Google is already making Android 11. What we know about about security, notifications, more

The early developer preview of Google's mobile OS focuses on privacy and different screen types.

Clifford Colby Managing Editor
Clifford is a managing editor at CNET, where he leads How-To coverage. He spent a handful of years at Peachpit Press, editing books on everything from the first iPhone to Python. He also worked at a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWEEK and MacUser. Unrelated, he roots for the Oakland A's.
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Clifford Colby
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Google's latest mobile OS, Android 11, dropped this week for developers. And while  Google may be done naming each Android release after sweets and desserts, the search giant is still keeping to its schedule of shipping major updates to its mobile OS each year.

Early prerelease versions of Android -- as with any operating system -- are interesting because they can point in the direction the company is heading and let you test-drive new features before they become widely available. But prerelease versions can also be finicky, with some apps not behaving as expected as a company works out the kinks. And it's best to not get too attached to prerelease software, as some apps and services may appear for a time and then disappear. 

This first prerelease version of Android 11 is meant to give developers a running start on creating apps for the upcoming OS, and is not intended for early adopters to download and check out -- that Android 11 version is coming later this year. But if you're curious what Google has in the works for its mobile OS, here's what's new.

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More control over permissions and tighter security

Android 10 gave us a dedicated Privacy section where you can control what permissions apps can access. Android 11 will go further, letting you grant temporary, one-time access, allowing an app to use, for example, your phone's location or camera. 

Android 11 will expand where the OS uses biometrics -- face, iris and fingerprint data -- to authenticate apps and services. And Google said Android 11 will support digital driver licenses and other identification documents.

Designed for 5G speeds

5G felt more like promise than reality in 2019, but 2020 should be different, with more and cheaper 5G phones and broader wireless coverage available. Google intends to lay the groundwork for the wider adoption of 5G with Android 11: It will let developers build apps that take advantage of 5G networks by checking if the phone has an unmetered 5G connection so it can stream more data or use a higher resolution for videos.

Works with different types of screens

Google said Android 11 will do a better job of working with different screen types, including foldable screens, waterfall screens and hole-punch or pinhole screens

Improved chat notifications

We caught just a glimpse of Bubble notifications in Android 10, but Google wants to extend bubbles to chat and messaging apps to help you quickly see your messages without a lot of fuss. Bubble notifications will sit on top of other apps and windows, and you'll be able to tap the bubble to continue a chat. You'll also be able to add images in a quick reply in a chat notification.

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Mute sounds and vibrations while you're snapping a photo

In Android 11, when you're using the camera, the app will mute notification vibrations and sounds so you won't get interrupted while capturing the shot.

Coming later this year

Remember, this first release of Android 11 is designed for developers to check out new features and and make changes to their apps. Google said the first beta will come in May, timed for this year's Google I/O. More betas will follow, and the final release is expected in late summer or early fall. For more on when Android 11 is coming and when it's safe to install the beta, see when we expect to get Android 11.

For more on Android, read about seven things Google's mobile OS can do that Apple's iOS can't and how to share your location.