A month later than originally planned, Google is finally releasing the first public beta for . Google had planned to announce the update on June 3, but it ultimately delayed the announcement due to the Black Lives Matter movement and a number of protests around the globe.
Wednesday's announcement covers three main features of Android 11: Communication, privacy, and better control of connected devices.
Google has dedicated a section of your notification tray to messaging apps, putting all of your incoming messages in one place for you to view, manage, and reply. There's also an option to mark conversations as high priority, which will allow them to interrupt even when Do Not Disturb is turned on.
Bubbles is finally making its debut. We first saw Bubbles with Android 10 before it was removed. If you've ever used Facebook Messenger's chat heads feature, then Bubbles will feel very familiar. Essentially, you can create a shortcut to specific conversations that will remain present on your screen, no matter what you're doing. The small circular icons can be moved around on your screen, and when you select tap on one, they'll unstack letting you switch between bubble conversations all without leaving the current app you're in.
I've always disabled chat heads the moment I set up Messenger, so I'm not sure if Bubbles will be as useful as it looks, but I'm going to give it a try.
Android 10 added many privacy features and even a dedicated privacy section in the Settings app, but with Android 11, Google is cranking privacy control to, well, 11. Specifically, users will have more control over their data and can even grant one-time access to your microphone, camera, and location. Another cool privacy feature in Android 11 is that if the phone detects you haven't used an app for a while, it will automatically reset all of its permissions. The next time you open the app, you'll need to approve its permission requests once again.
As for your smart home and connected devices, Google has made it easier to access those controls. You can long-press the power button to activate a new screen that shows your Google Pay cards and boarding passes, along with any connected devices you have linked to your Google account. For example, if you have a smart lock on your front door, you can quickly check its status, as well as lock or unlock it with relative ease.
There are also new media controls, with a shortcut toggle that makes it easier to switch between where your device is playing music. In Google's example, you can quickly switch between listening on your Pixel Buds to your Nest Hub.
The first release of the public beta is available right now for the Pixel 2 and newer, with Google stating that other devices will be added to the beta in the coming weeks. I don't recommend installing the beta on your primary device -- there are bugs, and issues and battery life is sure to be horrible. But if you must, you can join the beta program here.