Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Google Pixel 4a

Android 11 is live: available to Pixels first, more phones soon

We’re well and truly past the dessert names now, as Android 11 goes live without any sweeteners, and yet with more organisation.

Mobile phones are a major part of our lives, and so every year, you can typically expect to find a new mobile operating system ready, arriving with more features and settings to help you get the most out of your phone.

Granted, some devices can take a little longer to get them, but between Apple and Google, you can expect a new mobile OS to grace a phone yearly.

Apple tends to be a fair bit faster getting its new operating systems to phones, though that should be unsurprising as Apple makes iOS for just its phones, and so iPhones get the new versions without waiting.

Google, on the other hand, makes a mobile operating system that goes out to not just its Pixel phones, but for numerous other mobile makers. Those manufacturers in turn have to adapt Google’s releases for their devices, so while Google can release a new operating system, it may take a company such as Samsung or Oppo a little more time to release it for their phones, and not just some of them, but all of them.

But before they get to that point, the new OS has to come out. It has to be ready.

And that’s where we are this year, as Google is ready with Android 11, now dessert-less in its name, as Google gave up on that last year in Android 10, thought to be Android Q.

In retrospect, it would have been very easy for Android to keep the dessert naming with Android 11, which would be Android R if Google had kept it up. It could have used “rum cake”, “red velvet”, “raspberry tart”, or “rocky road”, or “rice pudding”. Clearly there were options, but we’ll get used to Android 11.

Android is here


The features of Android 11 run from messaging to security to the smart home, while also tweaking some other things.

As launched in the beta, messaging comes together from several apps, joining together in your notification section and allowing you to choose who are the most importance people in your life. Essentially, it’s a form of fast-tracking your friends and family in your notifications, with a specific section for messages in the drop-down bar of Android.

Google has also set up bubbles for messaging services, similar to how the Facebook Messenger app allows messages to sit in small circles when you want to multitask between message and app.

Android 11 Beta message bubbles

Security is being bolstered, too, hardly surprising given how much attention is focused on that, though it’s not just security fixes overall. You’ll be able to set permissions on apps to have them use aspects of your phone for one-time only, so if you’re concerned about an app needing access to your microphone, camera, or location for longer than the one or two times you need to use it, you can set a “one-time permission” option instead.

The permissions issues goes beyond that, with an “auto-reset” capability that resets the permissions on unused apps. Think of this as Google’s way of preventing apps from delving a little too deep when they haven’t been in use for a period of time.

Over on the home screen, Google will also offer app suggestions in your first row of shortcuts if you don’t have any, or even if you move others out. In fact, Android 11 will learn you use and suggest them here, attempting to give you a phone that adapts to you, as it has with other settings over time. Those new features also extend to better responses in messaging, as the keyboard adapts there, as well.

And there’s a little more control across the phone in Android 11, as well.

You can now record the screen natively, allowing you to share screen experiences without installing any extra apps, while media controls for music and help you jump from speaker to headphones quickly and easily.

Plus if you have smart devices in your life — smart speakers, smart lights, smart security cameras — you’ll be able to control them from the power screen on Android 11, pulling it up simply by holding the power button down.

Android 11 is here for Pixels

Google Pixel 4 XL (left) next to the Pixel 3 XL (middle) and Pixel 2 XL (right)

Unsurprisingly, the first mobiles to get Android 11 are the ones Google actually makes: Pixel phones.

They’ll get it immediately, whether they’re using a Pixel 2 series phone, a Pixel 3 series, a Pixel 3a, a Pixel 4 model, or even the newly released Pixel 4a. Pixels get Android releases first.

As for the original Pixel XL and Pixel model, we’re not sure you will, though if you do, some of the features may not be included. That is now a four year old phone, so it shouldn’t be altogether surprising to find some phones stop getting updates. Four years is a long time for phone releases.

Android 11 for other Android phones

Over on other Android phones, updates with Android 11 will happen, though some will see releases faster than others.

Google has said select OnePlus, Xiaomi, and Realme phones will see release of Android 11 immediately, as will Oppo.

In fact, Oppo has said that it is one of the first manufacturers to run Android 11, and looks set to launch ColorOS 11 — its version of Android — on September 14, delivering a rollout plan for Oppo owners around the same time.

Others, however, may take a bit longer, as mobile makers adapt Android 11’s release to their phone releases. That includes other brands beyond those four, such as (but not limited to) Samsung, LG, Motorola, Nokia, TCL, Alcatel, and others.

As for Huawei’s Android 11 ambitions, that’s a bit of a weird area at the moment. Thanks to the US trade disconnection with Huawei last year, the company has to base its Android releases off the open source variety, the Android Open Source Project, also known as “AOSP”. While AOSP does have Android 11, Huawei will need to adapt its EMUI system to work with Android 11 first before releasing it, which means that while devices such as the Mate 30 Pro and P40 Pro will still likely see Android 11 in the near future, much like other manufacturers, you’ll be waiting for Huawei to make it work, albeit without Google’s help.

Essentially, if you don’t have a Pixel phone, you’re waiting for your manufacturer to get into gear to get Android 11 up and running for your phone. For some, that might take longer than others, but it’s best to stay tuned all the same.

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