Android 11 Public Beta, New APIs Now Available

Google this week released the first public beta of Android 11. The build is available to developers and everyday Android fans alike and works on most Pixel phones. Together with a new version of Android Studio, developers can take advantage of the latest features in their apps.

Android 11 targets three main tentpoles: people, controls, and privacy. Here's how Google is addressing all three. 

First up, people. This tentpole covers usability, particularly where messaging is concerned. For example, conversation notifications now appear in a dedicated section of the drop-down shade. Moreover, the redesigned look and feel of such notifications make it easier to glean information and take action. Then there are Bubbles. Think about Facebook's Chat Heads and you get the idea. People will be able to favor a messaging conversation by placing it as a Bubble on the home screen. They can then jump back to that thread any time they need to without interrupting other apps. The Bubbles API handles this. Autofill apps and input method editors can take advantage of consolidated keyboard suggestions to offer context-specific strings directly to users. Last, the revised Voice Access feature allows people to entirely control their phone via voice. It can handle screen content and context and generates levels and access points for accessibility commands. This is huge. 

Next, the controls. The idea here is to make it simpler to handle smart devices, such as smart home gear. Fresh device controls make it quicker and simpler for people to access and control their connected stuff. A long press of the power button calls up an entirely rebuilt version of the power menu. Here people will find simple toggles for switching lights, cameras, and thermostats on or off. More information is available here. Similarly, new media controls are meant to improve the convenience of managing media playback, whether that be audio or video. A new output picker lets users select a speaker or TV to stream to. Details on how to enable this feature are found here.

Last of the major tentpoles, privacy. As always, Google seeks to give users more control over their personal information as well as their device security. For example, one-time permission lets users give apps access to items like the microphone a single time. Details here. Android 11 will auto-reset all runtime permissions if an app hasn't been used for a certain amount of time. Users will be notified when this happens. The app can ask for permission again. Learn more. Google is making one concession to developers. In February, Google said developers would have to abide by new rules on background location access this year. It has now extended the deadline for adhering to this policy until 2021

Making all of these new features available in your apps means you have to download Android Studio 4.1 beta or 4.2 Canary. According to Google, debugging is simpler, device testing is better, Machine Learning is easier, developers and build and deploy aster, and games are more powerful. 

All Pixel devices from the Pixel 2 series and up can download and install the Android 11 beta


Be sure to read the next Mobile article: Android Studio 4.1 Beta, 4.2 Canary Available