The third instalment of the Android 11 Developer Preview is now available, with the first Public Beta scheduled to arrive on 3 June. You’ll be able to tune into the live-streamed announcement at 11am ET (4pm GMT) via the video embedded above.
In the most recent release the majority of the changes are cosmetic, with changes to how wallpapers are selected, larger notification preference windows, the volume menu renamed to ‘sound’, and more.
There are also some minor changes to other parts of the interface, including the ability to dismiss any notification including ongoing notifications, an undo gesture if an app is unintentionally closed, and the ability to adjust back gesture sensitivity for both sides of the display independently.
It follows on from March’s release of the second Developer Preview, which added new 5G APIs for compatible devices, improvements to Google’s call screening feature and angle detection for foldables. Also added in the build were network APIs, foreground services updates for the camera and mic variable refresh rate support and lots of other technical processes that run in the background.
In this article we explain when Android 11 is coming out and when you’ll actually be able to install it, as well as new features to expect from the new software.
When is Android 11 coming out?
With the release of Android 7 Nougat back in 2016 Google brought forward its release schedule for Android operating system updates, for the first time unveiling the final consumer release ahead of its October hardware event. Since then we’ve seen Android updates arrive in August, with a 3 September launch in 2019 the sole exception to this rule.
This earlier schedule has necessitated Google also rethinking when it first releases code to developers, and having previously remained tight-lipped until the public beta release during its annual developers conference – Google I/O – we have now got used to seeing the Developer Preview go out in March.
As it happens, Google I/O 2020 has been cancelled over the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, including the previously anticipated online event. Google has now confirmed it will announce the Public Beta in a live-streamed event on 3 June.
With earlier access to the Developer Preview of Android 11 in February, Google could be looking to once again shift things forward, perhaps to as early as July 2020. The timeline it has set out for future updates and betas certainly seems to confirm this, though Google has committed only to a Q3 2020 release. We will see three Developer Previews and three public betas before the final release.
Previous Android OS release dates
Android 5 Lollipop
First Beta: 25 June 2014
Full Consumer Release: 12 November 2014
Android 6 Marshmallow
First Beta: 28 May 2015
Final Consumer Release: 5 October 2015
Android 7 Nougat
First Beta: 9 March 2016
Public Beta (Beta 3): 18 May 2016, with updates on 15 June and 18 July
Final Consumer Release: 22 August 2016
Android 8 Oreo
Developer Preview: 21 March 2017
Public Beta: 17 May 2017, with updates on 8 June and 24 July
Final Consumer Release: 21 August 2017
Android 9 Pie
Developer Preview: 7 March 2018
Public Beta: 8 May 2018, with updates on 6 June, 2 July and 25 July
Final Consumer Release: 6 August 2018
Developer Preview: 13 March 2019
Public Beta (Beta 3): 7 May 2019, with updates on 5 June, 10 July and 7 August
Final Consumer Release: 3 September 2019
Developer Preview 1: 19 February 2020
Developer Preview 2: 18 March 2020
Developer Preview 3: 23 April 2020
Public Beta 1: 3 June 2020
Public Beta 2: June/July 2020
Public Beta 3 (Release Candidate Build): Q3 2020
Final Consumer Release: Q3 2020
When can I get Android 11?
Although the Developer Preview is out now, it is not recommended for consumers and is therefore available only as a manual or flash update. If you have a Google Pixel phone (2/2 XL/3/3 XL/3a/3a XL/4/4 XL) and are super-keen to be first to get your hands on it then we can show you how to install Android 11, but we would seriously advise waiting for the public beta that will likely arrive in May.
Compatibility for the consumer beta will include more than just Pixel phones, though we won’t know exactly which devices are suitable until nearer the time. As a guide, in 2019 you were able to install the Android 10 beta on 21 devices, including select models from OnePlus, Xiaomi, Asus, Huawei, Sony, Nokia, Oppo, LG, Essential, Vivo and Realme.
Following this we expect a final release for Android 11 in July or August 2020, but do note that unless you are running a Google Pixel, Android One or one of the beta-supported phones it is unlikely that you will get the update immediately. Although phone makers have been much better at rolling out updates in recent years, older and cheaper phones almost certainly won’t make the cut.
The time taken to roll out updates and the fact some devices will never get the upgrade at all has meant that Android has long been criticised for still having users running older, less secure platforms. Although the data in the chart below is now relatively old (captured in May 2019), and thus does not take into account Android 10, nor any users who have since updated, it is a good example of what this platform fragmentation looks like in the real world.
Ice Cream Sandwich
What will Android 11 be called?
Quite simply, Android 11. Gone are the days we used to have great fun guessing after which sweet treat Google would name its latest Android update.
Since the first Android OS was released the naming system followed two rules: it must be in alphabetical order; and it must be a tasty treat.
Fact is Google was always going to have a problem when it got to ‘Q’ in 2019, with Android 10 Quiche not having quite the same ring to it as Android 8 Oreo or Android 5 Lollipop. And, let’s face it, Google had already struggled with Android Nougat in 2016, reaching out to the public for help in naming its next OS and then settling on a word half its customers couldn’t even pronounce, and then in 2018 struggling to come up with anything more tempting than a pie for the letter P.
You might see some tech sites referring to the next instalment of Android as Android R over the next few months as we approach release, and though it would be much easier to find an appropriate name for this, we can’t see Google overturning last year’s decision to desert the desserts. A great shame.
Here are the previous Android OS names:
Android 1.6 Donut
Android 2.0 Eclair
Android 2.2 Froyo
Android 2.3 Gingerbread
Android 3 Honeycomb
Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
Android 4.4 KitKat
Android 5 Lollipop
Android 6 Marshmallow
Android 7 Nougat
Android 8 Oreo
Android 9 Pie
What are the new features in Android 11?
Thanks to the release of the Developer Preview we are now able to tell you what to expect from the next version of Android based on facts rather than rumours. However, the Developer Preview really serves as just a taster for us, and we’ll get a much more complete picture of what to expect during the Google I/O keynote on 12 May.
Since the initial launch of the Developer Preview, users have been digging into the new features and have found some additional gems. For example, Android Authority points out that we’ll be able to schedule Dark Mode to activate only at night (something we’re getting an early taster of in the second Pixel feature drop). 9to5Google also reports that Android 11 phones will able to alert you when they are not placed on a wireless charger properly, so you won’t be disappointed when you find your phone has not charged up at all.
In a blog post announcing the Android 11 Developer Preview, Google alludes to the following new features:
New conversations features
One of the highlights of Android 11 is Bubbles, which sounds very much like a feature borrowed from Facebook Messenger, keeping conversations in view onscreen until you dismiss them. We have yet to see exactly how it works, but as you await a friend’s next reply you’ll be able to more easily get on with other things, without forgetting all about the ongoing chat.
The notifications drop-down menu is also getting a bit of a revamp, first with a new dedicated Conversations section, which makes it easier to continue chatting with friends, and second with the ability to copy and paste images into replies right within the notification. You can long-press to promote a conversation to a bubble, create a home screen shortcut for the conversation, silence or snooze notifications for the conversation, and mark a conversation as very important.
Android 11 will be able to offer a post call screen to add a caller to contacts or mark a call as spam.
Muted notifications during video recording
Android 11 will be able to turn off vibration alerts for ringtones, alarms and notifications while the camera is operating. Other image and camera improvements include HEIF animated drawtables, a native image decoder and the ability for apps to access a camera’s bokeh mode for video and stills.
Existing Android users will be familiar with pop-ups that require their permission for an app to do a certain thing, such as access their location. Having last year added the ability to grant permissions only while the app is open, in Android 11 Google takes this up a gear with the ability to grant that permission on that occassion only. In other words, they will be asked for their permission every single time.
Enhanced 5G support
Google is updating its connectivity APIs to take fuller advantage of the faster speeds of 5G. In particular, the Dynamic meteredness API can check whether you’re on an unmetered tariff and deliver higher-resolution and higher-quality content as appropriate, while the Bandwidth estimator API makes it easier to obtain download and upload speed data without needing to measure the network or the device.
Support for new screen types
Pinhole (where the selfie camera is housed in a small punch-hole cutout in the display) and waterfall (where the screens curve around the phone’s frame) screens are already catered for in existing APIs but without full functionality. New APIs will allow waterfall screens to use the entire display, including the edges, with insets used to avoid complicating any interaction at the edges.
Little detail was given on exactly what this means, but Google claims it has continued its work to “better protect app and user data on external storage, and made further improvements to help developers migrate more easily”.
With Android 11 Google will reach even more devices with monthly security updates, and builds more protections into the platform. It specifically calls out enhanced APIs for: biometrics, now reaching more devices and supporting three levels of granularity for authenticator types; platform hardening, expanding its use of compiler-based santisers in security-critical components; secure storage and sharing of data, through the BlobstoreManager; and identity credentials, adding support for secure storage and retrieval of verifiable ID documents.
Neural Networks API that assists in intensive machine learning operations on Android devices
Increased investment in Google Play System Updates to improve security, privacy and consistency
New processes that prioritise app compatibility to make updates faster and smoother
Lower-latency video decoding and HDMI low-latency mode
Read next: These are the best Android phones you can buy today