Developer preview gives an early first look at Android 11
New versions of Android and iOS don't suddenly appear any more – instead, they roll out slowly through previews, advance announcements and beta versions over the course of several months. Today, Google introduced us to Android 11 for the first time, through a developer preview.
A developer preview is exactly what it sounds like: an early testing version of the software intended primarily for anyone who's in the business of making apps. Those developers can use it to ensure their apps are functional and compatible with Android 11 when it arrives for real, which will be sometime during the third quarter of 2020.
Features usually come and go in the time between developer previews and a full release, but that being said, it does give us a few clues about what to expect in Android 11. Anyone with a Pixel 2, Pixel 3, Pixel 3a or Pixel 4 phone can install it for free, too, though you do so at your own risk – this is a very early version of the software, and pretty major bugs are to be expected.
With those caveats in mind, Android 11 has some interesting features to show off. For example, dark mode can be scheduled based on the time of day, and a built-in screen recorder is now included – two features iOS already has (Android 10 had a screen recorder in its early versions, but it disappeared before the final release).
Permissions are being tweaked, too, and can be granted on a one-time basis in Android 11 (in other words, you can let an app use something like your location temporarily, but the next time it needs it, it has to ask again). Meanwhile, it looks as though Pixel 4 phones will get a new Motion Sense gesture for pausing music.
Google says enhancements for 5G and foldable phones will be baked right into Android 11, matching two of the hottest mobile trends of 2020, and conversations in messaging apps are going to get their own section in the notification shade too. Android 11 is also going to expand on the idea of "bubbles," where chat notifications can pop up on screen while you're using other apps.
"With Android 11 we’re keeping our focus on helping users take advantage of the latest innovations, while continuing to keep privacy and security a top priority," writes Android's VP of Engineering Dave Burke. "We've added multiple new features to help users manage access to sensitive data and files, and we've hardened critical areas of the platform to keep the OS resilient and secure."
A lot of these changes are behind the scenes, and won't be all that visible to end users – although plenty more user-facing features are likely to be introduced in the coming months. If you want to experiment with the developer preview of Android 11, you have to get it from Google and install it manually. If you're not a developer though, we'd recommend waiting until the official release, or at least the public beta due in May.