Even though Google was supposed to release the first Android 11 Beta at Google I/O, they had to change the schedule because of the Pandemic. The 1st Android Developer Preview was announced back in February, followed by Preview 2, Preview 3, and Preview 4. The first Beta will be likely revealed at an online event on June 3rd, 2020. Developer features weren’t highlighted in the DP 4, but that doesn’t mean there are no changes at all. Here are the changes and new features that were found in the latest Developer Preview 4 on the Google Pixel 3a XL and Google Pixel 4.
1. Resizable Picture-in-Picture windows
- To resize a picture-in-picture window, simply tap right outside one of the four corners and then drag inward or outward.
2. Pixel Themes: New Icon Shapes
- Google introduced the Pixel Themes app with the release of Pixel 4. The app lets you customize some parts of the UI such as the font, icon shape, accent colour and icon fill from a number of pre-installed choices.
- Google has added two new icon shape options: Hexagon and Flower.
3. Select button in the recent apps overview
- In Android 11 Developer Preview 3 a “screenshot” and “share” button were added in place of the row of suggested apps in the recent apps overview. In Developer Preview 4 a “select” button has also been added. Tapping this button highlights all selectable text and images.
- Even though it was already possible to manually select text and images in the recent apps overview on Pixel devices since Android 9 Pie, many users were unaware of this feature. This new “select” button makes it more obvious to users that you can make a selection over here. However, we don’t know if this “select” button will be available in Android 11 for non-Pixel devices. Non-Pixel devices before Android 11 already do not have access to selectable text/images in the recent apps overview.
4. Quick Setting tile for Wireless Debugging
- You can quickly set up wireless ADB by scanning a QR code or entering a 6 digit PIN in Android 11. With the update, Google has added a Quick Setting tile that allows you to quickly toggle on/off wireless debugging. This will help keep your device secure by letting you turn off wireless debugging when you aren’t using it.
5. Connected Preferences now links to Android Auto
- In Settings > Connected devices > Connection preferences, there’s now a link to open Android Auto’s settings page.
- This is likely in preparation for the deprecation of the main Android Auto app in favour of Google Assistant’s long-awaited driving mode.
6. Notification counts
- If there are multiple notifications in the same conversation, you’ll now see a number next to the expand arrow that tells you how many messages you missed in that conversation.
1. Remove apps from suggestions
- The App Drawer of Pixel Launcher contains an app suggestion row at the top, which suggests apps the user is likely to launch based on their usage statistics. It is possible to turn off the suggestions in case the user did not find it useful, there was no way to individually remove an app from being suggested.
- In Developer Preview 4 if the user had a single app that he/she prefer not showing up in the row, there is a development option that allows the user to remove apps from the suggestion row by dragging them off the App Drawer and dropping them onto the “Don’t suggest app” option. Normally, this “don’t suggest app” option will show “uninstall.”
2. Hybrid HotSeat
- The App Dock rests on the bottom of the home screen, and it acts as a fixed bar of apps visible across multiple home screens. The App Dock is filled up with five icons by default. If you remove an app from the dock, there will simply be an empty space in that spot.
- With the Hybrid Hotseat feature enabled, whenever you remove an icon from the App Dock, the Pixel Launcher will suggest an app from the Suggestion row to take the empty spot.
3. Reverse Charging
- In Android 11 Developer Preview 1, an activity called “battery share” was spotted that suggests that Google is working on supporting reverse wireless charging for certain devices.
- In Android 11 Developer Preview 4, Battery Share has been renamed to Reverse Charging. However, Google has removed many of the descriptive strings for the feature.
4. Unified Hotspot & Tethering Settings
- In the new UI, the Wi-Fi hotspot settings are on the same page as the toggles for USB tethering and Bluetooth tethering.
- Ethernet tethering, which was newly added to Android 11 Developer Preview 3, is currently missing in the new Hotspot & Tethering UI.
5. New Controls Menu UI
- One of Android 11’s key features is the Controls API, which will let developers put home automation shortcuts in the power menu. In earlier previews of Android 11, there was a “Quick Controls” section underneath the row of power menu items up top while the rest of the power menu is transparent.
- In Android 11 Developer Preview 4, the power menu background is dark, including the power menu items up top. “Quick Controls” now says “Device Controls” and a description text when it’s empty says “Add controls for your connected devices”. When you add controls from a supported app, this text disappears to make room for your favourite controls. Overall, this feature looks more polished.
6. Gestures tutorial for Pixel Launcher
- Even though full-screen gesture navigation was added to Android 10, they never implemented a tutorial on how to navigate with these gestures. In the latest Pixel Launcher release, there is an activity that guides the users on how to use the gesture navigation.
We gain some, we lose some!
1. Undo Recent Apps Dismissal Gesture
- With the Developer Preview 3, they made it possible to “undo” dismissing a recent app card by quickly swiping down anywhere on the screen after you dismissed the card. This feature has been removed.
2. Dismissal of Persistent Notifications
- With the Developer Preview 3 they made it possible to hide persistent notifications using the same swipe left/right gesture used to dismiss standard notifications – this put persistent notifications into a new “apps active in background” area underneath the “history” button which made these notifications far less visible. This feature has been removed
While all these changes were either fully or partially visible on the latest DP, things could change a lot in the final Android 11. However, it’s a pleasure to witness the path Google has taken before finalizing the next major Android version, isn’t it?