What is coming in Android 11?
Today, Android announced the Android 11 developer preview. It’s 02–20–2020, and I’m starting to write this at 20:20 at night. I’m a big fan of numbers, so I hope this means something good for the Android world.
The world of mobile technologies is fast-paced and changes in the blink of an eye. Personally, I struggle to keep up with the changes, even when I work on this every day. The purpose of this piece is to make your life easier. In it, I will answer two questions:
- When is Android 11 being launched?
- What is new (and relevant) in this new version?
That’s it, no overhead, not a ton of hours of reading. Because that is what we all need: a quick summary, straight to the point.
When is Android 11 being launched?
Unfortunately Android is a bit ambiguous on this, their answer to this question was the following:
The Android 11 Developer Preview program runs from February 2020 until the final public release to AOSP and OEMs, planned for Q3 2020https://developer.android.com/preview/overview
In the above quote, there are a couple of words that need to be defined:
- AOSP — Android Open Source Project. Regarding Android, the concept of open source may be a bit confusing if you don’t know how it works. Basically, Android is being developed by Google since the initial state and until the public release. After that, anyone can add or contribute to the project.
- OEMs — Original equipment manufacturer, that is any of the brands that make Android phones: Samsung, Nokia, Motorola, among many other examples that you can think of.
With those two terms clarified, we now know that the release to users and the general public will be in the third quarter of 2020. This means between July and September. If we take a look at what has happened with mobile platforms, Android and iOS, big releases usually happen in September. Below you can see a picture of the timeline established by the Android team.
What is new in Android 11?
The Android developer preview site divides the updates into three categories:
- Privacy updates
- Features and APIs
- Behavior changes
These three points tell us something, but not much. Let’s follow the same order and see what really is behind each one.
The first thing mentioned is scoped storage. Before, developers could write into the external storage of your phone and add whatever files were needed, without your permission, or possibly delete them without deleting the app.
Fixing this means the user can control the phone memory, and avoid clutter and unneeded items. Comparing iPhone and Android, one of the biggest advantages of Android is the ability to control your memory and not run out of it. This feature will make this even better.
Right now, when you authorize an app to access something like your microphone or camera, it’s enabled 24/7 until you go to settings and disable it. If we wanted to go deep into conspiracy theories, you could be authorizing any app to spy all the time on you (which is not very likely because that would consume all your data and battery).
With one-time permissions, you can tell your phone that you authorize that app to use something, but only until you or the system stops the app.
Background location access
Similar to the point above, up until now, when you authorize an app to use your location, you grant access to both the foreground and the background. Very common examples of the background access are the suggestions Google maps give to many of us regarding traffic or your destination or it asking whether you are currently at a restaurant. Most of us authorize Google maps to use the location because otherwise, we wouldn’t get our directions when using the GPS, but that doesn’t mean that we want it to be spying on us in the background, does it? With Android 11, you will have control over foreground vs. background location permissions.
Features and APIs
The Features and APIs section is very long, so I will only mention the most important features that could be used in the average app.
Data Access Auditing
This is an interesting security feature for developers. When developing apps, we use a lot of external libraries. We rarely know how they act in the background and most of the time don’t review all the code. I once had an app that was using a third-party library, and it wasn’t until Apple reviewed it when they rejected it that I knew it was recording private user data. With this new feature, developers can audit which data is being collected by the APIs and ensure the privacy of our users.
Rich media in quick replies
Nowadays, we are all familiar with quick replies, which are the small textboxes in our notifications. We can reply to things like messages or emails without opening the app. Until now, you could only add text to those replies, but with Android 11 you can also add images through them. I have my reservations whether this will be useful or easy to use, but we will see.
Biometric authentication strength
Biometric authentication has slowly taken on the smartphone market. We currently have four options to authenticate in this way: fingerprint, iris, voice, and face recognition. Most people don’t know that sensors have a certain level of security. Some low-end brands that want to incorporate biometric sensors use second-hand devices that check with low precision. In other words, if you look similar to your brother or your mother, a bad facial recognition sensor would recognize them as if they were you. With Android 11, developers can choose whether devices with strong or weak levels of security can access certain features.
You probably can identify this feature, introduced by Facebook messenger. It’s now encouraged to be used across Android. In my opinion, having chat bubbles is a bit annoying, but Android has decided to do this. I don’t think there is anything else to say about them but that you will probably be seeing them much more.
For the last part of the documentation, Android repeats the same once again: permissions, app location, and storage. I won’t be repeating that as we already talked about it.
In summary, Android 11 developer preview is mostly about security, which is a great thing to have. We are slowly learning as a society how important data privacy is. It is important for companies like Android, who own operating systems where we input all our personal data, to be responsible about it. What do you think?
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Until next time!
Evana Margain Puig