Here’s everything new and hidden in Android 11 Developer Preview 4

Come with us to explore Here’s everything new and hidden in Android 11 Developer Preview 4

Google had announced the first Android 11 Developer Preview back in February, followed by Preview 2, Preview 3, and recently, Preview 4. As per the original plan, Google was supposed to release the first Android 11 Beta at Google I/O, but the schedule has changed a lot because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The first Beta will now be revealed at an online event on June 3rd, 2020. Until then, we have the Android 11 Developer Preview 4 to keep us occupied. While there are no developer features highlighted in this release, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any changes of note in Preview 4. Here are the changes and new features that we have found while digging through the latest Developer Preview 4 on the Google Pixel 3a XL and Google Pixel 4.

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New Features in Android 11 Developer Preview 4

1. Select button in the recent apps overview

Android 11 Developer Preview 3 revamped the recent apps overview by adding a “screenshot” and “share” button in place of the row of suggested apps. Now in Developer Preview 4, those two buttons are joined by a “select” button. Tapping this button highlights all selectable text and images.

You could already manually select text and images in the recent apps overview on Pixel devices since Android 9 Pie, but many users simply did not realize that this could be done or that it was a feature. This new “select” button just makes it more obvious to users that you can make a selection over here. However, we don’t know if this “select” button will be available in Android 11 for non-Pixel devices. Non-Pixel devices before Android 11 already do not have access to selectable text/images in the recent apps overview.

2. Picture-in-picture windows are now resizable!

In Android 11 Developer Preview 2, we discovered code hinting that Google will soon allow you to resize picture-in-picture windows. In Android 11 Developer Preview 3, we discovered that this feature moved closer to release as we were able to manually enable it using a feature flag. Now in Android 11 Developer Preview 4, this feature has been enabled by default for everyone.

Resized PiP window

To resize a picture-in-picture window, simply tap right outside one of the four corners and then drag inward or outward.

3. New Hexagon and Flower Icon Shapes in Pixel Themes

With the release of the Pixel 4, Google introduced the Pixel Themes app. Pixel Themes lets you customize some parts of the UI such as the font, accent color, icon shape, and icon fill from a number of pre-installed choices. Now in Developer Preview 4, Google has added two new icon shape options: Hexagon and Flower.

4. Wireless Debugging now has a Quick Setting tile

Android 11 adds support for quickly setting up ADB over WiFi. You can quickly set up wireless ADB by scanning a QR code or entering a 6 digit PIN. In Developer Preview 4, Google has added a Quick Setting tile that allows you to quickly toggle on/off wireless debugging. This will help keep your device secure by letting you turn off wireless debugging when you aren’t using it and to turn it on quickly when you do need it.

To enable the Wireless Debugging Quick Setting tile, you’ll have to go to Settings > Developer Options > Quick settings developer tiles.

5. Connected Preferences now links to Android Auto

In Settings > Connected devices > Connection preferences, there’s now a link to open Android Auto’s settings page. This is likely in preparation for the deprecation of the main Android Auto app in favor of Google Assistant’s long-awaited driving mode.

6. Notification counts are shown in the preview

If you have multiple notifications in the same conversation, you’ll now see a number next to the expand arrow that tells you how many messages you missed in that conversation. For example, in this screenshot, there are two messages from the same Hangouts conversation, so the notification had the number “2” in it.


In-Development Features

These features are present in Android 11 Developer Preview 4, but they are in various stages of completion and are not ready just yet. We can expect to see these features coming to us in future releases.

1. Remove apps from suggestion row in App Drawer

The Pixel Launcher contains an app suggestion row at the top, which suggests apps that you are likely to launch next based on your usage of those apps. While one could entirely switch off the row, in case you did not find it useful, there was no way to individually remove an app from being suggested. So if you had a single app that you prefer not showing up in the row, you had no option to do so. In Developer Preview 4, we enabled a development option that allows you to remove apps from the suggestion row by dragging them off the App Drawer and dropping them onto the “Don’t suggest app” option. Normally, this “don’t suggest app” option will show “uninstall.”

2. Hybrid Hotseat: Suggest replacement apps for missing positions in the app dock

The App Dock rests on the bottom of the home screen, and it acts as a fixed bar of apps visible across multiple home screens. The App Dock is filled up with five icons by default. If you remove an app from the dock, there will simply be an empty space in that spot.

With the Hybrid Hotseat feature enabled, however, when you remove an icon from the App Dock, the Pixel Launcher will suggest an app from the Suggestion row to take the empty spot. We had already discovered this feature in an APK teardown, and in Developer Preview 4, we managed to activate this feature.

3. New Controls Menu UI

One of Android 11’s key features is the Controls API, which will let developers put home automation shortcuts in the power menu. In earlier previews of Android 11, there was a “Quick Controls” section underneath the row of power menu items up top while the rest of the power menu is transparent.

Now in Android 11 Developer Preview 4, the power menu background is dark, including the power menu items up top. Furthermore, “Quick Controls” now says “Device Controls” and there’s a description text when it’s empty that says “Add controls for your connected devices”. When you add controls from a supported app, this text disappears to make room for your favorite controls. Overall, this feature looks more polished, and we could see Google publicly talk about it during the Android 11 beta 1 launch on June 3rd.

4. Preparation for “Schedules” settings

In Android 11 Developer Preview 3, we spotted evidence that Google is preparing a new “Schedules” settings page where you will be able to control all schedulable settings, such as Do Not Disturb mode, Night Light, dark mode, etc. Now in Android 11 Developer Preview 4, we managed to get the entry for this “Schedules” settings page to surface.

It’s available in Settings > System. However, currently, the fragment for “Schedules” does not exist in the SettingsGoogle app hence it crashes when we try to launch it.

5. Battery Share is now Reverse Charging

In Android 11 Developer Preview 1, we spotted an activity called “battery share” that suggests that Google is working on supporting reverse wireless charging for certain devices. Code analysis suggests this feature will be exclusive to “redfin”, which we presume to be one of the Pixel 5 devices powered by the Snapdragon 765 processor.

In Android 11 Developer Preview 4, Battery Share has been renamed to Reverse Charging. However, Google has removed many of the descriptive strings for the feature. They also made it so you can’t launch the settings page unless your device’s model name is “redfin”, confirming that the reverse wireless charging feature is indeed intended for that device.

We managed to surface the setting in Settings > Battery, but again, all of the text that should be there is missing currently.

6. Pixel Launcher is preparing a gestures tutorial

Google added full-screen gesture navigation in Android 10 but they have yet to implement a tutorial teaching users how to navigate with these gestures. In the latest Pixel Launcher release, we spotted a new activity that teaches users how to use gesture navigation.

7. Pixel Themes is preparing grid size customization for the Pixel Launcher

When we had first learned about the Pixel Themes app before the launch of the Pixel 4, we were able to surface a setting to change the grid size in the launcher. That feature never launched in the Pixel Themes app.

But in Android 11 Developer Preview 4, we managed to surface this menu in the Pixel Themes app. Once this feature is live, you’ll be able to choose from 5×5 (default), 4×4, 3×3, or 2×2 grid sizes.

8. Unified Hotspot & Tethering Settings

Finally, we enabled a feature flag that tweaks the UI for the “Hotspot & Tethering” settings. In the new UI, the Wi-Fi hotspot settings are on the same page as the toggles for USB tethering and Bluetooth tethering. Ethernet tethering, which was newly added to Android 11 Developer Preview 3, is currently missing in the new Hotspot & Tethering UI.


Removed Features in Android 11 Developer Preview 4

In Android 11 Developer Preview 4, Google has reverted these behavior changes so it is no longer possible to use these features.

Undo Recent Apps Dismissal Gesture and Dismissing Persistent Notifications

Android 11 Developer Preview 3 changed the system behavior in two key areas: recent apps and notifications. For recent apps, they made it possible to “undo” dismissing a recent app card by quickly swiping down anywhere on the screen after you dismissed the card. For notifications, they made it possible to hide persistent notifications using the same swipe left/right gesture used to dismiss standard notifications – this put persistent notifications into a new “apps active in background” area underneath the “history” button which made these notifications far less visible.

Both of these can no longer be achieved.


Bonus: Verizon Google Pixel 4a Confirmed

It wouldn’t be a Google software release without confirming upcoming hardware. This time, it’s the Google Pixel 4A, confirmed to be coming to Verizon in the USA.

 


That’s all that we could find yet in this release. Follow our Android 11 news tag to stay up-to-date on everything we’ve covered so far on the next Android OS release.

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