Although the launch was delayed more than once, our first run at Google’s new Android 11 beta is finally here, giving a glimpse at some new features expected to roll out across compatible smartphones throughout the year.
And first thing’s first; while it’s available to download now, the current build is only available for Google Pixel phones generation 2 upwards. Surprisingly, the original Google Pixel is being cut out of that box.
Conversation Is Key
The grace feature of the new OS seems to revolve around the deluge of different messaging apps installed on smartphones around the world. WhatsApp and Facebook’s Messenger are the most common for most countries, but there’s plenty more, and Android 11 will pool all their notifications together in a dedicated “conversations” section.
This will include the ability to break specific chats into a pop-out “Bubble” so you can easily multitask, similar to what’s long been available for Messenger but now for other apps as well.
Easier Way to Manage Connections
In a nod to smartphones now doubling as remote controls for a range of smart devices, Google has included an easy-access “Control Hub”. It looks like this will be its own dedicated space for all your smart devices (lights, home appliances, security cameras) so you can have a more seamless experience automating the home.
A similar hub also exists to connected audio devices, like earphones and speakers. This will hopefully strip away the slight pain of constantly switching between apps to keep up with all your Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi devices.
Nuanced Privacy Changes
Perhaps most critical about Android 11’s new features is what’s going on with privacy and location data. Google is doubling down on the way it monitors the Apps on your phone and how you allow those Apps access to your personal data.
This includes a one-time permission option. As Android users would be familiar with by now, when an App is first installed the OS makes sure to ask how much allowance you want to give this specific program.
Do you want this App to have location access all of the time, or only while you’re using it. It was found that most people go with the latter, but now there’ll be the option to only allow the App access for a single session. After that session, there’ll be another prompt asking you if you want to grant it broader access and why that App might need it.
Android 11 will also remind you about an Apps level of access if you haven’t opened that program in a couple of months. So if an App has access to your location, mic, camera, storage or any other data, but it hasn’t been used for quite some time, the OS will send you a notification informing you that they’ve pulled that Apps permissions. You’ll have the option to reinstate permissions should you wish.
All Apps will also be given their own private storage area, so there’s less of a risk of a particularly nosy App interacting with your local storage. This should theoretically also limit the ability for certain Apps to “see” what other programs are installed on your phone. In cases where an App would need access to shared storage, it will need your explicit approval.
Should You Download It?
If you’re impatient and you really want to preview the new features, Pixel users can read how to download the current build here. Although do note that, even though we’ll probably have to wait a few months for the full version, beta versions can act up. The wisest choice would be to wait.
When Is It Coming to Other Phones?
Other Android phones such as Huawei, Samsung and Oppo will of course have to wait for some time until they get the new OS. Oppo users should be seeing the beta sooner rather than later, with the company’s signature ColorOS releasing an Android 11 Beta version later this month on the newly launched Find X2 Pro.