The Android operating system for 2020, called Android 11, launched on the Google Pixel smartphones in the summer of that year. Now it is on other phones like Samsung and OnePlus.
Android 11 is similar to Android 10. You might not notice many differences when you first start it up, but if you keep using it, you will see the difference. This is a guide to help you learn about the new features in this version of the operating system. You will find information about many new features that make this release the best yet.
This list doesn’t cover every new feature. There are also small updates and new features for developers, not just the general user. Here are some of the biggest changes on the site.
In Android 10, your notifications are all in a list that seems to be random. Certain apps get shown at the top of this list and other apps might not show up for a while. But there doesn’t seem to be any reason why they’re in this order. Notifications for things that are less important will be in the silent section. You won’t get a notification from them.
In Android 11, the system changes. There are three categories of notifications: Conversations, Alerting, and Silent. Conversations are where you can see what other people have said to you. Alerts are for things that need your attention right away. Silent means that the phone will not make any sound or vibrations If you are talking to someone else, including through text messages or chat apps, then it is direct communication. This also applies if you are talking to someone in the same app.
You can also choose to prioritize messages. This would mean that you can give a higher priority to messages from your mom than from your distant cousin. For example, you don’t want to miss notifications related to your important daily interactions. Make sure that you never miss anything.
Android 10 has new ways to help you control your phone. You can use the Alerting section to only get notifications from people you want to hear from. The Silent section will make sure no one disturbs you. Android 11 gives you more control over your notifications than the older versions.
We all have done it. A notification comes through and we swipe it away. Later, we think, “I shouldn’t have done that.” But then the notification is gone!
In Android 11, you can save all your notifications. You’ll have the option to save the ones from last 24 hours. If you accidentally swipe a notification, it will still show up. You can go to the running list and find it.
Unfortunately, this new notification history feature will not be on unless you go to Settings > Apps & notifications > Notifications > Notification history. Once there, tap “toggle on.” If you have notifications turned on for your account, you can see what they are. You will not start saving them until the feature is on. So if you turn it on and then go back to check, you will not find any notifications that were swiped away earlier in the day.
This Android 11 feature means that the phone will show you every notification. This includes notifications that never make it to your screen because they are silent or have a lot of other notifications going on at the same time. This is a good way to see which apps you don’t use much that are taking up system resources.
Chat bubbles in Android 11
Google designed the new Android 11 so that it is more about communication. The biggest new features are all about notifications, chat apps, and other systems that relate to conversations.
In Android 10, chat bubbles first appeared. The problem is that Google didn’t prioritize them and they were forgotten when the stable version of the operating system launched. But now, in Android 11, chat bubbles are back and they’re taking center stage.
If you have used Facebook Messenger on an Android phone, then you know the chat bubbles work. Messages will appear that overlap with your other apps. On your phone, if you tap the icon, you will start chatting. You can quickly minimize this window to make it an icon. When you are done with the conversation, you can remove the chat head, and then it will not appear until another conversation starts.
Many people have a chat app. This is a way to show what you are saying on the phone. It works with anyone, not just Messenger or other apps that have a similar design.
Android 11 screen recorder
There are many apps on the Google Play Store that will record your phone’s screen. There is a native screen recorder in Android 11, which may be late for the party, but it is still exciting. One less app you need to download!
The Screen Record function is in the Quick Settings tiles. Tap it and there will be a few options you can choose from. For example, you can decide if your screen taps should also be recorded or if your phone should capture audio too.
The whole thing is easy to use. If you need a more powerful screen recorder, you can always use your favorite third-party app. But for most people, this app should work just as well as that one would.
If you are playing music on your Android 10 phone, the media player will appear at the top of your notifications drawer. But in Android 11, that section is now for conversations instead. So the music player needed to move. Google moved the media controller to Quick Settings. This makes more sense because it is not a notification, but a tool or even a mini-app.
When you swipe down the notification drawer, the media controller will be small. It will show you which app it is related to and cover art, along with basic controls and information about what system it is playing on. If you pull down again on the drawer, the alert expands and shows more detailed information.
You can put your phone in a nice place. And you can do something with the sound, so it will be easier to go from one system to another. This is really great when you want to change your phone’s speaker for Bluetooth headphones.
Don’t want the player up there anymore? You can swipe it away just like you used to. You can also change Android 11’s settings so that the player automatically vanishes when you have stopped listening to music (or stay there all the time, it’s up to you!)!
Smart device controls
More and more people are using smart home tech. This is a new trend. To help, Google created a new section in Android 11 that lets you control your devices without needing to open an app. You can hold down the power button to launch the new tool. At the top, you’ll find the usual power features, but underneath, you’ll see a lot more options. There’s a Google Pay shortcut that allows you to quickly choose which payment method you want your next contactless transaction to use. Under that, you’ll see a bunch of buttons connected to your various smart home products.
Android 11 will automatically put some of your devices in this field. But you can add or remove devices if there are any that you do not want to use. If you choose one or more, then you can turn on or off the lights, check your security cameras, and unlock your front door with them. You don’t need to open it.
Some company’s phones still have the usual power buttons. Samsung is one of those companies. Other companies are moving the controls to other parts of the phone’s operating system. Google pretty much abandoned this feature in Android 12, so enjoy it while you can!
One-time permissions and auto-reset
Some people say that Google has not been doing a good job of making sure that their users’ privacy and security. Android 11 changed this and now gives people more control over these things than before.
The star feature of this new initiative is one-time permissions. When you first install an app, Android 10 will ask you if you want to grant the app permissions all the time, only when you’re using the app, or not at all. This was a big step forward, but Android 11 gives the user even more control by allowing them to give permissions only for that specific session.
If a user gives permission for the session, once they close the app, Android will revoke that permission. If a user wants to grant permission every time they use the app, that option is still there. It will make it more difficult for people to collect the information you do not want them to have.
Similarly, Android 11 will now “auto-reset” apps you haven’t used in a while. If you granted location data permissions to an app that you haven’t opened up in a long time, Android will now revoke all permissions. Next time you open the app, you’ll need to approve those permissions again. If you never open the app, though, your data is safe.
Dark theme scheduling
Google has a new feature called dark mode. It is a good thing for people who like the dark. Other companies have something similar to this, but Google’s option is very limited. With Android 11, users can now schedule the dark theme using one of two different metrics. You can schedule a dark theme to turn on or off when the sun sets or rises. You can also set up a custom schedule for dark mode activation if you wish.
Google gave Pixel phones running Android 10 the sunset/sunrise setting earlier this year. It also brought the timing feature to all phones running Android 11.
Android 11 updates via Play Store
Each year, Google releases the latest Android. Every month, they release the newest security patch. The update comes to your phone from either your carrier or equipment manufacturer. Some phones get these updates quickly while others take much longer or not at all.
To counteract this, Android 11 gives more power related to updates over to the Google Play Store. This allows Google to bypass carriers and OEMs entirely and push out updates to everyone. Of course, it still can’t issue the latest version of Android in this fashion or even the latest security patches. However, it can fix some security holes with this method and even update specific aspects of the Android system, too.
Every time Google updates Android, it will keep the phone safer. If the company that made your phone doesn’t update it, Google will do what it can to protect you. This is good because if you have the newest update on your phone, then you are more safe and up-to-date.
App suggestions (Android 11 for Pixels only)
This feature is really cool, but it can only work on Pixel phones. It might be possible to use the same feature with other phones, but the phone needs a Pixel Launcher to work.
If you own a Pixel device running Android 11, you can now let Google’s AI smarts control the apps that appear in your dock. Android will use various factors to determine which five apps it thinks should be in your dock at any given time of day. The apps will constantly change, with the end goal being that the app you’ll want to open will be at the ready even before you know you want to open it.
Android 11 allows you to tell the phone not to download apps. You can turn this feature off if you want. It is a new and interesting thing with Android 11, and it might make your life easier too!
App-pinning to the share sheet
At one point, even one of the top leads of Android admitted that Android’s sharing system was a mess. Thankfully, it’s gotten a lot better over the past year and is more useful than ever with Android 11.
You can now pin apps to your share sheet in order to easily access them whenever you want to share something. In the image above, you can see the option to pin Chrome’s printing feature to the share sheet or even pin Chrome’s ability to send URLs to other devices.
This feature allows you, the user, to control which apps appear at the top of the list when you want to share something. Android’s current system of presenting apps in an order that it determines is confusing and makes power users pretty frustrated, so this is a welcome change!
Wireless Android Auto
Android Auto is an amazing system that you should try. It may be annoying, but the only requirement for this system is to have your phone plugged in. Some phones can do wireless communication with Android Auto and some phones cannot.
Thankfully, in Android 11, every smartphone running the operating system can take advantage of wireless Android Auto connections. The only limitation will be that the head unit in your car will need to support the feature. Obviously, this will still be a hefty limitation for folks who own cars that are a few years old, but it will start the transition towards every Android Auto experience eventually being totally wireless.
Voice Access becomes more context-aware
Users with mobility impairments have a nifty feature within Android called Voice Access. By turning this on, you can simply tell your Android phone what to do using the power of Google Assistant.
With Android 10, though, certain functions required you to voice-activate numbered on-screen elements. For example, you would say “Tap 4” while using the Twitter app to compose a new tweet (every link on the page would have a small number next to it). Now, though, you could say, “Open Twitter, compose a tweet,” making your interactions with the phone much more fluid and natural.
This is only helpful for a minority of users, but it shows how Google takes the issue of accessibility with Android very seriously.
Privacy for Enterprise users
If you use an Android phone provided by your company, it is probably part of the Android Enterprise program. That means that the company can monitor what you do on it and change things.
However, this usually pushes people to carry a separate phone for their personal use. With Android 11, though, you can have a personal profile and a work profile, with neither one having any effect on the other. This will allow users to swap from their work profile to their personal profile with confidence that their company’s IT department isn’t monitoring what they do there.
Some people might want to keep a phone on them at all times. This new feature might change that, but not everyone will be convinced.