How To: Android 11 Changelog — An Always-Updated List of New Features

Android 11 Changelog — An Always-Updated List of New Features

Android's newest major update is here. While this latest update is codenamed "R," we already know its real name: Android 11. This year's update came rather early, shocking the world when Developer Preview 1 appeared on Feb. 19, 2020. But even though it's ahead of schedule, it's still packed with new features.

Listed below are all the changes we've found so far in Android 11. Whenever we find new features and changes, and as more developer previews and beta versions are released, we will update this list with the new info so it always gives you a clear idea of what to expect when the stable version hits your phone later this year. So get excited, because the latest version of Android has arrived!

1. 'Conversations' Section in Notification Shade

There's a new "Conversations" section at the top of the notification tray above the standard notifications. This is home to all notifications from any messaging apps you have, so it keeps your chat alerts front and center. There is also a transparent barrier between each section to make it easier to identify notifications in each section.

Alerts in the Conversations section come with an extra option when you swipe to the left and choose the gear icon. "Priority" places the notification on the top of the list and makes all future notifications appear as bubbles. Otherwise, the newest messaging alert that arrives in Conversations appears at the top of the Notification Shade.

2. Power Menu Smart Home Toggles

Google is updating the power menu to include new controls for your smart home. When you hold down the power button, the new interface will appear with toggles for IoT devices. There will be an API for smart home apps to use for injecting toggles into this menu, but for now, only Google Home supports the feature.

The new Google Pay integration wasn't removed, it's just absent from the above screenshots because the test build we're running doesn't pass SafetyNet. When the full version of Android 11 is released, any cards set up in Google Pay will also appear in the power menu so you can easily switch between them.

3. Built-in Screen Recorder

Google teased it in Android 10, but a built-in screen recorder is finally here in Android 11. Found in Quick Settings, the tile brings up a simple UI that lets you toggle recording audio and whether to show touches on the screen. The countdown occurs in the status bar. To stop recording, either use the notification or Quick Settings tile.

4. New Quick Settings with Music Controls

According to XDA, Google has expanded Quick Settings to now include music playback controls. Previously, these controls were simply housed in a notification from your music app.

On the first swipe, the same six icons you've always seen now span two rows of three, with the music controls wedged in on the left. When fully expanded, the music controls are above the toggles, including the seek bar added in Android 10. For now, it has to be manually enabled in Developer Options, but this may be changed in the final build.

5. Revamped Overview Menu

In Android 11, the recently open apps will be larger in the Overview Menu. The bottom row of apps has been replaced with three buttons, "Screenshot," "Select," and "Share." "Screenshot" captures the content of the display with the app shown opened, "Select" highlights all the words in the app to put them one tap away from copying, and "Share" opens the share menu.

6. Undo a Dismissed App

In the Overview menu of Android 11, if you dismiss an app, you can bring it back by swiping down. Similar to copy and paste, the last-dismissed app overwrites the previous one, so if you dismiss two apps, only the last one can return.

7. Scrolling Screenshots

The screenshot feature is also getting a design change in Android 11. Instead of a heads up notification, a small preview of the screen appears in the lower-left corner of your display with two buttons, "Share" and "Edit." According to XDA, Google will add a new button, "Extend" that adds scrolling screenshots. Using this feature, you can scroll through multiple pages of an app and the OS will stitch them together to form one long screenshot.

8. Dismiss Any Notification

Android 11 lets you dismiss all notifications, including the persistent ones. Once the alert is removed, a new second titled "Apps active in background" is created at the bottom of the notification shade, where you can select the app name to return the notification.

9. Send Images in Notification Replies

When you're replying to a message from your notification shade via the "Reply" button on the alert, you now have the ability to attach images to your message. A small feature, but big for usability.

10. Wireless Debugging

In Android 11, you can now send ADB and fastboot command wireless — no USB cable needed. While an updated version of platform-tools is needed for it to work, this feature lets you connect to your computer wirelessly using QR code or a pairing code while on the same network. You can send ADB commands the same way as you normally would.

11. More Customization Options

The "Styles & Wallpaper" feature exclusive to Pixel is getting new customization options including five new icons shapes (Pebble, Tapered Rectangle, Vessel, Hexagon, and Flower). There are also hints of possibly being able to change the lock screen clock.

12. New Quick Setting Tile

Under "Quick settings developer tiles" in Developer Options, you have a new option for "Wireless debugging." Once added, you can initiate an ADB connection by tapping the tile.

13. ADB Revokes Access After a Week

When you first use ADB to connect your computer to your phone, Android asks if you want to allow the connection. In previous versions, you could either deny access, allow once and prompt again next time, or always allow this particular computer to connect via ADB.

Those choices are the same in Android 11, except the "Always allow" option is more like "Allow for 1 week" by default. So more than likely, every time you use ADB going forward, you'll have to allow the connection again from a prompt on your phone.

But you can change it back. There is a new toggle in Developer Options that allows you to turn off the automatic revocation of ADB authorization and switch back to the indefinite approach.

14. Resizable Picture-in-Picture

While not activated yet, according to XDA, you will be able to change the size of the window in Picture-in-Picture mode by dragging one of its corners and outward or inwards.

15. Auto Revoke Permission

In Android 11, if you don't use an app for a period of months, its permissions will be revoked. It will no longer have access to your location, microphone, etc. until you open the app and tap "Grant" on the permission requests again.

16. Ethernet Tethering

If you have any older devices that don't support Wi-Fi, you can use your phone as a hardwired modem in Android 11. Just nab a USB to Ethernet adapter and any old RJ-45 Ethernet cable to hook your phone up to it, then turn on "Ethernet tethering" in Android 11's settings.

17. Edit SIM Name

You can edit the name of your SIM in Settings. Besides "Mobile Data" in Settings, we are not sure where else this new name appears.

18. New APIs for 5G

Android 11 introduces three new APIs to improve 5G connections:

  1. The Dynamic Meteredness API can be used by an app to see if your mobile data service is truly unlimited, in which case the app could use more 5G data for improved media quality.
  2. The Bandwidth Estimator API gives apps a tool to check download and upload speed without needing to poll the network. This improves accuracy and makes tracking your data easier.
  3. 5G state API allows apps to quickly detect if the user is currently on 5G New Radio or Non-Standalone network. The app can then use this information to highligh how 5G enhance their particular apps experience.

19. Hinge Angle for Foldables

With more foldables on the horizon, Google has added a new API which lets apps use a hinge angle sensor to querty directly the angle of the foldable. This API is likely for Samsung's Flex Mode and Microsoft's Peek, two features which reconfigure the display based on the angle of the screen.

20. Reverse Wireless Charging Support (Google Pixel 4 & 4 XL)

Battery Share is the name of the reverse wireless charging feature available to the Google Pixel 4 and 4 XL in Android 11. The feature allows you to charge Qi-supported devices wirelessly by placing them on the back cover. You can also configure this option so that it will only charge your device up to a certain battery percentage.

21. Files App Gets New Features

The default files manager is now Files by Google (formerly known as Files Go) on Android 11. This new file browser has a number of features not found in the previous generations including the ability to clean unused files, and send files via Wi-Fi Direct.

22. Use Bluetooth Headphones in Airplane Mode

In the previous versions of Android, enabling Airplane Mode would disconnect your phone from Bluetooth accessories, even if you were currently listening to audio. Google is finally changing this behavior in Android 11. When connected to an audio device via Bluetooth, entering Airplane Mode will not disconnect you.

This feature isn't present in the first developer preview, but as XDA spotted, a commit in the Android Open Source Project titled "Context-aware Bluetooth airplane mode" has been merged with AOSP and thus should be coming in Android 11.

23. Synchronized IME Transition

Android 11 brings a new set of APIs that let app content synchronize how the soft keyboard (aka input method editor) animates on and offscreen. With these API, the keyboard animations are smoother, flowing better with the app.

Image via Android Developers

24. Bubble Notifications on by Default

Android 10 introduced Bubbles, notifications that appear as small icons overlaid over your current screen. Because Google requires that new apps and updates to existing apps target the previous version of Android, which in 2020 means Android 10, more apps can (and will) take advantage of Bubbles soon.

To help with this, Android 11 enabled the feature by default. In Android 10, you had to navigate to the app's App Info page and activate "Bubbles" first. But now, as long as the app supports it, you can take advantage of it right away.

25. New Back Cover Gestures (Likely Pixel-Exclusive)

According to 9to5Google and XDA, buried in the code of Android 11 is a new way to interact with your phone. Internally known as "Columbus" (after the Zombieland character of the same name who had a "double tap" rule), the new feature will let you double tap the back cover to initiate actions like these:

  • Dismiss timer
  • Launch camera
  • Launch Google Assistant
  • Play/pause media
  • Collapse status bar
  • Silence incoming phone calls
  • Snooze alarms
  • Unpin notifications
  • Perform a "user-selected action"

And before you worry about accidentally activating this new feature, Google has added "gates" to prevent double-tap from activating unintentionally. These include camera visibility, if you are charging the phone, and similar rules.

26. Show Refresh Rate

Can't see the difference between your Pixel 4's 90 Hz refresh rate and any other phone? Well in Android 11, instead of trusting Google's word, you can display the current refresh rate. In Developer Options, you will find the new "Show refresh rate" option, which gives you a Fraps-style overlay.

27. Variable Refresh Rate

Apps can now set a preferred frame rate. With more phones using higher than 60 Hz refresh rate display, this option lets app which can take advantage, request a higher refresh rate. For apps that don't benefit from the additional frames, the app can ask 60 Hz saving its battery impact.

28. New Permissions Options

There are a few changes to permissions in Android 11. The first change is a new "Ask every time" option. While this feature is available on all permissions when accessed through the system settings, it only appears on the popup permission prompt when an app asks to access the device's camera, microphone, or location.

For apps requesting these permissions, a new prompt will appear with three options: "Only this time," "While using the app," and "Deny." If you choose "Only this time," you'll be asked again the next time the app wants access to that data. The former will maintain the "Ask every time." For the other permission, the prompt will only give you the option to "Allow" or "Deny" with the former granting the app permanent access to that sensor.

29. Background Location Access Must Be Granted Manually

You may have noticed the permission prompt we discussed above was missing something: an "Allow all the time" option. Well, for your own security, Google has removed this option from the permission prompt for location access.

Instead, Google is asking developers to display in the UI why they need the background location permission with a button that redirects you to the relevant system settings screen to grant this permission. They must also allow users to continue to use the app if they deny access to the background location permission.

Instead of using a button in the prompt, Google wants developers to explain why they need it and direct them "Settings" to grant permission. Image via Android Developers

30. Auto-Block Spammy Permission Prompts

In Android 11, after denying any permission twice, Android will ignore further requests by the app. The system will view as you are saying "don't ask again" and not bother you anymore. Nice.

31. New Scoped Storage Permission

Android 10's Scooped Storage dramatically changed how apps interact with the file system. It also broke many apps, so Android 11 added a new "All Files Access" permission, which behaves similarly to the pre-Android 10 model. For apps that don't need that kind of access, you can limit them with the "Media Only Access" setting, which confines them to audio, video, and other media files.

32. New Notification History UI

On the bottom of the Notification Shade is a new button, "History," which redirects you to a Notification History page. This is a revamped version of the Notification Log, a hidden feature of Android that show all previous receive notifications for the day. Unlike Notification Log, you can read the full content of the alert, removing the fear of accidentally dismissing a critical alert.

33. Increase Touch Sensitivity

For those who use screen protectors, Google added a new "increase touch sensitivity" option to make your phone just as responsive to touch as it was before applying the screen protector.

34. Better Back Sensitivity

In Android 11, there will be two sliders controlling the back gesture's sensitivity: one for the left and one for the right edge. You might want to decrease sensitivity for the left edge so you can still use gestures to access the hamburger menu, for instance.

35. Mobile Drivers License Support

Android 11 supports mobile driver licenses. Once legally supported in your state or jurisdiction, you will be able to keep electronic copies of government paperwork such as passports and driver licenses on your phone.

These documents require the absolute highest level of security, so it likely a few years before we see this implementation. But at least states can now test potential eLicense systems with Android 11!

36. Changes to BiometricPrompt API

In Android 11, Google created a tier system for biometrics — strong, weak, and device credential. Developers can support biometrics in the weak category now, such as 2D, camera-based facial recognition. While more sensitive transactions such as banking and payment apps can opt for the more secure version, other apps can take advantage of the convenience of using biometrics over inputting a password.

37. Improved Call Screening

To combat robocalls and SPAM calls, the FCC invested in SHAKEN/STIR, a new framework that improved verification of legitimate callers. Think of it as an improved caller ID that blocks unwanted calls and spoofed calls. All four major wireless networks in the US support the new authentication method.

In Android 11, call screening apps will have access to the verification status from SHAKEN/STIR, improving their ability to block unwanted calls. This should also make Google's Call Screen feature even better. Additionally, apps can now report why you rejected a call. The post-call screen is now customizable allowing you to give user options such as marking a call as SPAM or adding a call to contacts.

38. Support for Punch Hole & Waterfall Displays

Android 11 updated the Display Cutout API to better support the punch hole design found in smartphones such as the Galaxy S20. It also improved how content is displayed on waterfall displays, or screens, where the sides are curved to the point the side bezel, isn't visible. In "Developer Options" you can stimulate both displays.

Image by Jon Knight/Gadget Hacks

39. Disable Vibrations While Using the Camera

A new API is available to developers to be able to stop vibrations from calls, messages, and other alerts when using the camera. The default camera app on most phones already did this, but now the in-app camera in apps like Instagram can prevent haptic feedback.

40. HDMI Low-Latency Mode

HDMI 2.1 added an auto low latency mode to reduce any lag or latency from the TV side of the connection. In Android 11, a new API checks for this mode and requests it when available. With Stadia now supporting multiple phones, including ones with video output over USB-C, this could save you from buying a Chromecast Ultra.

41. Low Latency Video Decoding

Another Android 11 feature that enhances Stadia is low latency video decoding. This is necessary for Stadia, as it relies on this decoding to provide the best experience. This will also help with the wave of upcoming cloud-based gaming services such as Project xCloud from Microsoft and NVIDIA's GeForce Now.

42. New Bluetooth Stack

Android 11 brings a new Bluetooth stack called Babeldorsche. The stack is responsible for how the Bluetooth connection is handled by a smartphone, so the expectation is that pairing and maintaining connection on your Android smartphone will be improved when Android 11 hits.

43. Separated Quick Settings & Notification Tray

According to XDA, it appears Google testing whether to split the Quick Settings from the Notification Tray in Android 11. By swiping down from one side or another, you can jump directly into either one.

We're counting this one as likely for now since Android has had this exact feature in the past. It's been gone for a few years, but now that Apple uses this gesture, we can see Google adding it back to help make the transition from iPhone to Android easier on prospective buyers.

44. Unsupported Bluetooth Codecs Are Now Grayed Out

Back in Android 8 Oreo, Google introduced support for Hi-fi Bluetooth codecs and the ability to choose which one a device used if it supports multiple codecs. In Android 11, formats that aren't supported by the device you're connected to will be grayed out, making it easier to choose the best option.

There is also an HD audio toggle that appears for devices that support multiple codecs to switch between high and lower quality audio automatically.

45. Suggested Apps in Home Screen Dock

According to XDA, Google may introduce suggested apps in the home screen dock (aka, "hotseat") on the Pixel Launcher. This would place apps in your dock that Google thinks you'll most want to use, based on time of day, location, and your usage patterns, similarly to how the dock in the multitasking view already behaves.

46. Protection Against Accidental SIM Deletion

Before erasing a downloaded SIM, you can require that it authenticate you to ensure this is what you want to do, preventing someone from erasing your SIM without your permission.

47. Access Accessibility Features from Lock Screen

By pressing and holding both volume up and down for three seconds, you will be able to start an accessibility feature from the lock screen.

48. Resume on Reboot

For those who like to schedule software updates overnight, apps can now access the Credential Encrypted storage even the phone has been unlocked. This means the app can receive notifications and messages, instead of playing catch up after you unlock the device in the morning.

49. Redesigned Caption Menu

The caption menu has been altered, with options tuck behind sub-menu. Instead of listing everything on one page, Android 11 creates two additional pages to house the same information.

50. Contact Discovery

Currently, a hidden toggle, this feature allows you to enable or disable the ability for your phone to periodically send all phone numbers in your contacts to the carrier to discover which calling features each number supports.

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Cover image, screenshots, and GIFs by Jon Knight/Gadget Hacks

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