Google released the first public beta of Android 1
1 this week . There are plenty of features under the hood that developers can take advantage of, but regular users aren't left out either. You can now install the first beta as long as you have a Pixel 2 or newer. I signed up to join the beta program on a Pixel 4 XL ($ 800 at Amazon) and searched the update.
We're big fans of the new quick controls page that's easy to access and incredibly useful, along with the redesigned media controls, while app suggestions and Bubbles will take some getting used to.
While we're sure Google has more Android 11 surprises in store for us, here are five features we've tried and you'll know you'll love when they release later this year.
Fast operation of Android 11 is a real highlight
The first thing to do after installing Android 11, whether it be the beta or when it was officially released, is a long press of the power button press your phone to display the new quick control screen. On the Pixel this screen gives you at least power management options along the top, shortcuts to your Google Pay cards and boarding cards, and below that you'll find my favorite feature of Android 11 – quick controls for smart home appliances.
My phone automatically chose a few devices that I linked to the Google Assistant, such as the Nest thermostat in my office and my Nest video doorbell . I can even watch a live stream directly from my doorbell on this screen, without having to open the Nest app (which is slow and tricky to use). It is awesome.
You can add or remove smart home devices from this grid by tapping the menu button and selecting add or edit options.
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Messaging Bubbles for your friends look like they will be useful
Remember Bubbles? This feature is said to be part of Android 10, but Google made it last minute. Well, they are back.
Bubbles are similar to the "chatheads" function of Facebook Messengers. When activated, a small avatar – or Bubble – on your screen that is visible no matter which app you use. Tap on the avatar and a small window will open where you can read and send new messages in that thread, without opening the app completely. You can drag the bubble around your screen or drag it to the bottom of the screen to remove it.
In the first public beta, Facebook Messenger is the only app that currently seems to work with Bubbles. Even then it doesn't work completely. We expect Google to resolve the kinks before the full release of Android 11.
To use Bubbles for a call, a small Bubbles icon will appear in the bottom right corner of the notification. Tapping on it will immediately enable Bubbles for that thread.
Another way to activate Bubbles for specific calls is to long press the notification and mark it as a priority. Doing so will not only enable Bubbles for that thread but will also break that conversation with Do Not Disturb so you don't miss any messages.
App Suggestions Replace Your App Dock
Immediately after installing the public beta and unlocking my Pixel 4 XL, I was greeted with an option to enable app suggestions on the home screen. Unsure of exactly what that was, I reluctantly agreed. Turns out, it's pretty cool.
Previously, Android made suggestions in the app drawer with apps you thought you might want to use depending on the time of day and other mysterious factors. In Android 11, there is now a row of app suggestions at the bottom of your home screen where your main app dock would normally appear.
The apps have a glowing border around them and change frequently when you return to your home screen while using your phone. You can long-press any of the app icons to pin that suggestion to your home screen.
You can also prevent apps from showing up as suggestions if you don't want something like Gmail to show up even if you're using a different email app.
To open app suggestions and customize how it works for you, long press on your home screen and select Home Settings and then Suggestions . There you can manage suggestions in the app drawer and on the home screen or prevent apps from appearing on the list.
Android 11 Gets Music Control Enthusiast
In the blog post announcement for Android 11's public beta, Google showed off a new music control interface that looked great. Instead of playback buttons that are more like a pending notification, they're placed in the Quick Settings panel at the top of your screen. And when you interact with them, there is a new option to control where the music is played.
For example, if you have Google's new Pixel Buds 2 and a Nest Hub ($ 90 at Best Buy) you can quickly switch between the two devices. .
If you install the Android 11 beta, the feature is nowhere to be found when you start playing music. Don't get discouraged – it's there, but it's hidden.
You need to enable developer options on your phone by opening the Settings app and going to About Phone . Scroll to the bottom of the screen where you will find Build Number . Tap on it until you see a small notification with something like 'Congratulations! You are now a developer & # 39 ;.
Next, we need to go to Developer Options in Settings > System . Find there Resume Media enable it and restart your phone.
The next time you start playing some music, the new media buttons are available.
A Built-in Screen Recorder
Screenshots are a quick and easy way to capture something on your screen, but there are times when a recording is better suited to the task at hand. For example, if you want to show off your gaming skills, or highlight the steps to reproduce a bug screen FTW recording!
You can find the Screen Capture tool in the Quick Settings panel after installing Android 11. If it is not visible, tap the pencil icon to add it to your panel.
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Tap the Screen Recording icon and select whether you want your microphone to record audio and whether you want your touch interactions to be highlighted in the video. Tap the message Screen Record to stop recording. The video is saved to your camera roll where you can edit and share the recording.
We continue to delve into Android 11 and see which other goodies have been hidden or added during the rest of the beta process. In the meantime, if you can't wait for Android 11 to launch later this year, you can install it now .