Android 11 Preview hands-on – Notification changes, dark mode options
Android 11 Developer Preview is out, and I’ve tried it for a few hours. I’m back to report my findings.
To be honest, there are not a lot of user-facing changes in this first preview release. Like the earlier Android 11 post laid out, this is almost entirely API changes with little to see from a UI perspective. Right now, Android 11 looks just like Android 10. Hopefully, Google is just holding back, and we’ll see more in future Developer Preview releases.
As for what’s here, like we suspected, there is now a “conversations” section of the notification panel that incoming texts and messages end up in. The section is sorted at the very top of the notification panel, above regular notifications and silent notifications. If you long-press on a message notification, you’ll get a whole host of options. You can banish a certain type of notification from the “messages” category, show a message as a bubble, “favorite” a person to sort them above every other person, snooze a notification, or mute a notification.
Each individual person gets a notification channel now, so you can do things like make messages from one person high-priority and mute someone else, even if they are all using the same app. The Do Not Disturb settings have been completely rearranged and can be broken down by “person” now, too, along with settings for apps and alarms.
Messaging apps can be freely tossed into a bubble from this menu, allowing the app to float over top of everything else. Even for ancient, unloved, criminally neglected apps like Google Hangouts—which is still Google’s best messaging platform—the feature works great. Google is working to shut down the old methods to build floating apps, since they can result in hidden, unattributed screen overlays, which can be a security concern. For floating apps, bubbles are going to be the preferred style in Android 11.
The Dark Theme can now be scheduled to go off along with the sunrise and sunset, which was a much-requested feature after its introduction last year. There’s a native screen recorder hidden in the Quick Settings, which works great. Google is also hard at work on a scrolling screenshot feature, which isn’t active in this release but has been hacked into existence by XDA Developers.
The Developer Options screen has a new option to “show refresh rate,” which sticks a number in the corner showing if your 90Hz phone is really running at 90Hz. This will be great for diagnosing janky display implementations like that of the Google Pixel 4. It would have been easy to use the stock font for this number, but somebody at Google went out of their way to make the number look just like the Fraps FPS counter, with big, blocky numbers in red, yellow, and green. Props.