We're still quite a few months out from Google releasing Android 11 to the masses, but in the meantime, we have its string of Developer Previews to play with. On March 18, the latest Developer Preview 2 was unveiled and made available for devs that need to work with the new software ahead of launch.
Developer Preview 2 doesn't bring a lot of user-facing changes to Android, but if you take a peek behind the curtain, you'll find a healthy dose of tweaks and adjustments that are worth talking about.
So, without further ado, here's everything you need to care about that's new in Android 11 Developer Preview 2!
- Notification history
- Built-in screen recorder
- Revamped wallpaper UI
- Improved face unlock security
- 5G state API
- Foldable hinge detection
- Better call screening
- Scoped storage migration
- Varied refresh rate settings
- Resume on boot
- It works with the Android Flash Tool
View your entire notification history
One of the few UI changes in Android 11 Developer Preview 2 has to do with your notification panel. Not only is there considerably more spacing between different notification types, you'll also see a new "History" option at the bottom of the panel.
Tapping on this takes you to a notification history page, which shows a list of all past notifications. The top of the page highlights recently dismissed notifications, with the other ones below those are organized by the day they were received.
If you've ever accidentally swiped away a notification that you didn't mean to, this is a life-saver.
There's finally a built-in screen recorder
For years and years, we've been begging Google for some sort of built-in screen recorder for Android. Rumor had it that we'd get one in Android 10, but that never happened. Thankfully, it looks like our time has finally come.
In DP2 for Android 11, there's a new toggle in the Quick Settings called "Screen Record." Tapping on this reveals a pop-up that asks if you want to start recording, with toggles to record audio and to show touches on your screen.
A screen recorder was technically present in one of the Developer Previews for Android 10, but it didn't make the cut for the final release. This UI is much more complete than anything we've seen before, though, so we're assuming this will stick around for Android 11's public build.
Overhauled Wallpaper UI + new Clock customization
Customization has long been one of Android's many strengths, and Developer Preview 2 shows that Google is continuing to refine how you tweak and spruce up your phone.
When you access the "Styles & wallpapers" menu through the Pixel Launcher, you'll find a completely revamped user interface for the wallpaper picker. Wallpapers are now presented in a sleek grid format with three in a row instead of the old layout with large rectangular previews for the different wallpaper categories.
You'll also notice a new Clock button in between Style and Wallpaper. There's only one option for it right now, but this suggests that Google will allow for further customization of the lock screen in future Android 11 builds.
Pixel 4 gets "require eyes to be open" for face unlock
Face unlock on the Pixel 4 continues to be one of the best implementations we've ever seen on Android, but it's not perfect. As much as we love its blazing fast speed, the fact that it works even with our eyes closed is a notable security vulnerability we've been patiently awaiting a fix for.
We certainly didn't expect a Developer Preview for Android 11 to be where Google introduced this update, yet here we are.
If you download DP2 onto a Pixel 4, you'll find a new toggle in the face unlock settings that's called "require eyes to be open." As the name suggests, turning this on requires you to be looking at your Pixel 4 with open eyes in order for face unlock to work.
We'd certainly hope Google launches this feature as part of a Pixel Feature Drop rather than waiting for Android 11 to distribute it, but in the meantime, Android 11 DP2 is what you currently need in order to access it.
API to detect 5G state
5G is finally becoming a tangible thing in 2020, and as more 5G-capable phones are released and more people connect to the next-gen wireless network, Android has to adapt, too.
DP2 adds the new 5G state API, which makes it possible for developers to see if a user is connected to 5G via New Radio or a Non-Standalone network. Why is this important? Devs can use the API to highlight certain experiences or features that are best used with 5G only when a user is detected to be on a 5G network.
That might not mean much for you and me right now, but as 5G expands to additional markets and handsets, the API's existence will be more meaningful.
Foldable hinges are easier to detect
Similar to 5G, folding phones are another thing that have gone from pipe-dream to reality. Thanks to devices like the Galaxy Z Flip and Motorola RAZR, the idea of a foldable phone is no longer foreign to mainstream consumers.
Continuing its support for these foldable devices, Developer Preview 2 adds a new "hinge angle sensor API." With this, apps can more easily detect the hinge of a folding phone so developers can create experiences around it.
We saw Samsung introduce this concept on the Galaxy Z Flip in limited quantities, such as the camera app and Google Duo changing their layout if you did a half-fold of the phone. With this API, we should (hopefully) see more apps follow suit.
Call screening improvements
Robocalling is one of those annoyances everyone has to live with, and thankfully, Google's been at the forefront of combating it.
That battle continues with Android 11 DP2, with Google adding new APIs to do just that. As noted by Google in its press release for Developer Preview 2:
In addition to verifying an incoming call's STIR/SHAKEN status (standards that protect against caller ID spoofing) as part of its call details, call-screening apps can report a call rejection reason, and with permission they can see whether a call is to/from a number in the user's contacts. Apps can also customize a system-provided post call screen to let users perform actions such as marking a call as spam or adding to contacts.
More updates to scoped storage
Google's using Android 11 as its big push towards scoped storage, and knowing this is a transition that doesn't come lightly, Developer Preview 2 adds a new migration tool that allows developers to migrate files from Android's legacy storage model to the new scoped storage one.
This is something that's bound to get more attention with each update, so stay tuned to what future Developer Previews bring.
Apps have more control over refresh rates
Over the past couple of years, we've seen Android phones with refresh rates that go beyond the standard 60Hz setting. 90Hz and 120Hz displays allow for buttery smooth animations that 60Hz panels just aren't capable of, and thanks to DP2, apps and games can better utilize these faster refresh rates.
Now, developers can set a preferred refresh rate for their app to run at. For example, if a phone has a 120Hz display but the developer thinks their app works better at 60Hz or 90Hz, they can indicate that and change the refresh rate when said app is being used.
Overnight updates just got way better
Overnight updates are a wonderfully convenient way to update your phone without disrupting your workflow, but they come with an annoying consequence. Once the update is complete, you need to unlock your phone before apps can function like normal and notifications continue to pour in.
With Developer Preview 2, Google is changing this.
Thanks to a new feature called "resume on reboot," apps are able to access Android's Credential Encrypted storage immediately after an update completes. This means that apps and notifications will work like they usually do, even without you needing to manually unlock your phone.
Flashing it is easier than ever
Android 11 Developer Preview 2 is intended for use by developers only, meaning Google doesn't recommend you go and install this on your daily driver. You'll need to flash/manually download Developer Preview if you're still on Android 10, but starting with DP2, the flashing process is substantially easier.
Using the Android Flash Tool launched back in January, you can flash Developer Preview 2 onto your Pixel entirely from your web browser. You'll still need some technical know-how, but it makes the flashing process much easier and pain-free than it usually is.
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