Android 11 review

Android 11 marks another useful yet insignificant upgrade for Google’s mobile OS. While the redesigned media, screenshot and permissions controls are convenient, the additions to messaging and notifications aren’t where they need to be to make a difference yet. ForScreen recording now built inUseful new screenshot and media controlsTemporary permissions aid securityAgainstBubbles not active for everyone yetNotification groups aren’t intuitiveNot available to everyone yet

Android 11 marks another useful yet insignificant upgrade for Google’s mobile OS. While the redesigned media, screenshot and permissions controls are convenient, the additions to messaging and notifications aren’t where they need to be to make a difference yet. Pros+ Screen recording now built in+ Useful new screenshot and media controls+ Temporary permissions aid security+Cons- Bubbles not active for everyone yet- Notification groups aren’t intuitive- Not available to everyone yet

Which devices support Android 11

Android 11 is currently rolling out to Google’s Pixel phones (from 2017’s Pixel 2 and 2 XL to the new Pixel 4a) as well as the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro. It’ll likely reach Samsung’s Galaxy handsets closer to the end of the year or early part of 2021, with priority being granted to the Galaxy S20 and Note 20 lines, as they’re the latest flagships from the company.

If you have a Pixel device but are still waiting for the new software to land on your device, check out our guide on how to get Android 11 right now.

Another year, another update to the world’s most popular mobile operating system — and this year, that means Android 11. But what could Google possibly add to a platform that’s been kicking for more than a decade, that seemingly already contains every feature under the sun?

That’s where Android 11 comes in. As we’ve come to expect from Android updates in recent years, version 11 opts for smaller changes rather than transformative ones, that make navigating Google’s OS a bit more intuitive and convenient. Redesigned screenshots and media playback controls, a new way to message friends and useful tweaks to app permissions may not be earth-shattering additions, but they’re nonetheless appreciated.

Or, at least appreciated by those who can get them. Like with all Android updates, it’ll be awhile before devices that aren’t made by Google — like the Galaxy Note 20, for example — gets to join in on the Android 11 party. (The lone exceptions to that are OnePlus, Xiaomi, Oppo and Realme, which have impressively already issued Android 11 updates to their latest models.)

Our Android 11 review highlights where Google’s latest perangkat lunak succeeds, and which features need a little more work. Android 11 review: The best new features

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While Android 11 feels like more of a conservative update than, say, iOS 14 and its redesigned widgets and new App Library interface, Google’s OS does introduce some really welcome improvements. Here are the major ones:

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

New media controls: Android has always been good about carving out a little space for playback controls in the notification pane, for currently playing media. It’s an approach I much prefer to Apple’s, which splits up some media controls across the lock screen and others in the Control Center, with neither looking all that great or being particularly great at conveying information.

What’s new about Android 11’s approach is that Google has lifted these controls out of the cluster of notifications in which they used to sit and given them priority in a space just underneath your quick toggles. In addition to skip, pause and play actions, a background that’s color-matched to album art and a progress bar that appears when expanded, there’s also a new button that allows you to instantly change the audio device currently playing the media in question.

This makes pivoting from your phone’s speakers to a Bluetooth speaker or a pair of wireless earbuds really, really easy. And it’s a clever shortcut to toss in now, as people have more connected devices at their disposal within their home than ever before. Android 11 will make it easier for you to use them.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

New screenshot interface: It wasn’t difficult to markup a recently-captured screenshot through the notification that would pop up after taking one in Android 10. But the notification itself was quite obtrusive. It’d languish up top for seconds at a time, unless you either dismissed it or interacted with it, possibly covering pertinent information all the while.

Android 11 fixes that. Now, taking a screenshot produces a thumbnail in the lower-left corner — and it happens quickly. This is good of course, because any delays that impede you from snagging a clip of something and firing it off to a friend tend to be more unwelcome than not.

Next to that thumbnail are share and edit buttons, as well as an “X” button that will simply dismiss the screenshot interface element, but not delete the image itself. It’s all very slick, fast, intuitive and looks great.

However, I have one small issue with the approach Google’s taken here. One of the best things about the way iOS handles screenshots is that it allows you to delete whatever you capture immediately after sending it off. This is really handy, because it means your photo library won’t be flooded with screenshots of one-time, out-of-context snippets of information and memes that you really don’t need living on your phone for days or weeks until you finally get around to deleting them. You can quickly delete screenshots in Android 11 too, but the software doesn’t make it easy, as you have to press or gesture back a bunch of times in succession after sharing a screenshot to return to the markup screen, where you can then hit the little trash icon. A tiny frustration, but one I’d personally like to see addressed.

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Screen recording built-in: If you’ve been mostly using Android phones from the likes of Samsung and OnePlus over the last several years, you may never have noticed that Android has lacked native screen recording features the entire time. But Pixel users still needed to turn to sketchy, oftentimes ad-ridden third-party solutions to capture activity on their device — until now.

Android 11 finally bakes screen recording right into Android, and it works very, very well on our Pixel 4a. It’s activated from a quick toggle shortcut, and offers options like choosing which audio source you’d like to accompany the visual element (your handset’s microphone versus on-device audio) and whether or not you’d like to highlight taps and gestures. As you’re recording, a red icon in the status bar reminds you that the feature is rolling; to turn it off, simply dip back into the notifications pane and tap the relevant item to stop.

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One-time permissions and permission resetting: Every year, it seems like Google and Apple turn up the heat on developers that abuse permissions, by making those permissions more stringent or temporary. With Android 11, users now have the ability to grant a single-use permission for an app they’d like to use once or twice, and then maybe never again.

Android 11 also automatically resets permissions for apps that have sat on your device dormant for months. If there’s an app you rarely use anymore — given the pandemic, I find myself taking far fewer Lyfts and Ubers than I used to — this feature instantly justifies itself. And considering how Uber’s had a concerning track record of abusing location monitoring in the past, I’d say this particular Android 11 addition is overdue. Android 11 review: What needs work

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Every software update is a work in progress, but too many significant features in Android 11 needed a little more attention before the software’s final release.

Bubbles: Long teased over successive Android updates but never brought to the public until now, Bubbles is basically Google’s version of Chat Heads — the Facebook Messenger feature that creates shortcuts for conversation threads that float above whatever’s on screen and persist from app to app. The difference with Bubbles is, of course, that this feature extends to messaging apps that aren’t Facebook’s, including the built-in Android Messages app for texting and RCS Chat, as well as WhatsApp and others.