We tell you our first impressions of Android 11 in these early hours with the system installed on a Google Pixel 4a. We also advise you on the news that we have used the most on a day-to-day basis without searching through the system’s ‘secrets.’
Android 11 is finally here. When a new version of any operating system is launched, we like to review those new features and, if necessary, start using it to see if there is a radical change or just some brushstrokes that polish what we already had.
After a few hours with Android 11 on a Pixel 4a -which we analyzed a few weeks ago- we realize one thing: Google’s system, finally, is in a mature state. There are no radical changes, and what we see that there are tweaks here and there to improve the system’s functions, but without breaking the experience.
The icons in Android 11 are the same; the speed we have experienced is the same; we have an identical fluidity, and, ultimately, it is like continuing with our Pixel 4a with Android 10. In part, this is good because it does not force us to learn anything, but immediately we began to see exciting news.
There are small details such as pure black details in application icons when we have the dark theme activated (to save some battery on OLED / AMOLED screens) and other things in the different sections of the system that we detailed a few hours ago.
Next, however, we tell you the most noticeable improvements in Android 11 and the ones that we have been using the most in these first hours with the new version of Google’s system.
Of course, we want to emphasize that the experience has been on a Pixel because Android 11 has already reached other devices with its layer so that some elements will be different.
Improved media controls that take up less space
I am a person who is always listening to music on my mobile or casting content from my mobile to the television. You already know that when media content is played on the mobile, a ‘card’ appears, crowded together next to the notifications, giving us the playback controls. That changes with Android 11.
A card with a more polished design now appears a card, but just below the configuration icons and quick settings. It is separate from notifications and that, also, is more ‘interactive.’
If we are playing music on our mobile, but we send a YouTube video to Chromecast and a Netflix series to Fire TV, three cards appear to control independently.
It is something that works well, that allows us to select the playback source (for example, in Spotify, we can switch between external or internal speakers) and that makes that top menu more organized, as well as allowing us to control playback from there without having to enter each app.
New notifications by categories and with floating bubbles in Android 11
Notifications on Android are usually a problem, depending on the mobile and the customization layer. Practically all companies have solved this in the most recent updates of their systems, but there are still terminals in which notifications from certain apps are not shown as they should.
We will see if Android 11 can solve these problems once and for all because the truth is that notifications have improved theirs. It is not essential, and maybe if you are a very casual user or realize it. Still, now we have the notifications separated by types, with the general ones on the one hand and the conversations (SMS, Telegram, WhatsApp, etc.) on the other.
We can mark preferred notifications to be displayed at the top of the notification bar. For example, I have a preferred contact whose conversations are always going to be displayed on top of everyone else’s.
This needs a little polish, though, and smarter notifications would be appreciated. That is good for separating conversations from the rest. Still, the system should know which notifications are from email, from a social network, and from other apps to separate Instagram from those of the gym, for example.
On the other hand are the bubbles. This is the great novelty and what it does is, at the system level, what different layers. Such as Samsung allowed in some applications such as SMS. When we receive a notification from a conversation app. We can mark an option so that that conversation is shown as a bubble.
In this way, a floating bubble appears that adheres to the mobile’s sides. And allows us to access that conversation without leaving the app. If we press ‘back,’ the bubble is minimized, but it does not disappear.
We can have several conversations and applications like that to switch between them quickly. And if we get tired, we have to drag the bubble to the bottom of the screen.
The downside is that bubbles don’t work in all messaging apps. I went crazy looking for how to activate WhatsApp or SMS. Because I had all the parameters well marked. But the happy bubbles still did not appear … until a Telegram message arrived.
Doing a brief check, it turns out that only a few apps are compatible with this bubble system. So we will have to wait for the applications to update to enjoy it.
The ‘Power’ button no longer serves to turn the phone on / off. It is the control center of a connected home.
One of the new Android 11 features that I’ve been testing the most is the new power button. Traditionally, this button is used to restart/turn off / turn on the phone. And the Pixels allowed us to place credit cards there to pay with Google Pay quickly.
Now that section goes a step further and if we have Google Home activated and linked to different IoT devices at home. The control of them appears in that power menu.
Press & hold the power button to bring up the menu. In my case, I have three plugs, a light bulb, the Nest, and the Chromecast. And the truth is, it makes home control somewhat more comfortable.
More precise permission control
This is something that we will see more in the medium-long term than in a few hours with the system. Still, it seems interesting to point out that we can manually revoke permissions of the application if we have stopped using an app that, for whatever reason, we do not uninstall.
In my terminal, I have some applications of those that you download for something specific and that you do not uninstall later. Because who knows if you will have to download them in the future. It is ‘lazy’ to uninstall these types of applications that, in addition, ask you for access to the entire phone, location, etc. to work.
In this case, you should know that by entering the services section of each application. In addition, the new permissions are not only for apps that we abandon but for all of them. Since the system is more intelligent. If we select that an app only has permissions for location, contacts, etc. When used or only for a particular moment, we frequently open it and stop asking.
The official screen recording, finally (and it works fine)
Recording the screen on mobiles that do not have their application is, to put it mildly, a nightmare. Either the audio does not work, or it is seen with a very poor bitrate, or it has a watermark. Or it only does not work well.
The best screen recorder built into mobile is, for me, the OnePlus. However, Samsung has put the batteries, and we recorded the xCloud videos a few months ago with these two models. We leave you the impressions of Microsoft’s streaming service.
Back to the topic. Android 11 has a screen recorder, finally, and not only does it have good quality. But it also allows us to control options such as if we want to record the internal audio of the application. If we wish to the mark of the touches on the screen or if we want the audio of the microphone.
Many of you may never use it, but it is most useful to share content, tutorials, etc.
Phones that can be updated to Android 11
It is a big question. When will I be able to update my mobile to Android 11? The first mobiles to access the new version of the system are, as is traditional, those from Google. Starting with Pixel 2 and up to 4th, you can update to Android 11.
However, other companies have been in a hurry and are already releasing the update. They are as follows:
- Little F2 ProXiaomi Mi 10 and Mi 10 Pro
- realme X50 Pro
- OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro
- Oppo Find X2 and X2 Pro
- Oppo Reno 3 and 3 Pro
We should have to keep waiting for the rest, but considering that Xiaomi has already adapted its layer and Oppo, realme, and OnePlus. It should take little time to launch those companies’ mobiles.