On Tuesday, Google officially released the latest version of the mobile operating system Android 11. It also pushed the source code to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). Unlike the previous flagship version, Android 11 will not only update its own Pixel brand phones in the air, but will also appear on OnePlus, Xiaomi, OPPO, Realme and other brand phones. There will be more cooperation in the next few months. So Google’s partners will start upgrading their equipment.
Previously, due to the delays of operators and device manufacturers, Android updates took several months to complete. Android is the mainstream mobile operating system on thousands of different devices. It supports more than 2.5 billion active devices every month. But every time Google releases a new version, it takes longer time to reach to the final products. However, as Android 11 is expected to land on more devices in a shorter period of time, developers who have not taken advantage of the Android 11 testing process will need to catch up to ensure that their applications and games are ready for businesses and consumers.
What A Path Did It Pass?
The testing process of Android 11 was full of twists and turns. Up to six beta versions were launched last year. And four developer preview versions and three beta versions were launched this year. Google released Android 11 DP1 in February. This is the earliest version of the Android developer preview. Android 11 DP2 was released in March, and Android 11 DP3 was released in April. Android 11 Beta 1 should have been released in May. But Google introduced Android 11 DP4 as a stopgap measure.
Finally, Beta 1 came out in June, followed by Beta 2 in July, and Beta 3 in August. Beta 1 is usually shown at Google’s I/O Developer Conference. This is where the first Android Beta version usually makes its debut. However, due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus epidemic, the event was cancelled. Google originally wanted to hold the Android11: Beta Launch Show event. But due to the outbreak of racism and police brutality protests in the United States, Google was forced to postpone the event and finally cancelled it.
Android 11 features
Android 11 adds a lot of new features. Google initially divided them into three topics: people, controls, and privacy. But it also supports 5G, new screen types, and call screening. There is even a frame rate API to help applications and games adapt to variable refresh rates. It will be a major focus in the next few years, because smartphones and TVs use this feature of computer monitors. Google has also extended the neural network API for running computationally intensive machine learning operations.
At the end of the testing process, the Google team also secretly added another improvement. We mean the new coronavirus contact notification API jointly developed by Google and Apple. In late July, Google updated the version of the system to support interoperability between countries. Also, it announced that Android 11 applications can use the API without opening the device’s location settings.
Android 11: ‘People’ feature
Android 11 should be ‘more human-centric and expressive’. So it can ‘identify and prioritize the most important people in your life’. In other words, we are waiting for more messaging capabilities:
- Conversation notifications are displayed in the dedicated part of the top bar, with a person forwarding design and conversation-specific operations, such as opening a conversation in bubble form, creating a conversation shortcut on the home screen, or setting reminders;
- Bubbles can help users keep conversations visible and accessible during multitasking. Google hopes that instant messaging and chat applications will use Bubble API for notifications in Android 11;
- Integrated keyboard suggestions allow autofill applications and input method editors (IME) to safely provide context-specific entities and strings directly in the IME suggestion bar;
- For people who control their phones entirely by voice, voice access now includes a visual cortex on the device that can understand screen content and context, and generate tags and access points for auxiliary commands.
Android 11: Control functions
Android 11 makes it easier for users to control smart devices:
- Device controls can help users access and control the connected devices. Just press and hold the power button to immediately call up the device controls, and the application can use the new API to display in the controls;
- Media controls allow users to switch the output device of audio or video content, whether it is headphones, speakers, or TV. Users can now enable this feature from the developer options, and this feature will be enabled by default in the upcoming Beta version.
Android 11: Privacy features
Android 11 also provides more control over sensitive permissions and makes devices more secure through faster updates:
- One-time permission allows the user to grant the app only one access permission to the device microphone, camera or location, and the app can request permission again the next time the app is used;
- Background location: Developers need to obtain permission to access the background location in their applications to prevent abuse. But Google will not enforce this policy on existing applications before 2021;
- Automatic resetting of permissions: If the user has not used an application for a long time, Android 11 will ‘automatically reset’ all operating permissions associated with the application and notify the user. The application can request permission again the next time the application is used;
- Scope storage: Google has improved this feature to better protect applications and user data on external storage, and further improvements to help developers migrate more easily;
- The Google Play system update launched last year accelerated the update of the core operating system components of devices in the Android ecosystem. Google is doubling the number of updateable modules. These 12 new modules will help improve the privacy, security and consistency of users and developers;
- BiometricPrompt API: Developers can specify the strength of biometric authentication required for their application to unlock or access sensitive parts of the application. For backward compatibility, Google has added these functions to the Jetpack biometric library;
- Identity Credentials API: New use cases such as smartphone driver’s license, national ID card and digital ID card.
For developers, Google recommends that they should install their applications on devices or emulators running Android 11, test all user processes and functions, and ensure that all changes will not break anything. Before exploring new APIs and features, you should first test your current applications and release compatibility updates.
The most important behavior changes include:
One-time permissions: users can now grant one-time permissions to access location, device microphone and camera;
External storage access: the application can no longer access files of other applications in the external storage;
Scudo enhanced allocator: Scudo is now a heap memory allocator for native code in applications;
File Descriptor Cleaner: FDSAN is now enabled by default to detect file descriptor processing problems of native code in the application.
Although these changes will only affect Android 11 users, whether they are users who have updated to Android 11 or users who have purchased a new device, it still means millions of devices. Android 11 also includes changes in opt-in behavior. Once you join a new platform, these changes will affect your application.
Google recommends that developers study the following features for all Android 11 applications: dark theme, gesture navigation, shared shortcut API, synchronized input method transition and new screen types. It is worth noting that the first three features were initially added in Android 10. In addition, Google also recommends exploring these features: dialogue, bubble API, 5G, device controls and media controls.