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Android 11 developer preview out early – here are the key new features

Google has surprisingly released the first developer preview for this year’s Android 11 update, but right now it’s only available for devs. 

The launch of the first preview comes way ahead of schedule and is designed for developers with a Pixel 2 phone and up (sorry original Pixel owners).

Right now, there isn’t a huge amount of news in the way of new features or user interface changes. However, there are several things we can glean from the information Google posted on the Android developer site today (February 19).

Android 11 features

Let’s start with notifications: There will be new chat bubbles for messaging apps, which had been rumoured for the Android 10 operating system. There’s also a new “dedicated conversation section in the notification shade” that would enable users to see more than the last message sent when replying to messages directly from notifications. It’ll also be possible to send pictures directly from the notifications in Android 11.

Google is also pledging new permission options, which will enable users to grant one-time access for things like the location, microphone and camera. New tools are also on the way for foldable screens and displays with teardrop selfie cameras.

Google is also getting ready for the influx of 5G phones in 2020, with tools to improve 5G bandwidth and metering. The operating system will check if you have an unlimited 5G tariff and will boost the resolution of video in order to make sure you’re getting the best connection possible.

There’s support for digital driver’s licenses and Google is also introducing a BiometricPrompt API that will recognise different levels of security for apps and services. In a new feature that will benefit everyone, notifications sounds and vibrations can be muted while you’re using the camera app. Now more ruined videos!

Loads more consumer facing features are likely to be announced in the coming months as Google moves into the beta phase.

How to download Android 11

Right now, Google isn’t issuing a beta, so in order to install the DP1 on a consumer handset, the Pixel phones will have to be flashed. The process is explained here.

In the release notes, it is described as an “early baseline build focused on developer feedback, with new features, APIs, and behaviour changes.”

In fact, Google has outlined a new schedule with developer previews coming until the first beta release in May. That’s likely to be when we’ll learn all about the new features during the annual Google I/O expo.

Google says the “initial beta-quality release,” will come as an “over-the-air update to early adopters who enrol in Android Beta.” The company is promising a final release in Q3, which encapsulates the months of July, August and September.

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