Google's Pixel phones get some exclusive Android 11 features

Pixel 4a Alex Home Launcher
Pixel 4a Alex Home Launcher (Image credit: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • As Android 11 rolls out to Pixel devices today, Google drops its latest feature drop.
  • Most of the new features this time either tie into new Android 11 features of relate to the Pixel Launcher, like new folder options and app suggestions.
  • Some of these features will roll out to other phones as Android 11 does, but for now Pixels get first dibs.

As Android 11 continues to roll out today to Pixel phones, Google is highlighting a few exclusive features that Pixel owners can look forward to amongst all the other goodies Android 11 brings:

  • Live View with Location Sharing — If your friend is sharing their location with you in Google Maps, you can tap their icon on the map, then the AR button, you'll get AR directions to them so you can meet back up easier.
  • New Smart Reply on Gboard — Pixels can take advantage of the new in-line suggestions on keyboards in Android 11 to snap out replies to messages more quickly while in some messaging apps like Google Messages. While this should eventually work with more keyboards as they upgrade to the new APIs, it's only on Gboard at the moment.
  • App suggestions — Pixel Launcher can now suggest apps in your dock based on your routine and the time of day. This has been here since the first Android 11 beta.
  • Folder grouping — Pxiel Launcher now makes it easier to name folders by category and easier to group apps into a folder quickly.
  • New Overview options — It's now easier to screenshot or highlight text for copying/searching.

Some of these features like the new Smart Reply suggestions and the AR directions to a friend in Google Maps Live View will presumably roll out to more phones as Android 11 becomes more widely available, but the new Pixel Launcher features are interesting, if somewhat small. As a Smart Launcher 5 user, I'm happy to see a more proactive approach to folders in Pixel Launcher on Android 11, and the app suggestions are great when they work, but it's a shame they pop up in the dock instead of on the home screen itself.

Are you enjoying Android 11 on your Pixel yet? What are your favorite features so far? I'm loving the new media playback controls, but the home controls in the power menu is a wonderful addition as well.

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Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

5 Comments
  • not a very exciting update.
  • Really? Android 11 here.
  • It seems exciting to me, even though don't have it yet.
  • Loving it so far. The message bubbles are very useful.
  • Tiny bubbles, is it me or is this pretty much a boring update?