The Android 11 beta is finally here for everyone to download, providing an early look at what’s coming when the next big Android update drops for everyone later this year.
After cancelling Google IO 2020 over Covid-19 concerns, which had been slated for May, the company then planned to unveil the Android 11 beta during an online-only event on June 3 – but that event was postponed due to the Black Lives Matter protests across the world.
In the same spirit, Google has foregone an event and quietly launched the Android 11 beta with short-form videos and web pages that users can peruse instead, the Android team explained in a blog post. To download it, click here.
- Android 11: everything we know thus far
- Google Pixel 5: the upcoming phone that will likely launch alongside Android 11
- iOS 14: what we've heard about the next iPhone operating system update
Just be aware that the Android 11 beta is only for owners of the Pixel 2 and newer: for the first time, original Google Pixel and Pixel XL owners have been left out. This makes some sense – the Android team only made those phones compatible with last year’s Android 10 (then called Android Q) due to popular demand.
In other words, if it’s the end of the road for the original Pixel line’s Android upgrades, this is the first we’re seeing of it. It also means if you have another sort of Android phone, the wait is likely to continue until the official release later in the year.
What didn’t we end up seeing? The Google Pixel 4a. After Google IO 2020 was cancelled – which is when we expected the mid-range handset to launch – a rumor suggested it could arrive alongside the public reveal of Android 11. No such luck, and the Pixel 4a remains MIA.
What’s in Android 11?
We got our first look at Android 11 when its first developer preview launched in late February, which was earlier than last year. As was introduced then, the public Android 11 beta has made an effort to highlight messaging chats so they don’t get lost in your deluge of alerts.
The notification drop-down will get a dedicated ‘conversations’ section, which will have shortcuts to set reminders or even break the chat out in a pop-out ‘Bubble.’
Android 11 also improves keyboard suggestions with apps that use Autofill and Input Method Editors. Voice control accessibility gets a bit smarter by generating labels and access points that are relevant to what’s happening on the screen.
For anyone who commands a bunch of smart home devices from their phone – or even just switches between headphones and speakers – Android 11 has centralized everything under a Device Controls hub, which you can access quickly by long-pressing on the power button.
And it wouldn’t be an Android update without tweaks to privacy. By default, if users haven’t fired up an app in awhile, Android 11 will automatically reset its permissions and ask users their preference upon opening next.
That’s pretty much it for consumers who download the current build of Android 11 beta, though there’s plenty more for developers in terms of back-end streamlining and other improvements. If you want to dive into the wonky stuff, the Android team has uploaded a series of introductory videos on YouTube that dive into what’s changed in the beta.
Want a preview? Here’s an overview of what’s changed for Android devs: