Through the Public Beta it's possible to get a good look at some of the new features coming to Android, which it says are based on People, Controls and Privacy.
We've found Android 11 to be largely focused on the areas of notifications and conversations, and privacy and permissions, but in the latest version we've also enjoyed improved voice access and the addition of media controls in the notification drop-down.
This Public Beta follows three Developer Previews that have arrived since Android 11's initial announcement back in February. Many of the changes we had seen previously were cosmetic, with some changes to how wallpapers are selected and larger notification preference windows, for example. Google had also added new 5G and network APIs, some feature improvements for foldable devices, and various tweaks to technical processes that run in the background.
When is Android 11 coming out?
In the timeline, while Google has only officially committed to a Q3 2020 release, a since-pulled video from Google that served as part of its "Hey Google" Smart Home Summit on 8 July featured a slide that clearly stated "September 8th Android 11 Launch", as spotted by Android Central.
Related: How to get Android 11 right now
Previous Android OS release dates
Android 5 Lollipop
- First Beta: 25 June 2014
- Full Consumer Release: 12 November 2014
Android 6 Marshmallow
- First Beta: 28 May 2015
- Final Consumer Release: 5 October 2015
Android 7 Nougat
- First Beta: 9 March 2016
- Public Beta (Beta 3): 18 May 2016, with updates on 15 June and 18 July
- Final Consumer Release: 22 August 2016
Android 8 Oreo
- Developer Preview: 21 March 2017
- Public Beta: 17 May 2017, with updates on 8 June and 24 July
- Final Consumer Release: 21 August 2017
Android 9 Pie
- Developer Preview: 7 March 2018
- Public Beta: 8 May 2018, with updates on 6 June, 2 July and 25 July
- Final Consumer Release: 6 August 2018
- Developer Preview: 13 March 2019
- Public Beta (Beta 3): 7 May 2019, with updates on 5 June, 10 July and 7 August
- Final Consumer Release: 3 September 2019
- Developer Preview 1: 19 February 2020
- Developer Preview 2: 18 March 2020
- Developer Preview 3: 23 April 2020
- Public Beta 1: 10 June 2020
- Public Beta 2: June/July 2020
- Public Beta 3 (Release Candidate Build): Q3 2020
- Final Consumer Release: Q3 2020
When can I get Android 11?
Although the Public Beta is out now, it is currently available only to owners of Pixel 2/2 XL/3/3 XL/3a/3a XL/4/4 XL phones. We expect it to roll out to more devices imminently and, as a guide, in 2019 you were able to install the Android 10 beta on 21 devices, including select models from OnePlus, Xiaomi, Asus, Huawei, Sony, Nokia, Oppo, LG, Essential, Vivo and Realme.
To enrol in the Public Beta visit Google's sign-up page.
Following this we expect a final release for Android 11 in late-July/early-August 2020, but do note that unless you are running a Google Pixel, Android One or one of the beta-supported phones it is unlikely that you will get the update immediately. Although phone makers have been much better at rolling out updates in recent years, older and cheaper phones almost certainly won't make the cut.
The time taken to roll out updates and the fact some devices will never get the upgrade at all has meant that Android has long been criticised for still having users running older, less secure platforms.
What will Android 11 be called?
Quite simply, Android 11. Gone are the days we used to have great fun guessing after which sweet treat Google would name its latest Android update.
Since the first Android OS was released the naming system followed two rules: it must be in alphabetical order; and it must be a tasty treat.
Fact is Google was always going to have a problem when it got to 'Q' in 2019, with Android 10 Quiche not having quite the same ring to it as Android 8 Oreo or Android 5 Lollipop. And, let's face it, Google had already struggled with Android Nougat in 2016, reaching out to the public for help in naming its next OS and then settling on a word half its customers couldn't even pronounce, and then in 2018 struggling to come up with anything more tempting than a pie for the letter P.
You might see some tech sites referring to the next instalment of Android as Android R over the next few months as we approach release, and though it would be much easier to find an appropriate name for this, we can't see Google overturning last year's decision to desert the desserts. A great shame.
Here are the previous Android OS names:
- Android 1.6 Donut
- Android 2.0 Eclair
- Android 2.2 Froyo
- Android 2.3 Gingerbread
- Android 3 Honeycomb
- Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich
- Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
- Android 4.4 KitKat
- Android 5 Lollipop
- Android 6 Marshmallow
- Android 7 Nougat
- Android 8 Oreo
- Android 9 Pie
- Android 10
What are the new features in Android 11?
New conversations features
One of the highlights of Android 11 is Bubbles, which sounds very much like a feature borrowed from Facebook Messenger, keeping conversations in view onscreen until you dismiss them. As you await a friend's next reply you'll be able to more easily get on with other things, without forgetting all about the ongoing chat.
The notifications drop-down menu is also getting a bit of a revamp, first with a new dedicated Conversations section, which makes it easier to continue chatting with friends, and second with the ability to copy and paste images into replies right within the notification. You can long-press to promote a conversation to a bubble, create a home screen shortcut for the conversation, silence or snooze notifications for the conversation, and mark a conversation as very important.
Android 11 will be able to offer a post call screen to add a caller to contacts or mark a call as spam.
Muted notifications during video recording
Android 11 will be able to turn off vibration alerts for ringtones, alarms and notifications while the camera is operating. Other image and camera improvements include HEIF animated drawtables, a native image decoder and the ability for apps to access a camera's bokeh mode for video and stills.
Existing Android users will be familiar with pop-ups that require their permission for an app to do a certain thing, such as access their location. Having last year added the ability to grant permissions only while the app is open, in Android 11 Google takes this up a gear with the ability to grant that permission on that occasion only. In other words, they will be asked for their permission every single time.
Enhanced 5G support
Google is updating its connectivity APIs to take fuller advantage of the faster speeds of 5G. In particular, the Dynamic meteredness API can check whether you're on an unmetered tariff and deliver higher-resolution and higher-quality content as appropriate, while the Bandwidth estimator API makes it easier to obtain download and upload speed data without needing to measure the network or the device.
Support for new screen types
Pinhole (where the selfie camera is housed in a small punch-hole cutout in the display) and waterfall (where the screens curve around the phone's frame) screens are already catered for in existing APIs but without full functionality. New APIs will allow waterfall screens to use the entire display, including the edges, with insets used to avoid complicating any interaction at the edges.
Little detail was given on exactly what this means, but Google claims it has continued its work to "better protect app and user data on external storage, and made further improvements to help developers migrate more easily".
Power menu smart home controls
Long-pressing on the power key currently presents you with the ability to turn off or restart your device, as well as access to the emergency button. In Android 11 you also gain access to your smartphone controls - as set up within Google Home.
With Android 11 Google will reach even more devices with monthly security updates, and builds more protections into the platform. It specifically calls out enhanced APIs for: biometrics, now reaching more devices and supporting three levels of granularity for authenticator types; platform hardening, expanding its use of compiler-based santisers in security-critical components; secure storage and sharing of data, through the BlobstoreManager; and identity credentials, adding support for secure storage and retrieval of verifiable ID documents.
- Neural Networks API that assists in intensive machine learning operations on Android devices
- Increased investment in Google Play System Updates to improve security, privacy and consistency
- New processes that prioritise app compatibility to make updates faster and smoother
- Lower-latency video decoding and HDMI low-latency mode
Not all Android 11 devices will have all the release's features
One caveat to what Android 11 brings to the table - as spotted by XDA Developers - is that not every new feature is a compulsory addition that OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), such Samsung or Oppo, will have to embrace.
The new device control settings power menu shortcut, the notifications conversations feature and the need to store documents such as drivers licenses on-device will all be optional extras.
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