Android 11 is finally here! Well, something like that. The update is already rolling out on Google Pixel phones and will be available on more devices in the coming weeks and months. Similar to recent Android OS updates, there aren’t any radical design changes or features that will completely change the way you use your phone, but there are plenty of minor improvements worth talking about.
In this list, we take a look at the top 11 features to look for when your device is updated. There are certainly more features overall – we’ve been tracking nearly 100 as of Beta 1 – but these are the highlights.
Android 11 moves all media playback controls from the notification panel just below the Quick Settings section. This means that tapping the Clear All button for notifications no longer clears the controls (usually when the media is paused). If you have active media controls for more than one app, you can scroll through them by swiping horizontally.
There’s an option to hide the controls after you’ve listened to something. However, it’s helpful to continue a podcast or playlist long after it was last paused without opening the app (or using a widget).
Aside from the new media controls, there are a few other changes to notifications in Android 11. For one, face-to-face conversations with people are now displayed at the top of your notification shadow to separate them from notifications of messages, purchases, or other things that aren’t that important.
According to Google’s own documentation, the section will be on “many phones,” not all. As a result, some manufacturers may choose to display it differently. Either way, apps need to be updated to let Android know which notifications are conversations.
Some conversations can also be turned into bubbles. These are floating circular buttons that maximize or minimize the chat in a floating window as you type. Some applications (like Facebook Messenger) have a similar feature for each version of Android, and some phone manufacturers have created custom versions of bubbles over the years. However, the new implementation is standardized and easy to use for apps.
It has been possible to record the screen on Android using third-party apps for years, but none of the apps have been able to access your device’s internal audio (at least without root or other system changes). Google planned for Android 10 to have a built-in recorder that would support audio recording, but it would eventually be carried over to Android 11.
You can access the new screen recorder by tapping the Screen Recording tile in Quick Settings. If you don’t see them on your device, hit the edit button in quick settings and drag the tile out of the hidden options. Once you have it, just tap on it to start recording.
The function is still a bit simplistic as you don’t get any options for video format / resolution or adding overlays (like with your front camera). Even so, it’s much better than not being able to record any audio at all. Hopefully, Google will keep adding additional features to it.
If you hold down the power button to only show the power options, Google has started expanding the scope with Android 10. Now a full-fledged page will appear after you press the button. The emergency, power, and restart buttons are still there, but they are now complemented by a control panel for smart home devices and a digital wallet.
Left: Android 11 on Pixel phone; Correct: A UI 3.0 beta on the Samsung phone
There is one major catch, however. Google doesn’t require other device manufacturers to use this feature, so it may not be present on all devices. The Android 11 beta for Samsung phones, known as One UI 3.0, doesn’t have the new Power menu at all.
Without a new emoji, it wouldn’t be a new version of a mobile operating system! Android 11 has 117 new emoji, all from the Unicode Emoji 13.0 set. Some of the new options include smiling face with tears, camouflaged face, pinched fingers, ninja, anatomically correct heart and lungs, bubble tea, and piñata.
New emoji for Android 11 (Source: Emojipedia)
Android 10 introduced many new gender-neutral emoji and new variations of previously gender-specific emoji (e.g., 🕺 Man Dancing was added after 💃 Woman Dancing), and Android 11 continues that trend. There’s both Man in Tuxedo and Woman in Tuxedo, a new generic People Hugging, both Woman Feeding Baby and Man Feeding Baby (plus a gender-neutral person feeding baby), and so on. We’re also finally seeing a transgender representation four years after adding the regular pride flag in 2016 as both the transgender flag and symbol are available.
Some of the redesigned emoji on Android 11 (Source: Emojipedia)
In addition to the new emoji, Google has also redrawn most of the existing emoji. Most of the symbols have added shading, changed outlines of people, and so on. The adorable 🐢 turtle that was replaced in Android Oreo returns triumphantly on Android 11. 🐧 Penguin is shaped more realistically. ❤️ Red heart no longer has a gradient and so on.
If you want to read about every single change, check out this Emojipedia blog post.
Android 10 introduced many permission changes in the name of privacy and security, such as: B. blocking access to the clipboard in the background and restricting device IDs. The company didn’t stop there. Android 11 allows you to temporarily grant some permissions so that the app loses access to it after closing it.
Apple added a similar feature in last year’s iOS 13 version. So it’s nice to see Google head in the same direction.
Android Auto typically requires your phone to be connected to a car with a USB cable. A wireless mode was introduced for some Pixel phones in 2018. Samsung devices were later added to the compatibility list, but now it’s standard on almost every phone running Android 11.
The only advantages are that your phone must support 5 GHz WiFi (which most devices currently have). If you are in the European Union, your device must meet additional regulatory requirements that some phone manufacturers may not address. In a similar context, Android Auto is generally buggy on Android 11 right now, but that’s not something that some Auto app updates can’t fix.
Ever curious about which apps on your phone are sending the most push notifications? Accidentally deleted a notification and not sure if you missed something important? In that case, you might like the new Android 11 notification history page.
The exact position of the page may vary depending on the device (on Pixel phones under “Settings”> “Notifications”). However, if you search for “Notification History” in the Settings app, it will come up. History tracking may not be turned on by default. Once enabled, you will see recently discharged alerts and a record of all notifications from the past 24 hours.
The new history screen lets you see which apps are bothering you the most, especially if you’re not already using the digital wellbeing features in Android 9 and 10.
Many smartphones now have displays of the curve around the edges of the phone, also known as “waterfall” displays. While they look nice, they can distort buttons and other controls that are usually on the edges of the screen, making them harder to type. Android 11 fixes this with an updated DisplayCutout API that tells apps which parts of the screen are at the edges.
This is an extension of the API, first introduced in Android 9 Pie, that allowed apps to bypass cutouts on the screen, mainly holes / notches for the front-facing camera. With the new functionality in Android 11, apps can ensure that they look great on any smartphone display.
The share sheet is also one of Android’s best and worst features – it makes sending content through apps as easy as a tap or two, but its design and performance have been problematic for a while. Google fixed most of the performance issues in Android 10, and Android 11 has a feature that creates the sharing sheet light nicer to use.
With Android 11, you can now pin your favorite apps to the top of the sharing sheet instead of looking for them in typical alphabetical order. However, this does not affect applications that use custom share sheets, such as: B. Google Photos.
I still wish there could be an option to turn off direct share recommendations as they are rarely useful to me and some manufacturers have implemented the option in their custom versions of Android. Maybe next year?
Google implemented a system-wide dark theme toggle in Android 10, but it lacked one important option – the ability to automatically turn on dark mode at sunset and turn it off in the morning. There have been apps that hacked a workaround, and Pixels got the feature earlier this year, but it’s now available to all devices in Android 11.
Toggling the dark theme in Android 11 has a new option to set a schedule. You can set your own custom start and end time or sunrise / sunset times for your location. It’s great when your phone goes into dark mode by itself.