only basis. That will appear alongside ‘While using the app’ and ‘Deny’. Only apps that can justify it to Google will be able to offer you the ‘Allow access all the time’ option that currently appears in Android 10.

Apps will also be required to support Scoped Storage.

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