Following an inadvertent tease last week, Google today officially launched the Android 11 Developer Preview. This is the fifth consecutive year that the company is providing an early look at its next major operating system.
In more ways than one, this initial Android 11 preview is defined by an “earlier than ever” launch. The majority of past releases arrived in the second week of March, with Google this year wanting to give developers more time to provide feedback and prepare applications to new platform features.
Another departure is Android 11 not jumping straight to “Beta.” Last year, the first release was relatively stable and could be installed through easy online enrollment. For 2020, Developer Preview 1 contains a feature set that targets a development-minded audience. Future DPs will see more functionality, while the public launch is slated for Q3 2020.
Lastly, before diving into the changes, let’s talk about why this isn’t “Android R.” With Android’s branding revamp last year, Google officially moved away from letters whenever it’s communicating about the OS to the public. Letters and codenames will only be used internally.
With all that out of the way, what’s new in Android 11 is grouped into four tentpoles:
- Helpful innovation: This unsurprisingly starts with 5G, and Google frames it as a way for developers to “extend [their] Wi-Fi app experiences to mobile users.” Existing APIs have been updated to let applications determine what kind of connection they have access to. Also part of this tentpole is support for new display types, with one API letting devs use the entirety of a waterfall screen, including edges. To improve messaging, there’s a new dedicated conversation section of the notification shade, while Google is pushing Bubbles and letting you paste images into apps and replies.
- Privacy and security: Building off the ability to limit location to “While app is in use” — which is selected by half of users, are one-time permissions for location, microphone, and camera. Scoped storage will likely also go into effect this year. Meanwhile, Android 11 improves biometrics and features platform hardening, as well as secure app data storage and sharing. Users should be excited by electronic ID/driver license support.
- Updates and compatibility: Android 11 is expanding Project Mainline — visible to users as Google Play System Update — with 12 new modules that can be updated without OS releases. A new permissions module “standardizes user and developer access to critical privacy controls on Android devices.” Meanwhile, Google is giving developers a new “Platform Stability” milestone in July that will include final SDK/NDK APIs, internal APIs, and system behaviors.
- Polish and quality: There are various improvements to the connectivity stack, low latency video codecs, and for images/cameras. Highlights for the latter include HEIF animated drawables that are drastically smaller than GIFs, an API to mute vibration when capturing images, and bokeh modes.
Like last year, there’s an Android Beta Feedback app for Pixel devices. Users can access it from the app drawer or via Quick Settings to file bugs in the issue tracker. The Android Beta community is again on Reddit.
At launch, Android 11 Developer Preview system images are available for the Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a, Pixel 3a XL, Pixel 4, and Pixel 4 XL, as well as in the Android Emulator.
DP1 (RPP1.200123.016) is officially “for developers only and not intended for daily or consumer use.” It’s available via manual download and flashing, with the Android Beta coming later. If you need help, here’s our full guide on installing Android 11.
- Pixel 4 XL: Factory Image — OTA
- Pixel 4: Factory Image — OTA
- Pixel 3a XL: Factory Image — OTA
- Pixel 3a: Factory Image — OTA
- Pixel 3 XL: Factory Image — OTA
- Pixel 3: Factory Image — OTA
- Pixel 2 XL: Factory Image — OTA
- Pixel 2: Factory Image — OTA
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