Today, Google took the wraps off the new Android 11 Beta. Typically, the company uses Google I/O to show off its prominent new features, but it canceled that event this year. Instead, we’re getting a quieter launch, but Google packed the beta with new features for your notifications, conversations, and controls.
Over on its Android Developers blog, Google broke down the beta into three themes, people, controls, and privacy. Starting with the people there, it’s adding changes to existing features and embracing features from other apps.
Notifications will see a noticeable change. Google decided to expand the grouping organization already seen today by giving conversations a dedicated section in the notification shade. That includes the ability to set a specific discussion as priority, so it appears higher in your list of notifications. And from the shade, you’ll be able to launch bubbles.
If you use Facebook Messenger on Android, you’re already familiar with Bubbles. Google essentially took Facebook’s “chat heads” feature and made it an option for all messaging apps. Developers will have to update to support the new bubbles feature, but the company says that it shouldn’t be challenging to do.
You’ll also get consolidated keyboard access and Voice Access now “includes an on-device visual cortex that understands screen content and context, and generates labels and access points for accessibility commands.
Google’s focus on controls helps you get the most out of your smart home. With the Android 11 Beta, you can press and hold the power button to open Device Controls. You’ll get a Google Home-like control area to turn on and off your devices like smart bulbs.
New media controls make switching between audio sources easier, like the phone’s speakers or your headphones.
Finally, Google highlighted new privacy options found in the Android 11 Beta. With the update, you can give one-time permission to an app to use your microphone, camera, or location. The next time you open the app, it will have to ask again. If you don’t use an app for a long while, Android 11 will automatically reset the app’s permissions, so it has to request access again.
Last February, Google announced all developers needed to request approval to access background location data, the company is extending the deadline for existing apps to apply until 2021.
The Android 11 Beta is out today, and you can now download it from the Android developer site.