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Android 11's best new features

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There's good news for Android users. After an extensive Beta phase, Android 11 is now official. The software update can be downloaded and installed on select Pixel, OnePlus, Xiaomi, Oppo, and Realme phones. Google says that more partners launching and upgrading devices over the coming months. Here are the best new features you should try today.

As always, there are some features that are exclusive to Google's own Pixel smartphones. The new additions are supported on first-party Made by Google Pixel phones from the Google Pixel 2 upwards. As a result, we've split this list of new features into two parts.


Best new Pixel-exclusive Android 11 features

If you own a Google Pixel smartphone with Android 11 installed, finding your friends in Google Maps just got a whole lot easier. You can now use Live View with Location Sharing in Google Maps. If your friends have chosen to share their location with you, you can tap on their icon and then on Live View on the right side of your screen.

You’ll see where they are in relation to you, along with how far away they are. Tapping on start will then show you arrows and directions placed right on top of your world so you can see exactly which way to go.

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Using Live View to find your friends via Google Maps. / © Google

Another new feature for Pixel phones is the improved keyboard Gboard. You can now get suggestions for text blocks or emojis during conversations while writing your messages. This is made possible by Federated Learning, a special kind of machine learning. The special feature here is that the system accesses your typed data, but only stores it locally. Google promises that this data is neither seen nor stored on its servers.

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Gboard suggests you from Android 11 texts and emojis for your messages. / © Google

Now, your Pixel can help organize your phone with new intelligent suggestions for folder names. Quickly group apps by theme, like Photography, News, Navigation, Fitness, and more.

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Folder names are now predicted on Google Pixel phones. / © Google

Best new Android 11 features for everyone

Advanced features of Google video conferencing

Google offers you two different video conferencing platforms for communication: Google Meet and Google Duo. Under Android 11, Google Meet will be available to every user for free. Here you can now use larger rooms and invite more participants.

On Google Duo, Android 11 extends the functional range of the family mode. In a video chat, you can now draw directly into the picture or insert effects and filters.

Messenger, Bubble, and Gboard: better manage your messages with Android 11

Messenger apps now have their own area within the notifications that summarizes the messages and is designed to simplify their management. Besides a quick overview of the different messages, you can also prioritize them. Prioritized messages are then also displayed when the device is muted.

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Messages from Messenger apps are now clearly listed in the notifications, / © Google

With Android 11 the bubble function finally comes to your smartphone. With this feature, you can reply directly to messages without opening the Messenger app.

Simplified handling of smart home and playback devices

By pressing the on/off button for a longer period of time, the power menu will now also show access to your smart home devices in addition to Google Pay. So you can use them without having to use an additional app.

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Starting with Android 11 you access your smart home devices via the power menu. / © Google

In addition, you will now find a section within the notifications that allows you to switch between the different playback devices, such as speakers or TV sets.

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Switch between different players with your smartphone. / © Google

Google deepens privacy on smartphones

With Android 11 you also get more control over your data. It is now possible to allow an app to access sensitive data such as the camera, location, or microphone only once. If you want to use the app again, you have to get your access permission again.

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Now you decide: Starting with Android 11 you can allow apps one-time access to your data. / © Google

A further upgrade is provided for data protection with regard to apps that have not been used for a long time. For these apps, Google will reset the permissions received up to that point. You will be sent a notification with the appropriate information. If you want to use the app again, you are free to grant the permissions after opening it.

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The permissions for an app expire if you do not use it for a longer time. / © Google

Picture-in-Picture becomes more flexible

The video player gets a scalable window on Android 11 that allows users to change size and position in picture-in-picture mode.

New gesture control

The full-screen gestures are on everyone's lips. Xiaomi introduced them with MIUI 12, while Google launched them with Android 11. So you can swipe and type and also configure the sensitivity of the gesture control in the settings.

App icons with a new shape

Android 11 puts an end to round symbols - if that's what you want. Because Google is introducing five more shapes that you can set for the shape of the app icons. Among them a square, a hexagon, a "speech bubble" and a symbol that resembles a flower.

Notification history including links

Android 11 finally makes it easier to view your message history. This appears directly in the settings and leads via a link to the notifications of the last 24 hours. The only downer, the notifications can only be viewed, but not called up again.

Face recognition only possible with open eyes

The fact that Pixel 4's unlocking by face recognition was also possible with eyes closed was a source of annoyance to many users. With the new update, Google reacts to the objections and makes unlocking only possible with open eyes, like Apple's FaceID. The shift button is now available in the face recognition settings.

Conversation management finds its way into the settings

Under Settings > Notifications the new feature appears under the segment Manage conversations. With this item, you can define which apps should appear under Conversations. There you can make clear settings for the notifications for many messaging apps under Android 11.

Pixel wallpapers get a new coat of paint

Also, the Google Wallpaper app gets a new update. While your current wallpaper is displayed in large size, other motifs are lined up as a list and thumbnails (square) below. You can find the names in the top middle.

Dial adjustment for the Clock app

It is not new that Google is working on individually adjustable dials in Pixel themes. The new area "Clock" makes the adjustment now possible.

New user interface for the Screen Recorder

A quick change of the Screen Recorder is also available together with a new user interface. You can decide by a switch whether you want to record sound or visualize the touch of the screen.

Adjusting the aspect ratio via Restart

Not all applications can be adapted to the higher aspect ratios of newer phones. Google has therefore implemented a new popup that allows you to restart the applications and let them fill the entire display.

ADB troubleshooting completely without internet

With the new update to wireless ADB on Android 11, this should finally be possible. With this feature users shall get the possibility to do a device pairing by QR code or pairing code.


IPSec represents another encryption standard. With it, you have the possibility to encrypt large data packets that you use within the VPN. Android 11 will now offer you more IPSec options that you can use when setting up a VPN.

New shortcuts function for use via the lock screen

On Android 11 you will find another switch under the settings. This allows you to use the volume control shortcut directly from the lock screen. After pressing the volume buttons for three seconds you can start the access function.

File application exchange: AOSP is replaced by Google Files

Via Settings > Storage you can still access the old file application, but in general, it seems that Google is slowly replacing it with Google Files. So a new option - Other storage - has appeared in Google Files. This allows you to access cloud storage providers such as Google Drive.

HD Audio now gets switch for Bluetooth audio

Google has also worked in the audio field. The update also includes an HD Audio switch for Bluetooth audio. With this switch, you can choose which Bluetooth audio codec is used. When turned off, the codec setting is set to SBC; when turned on again, the codec is set to AAC for higher quality.

New display adjustment for waterfall and hole-punched displays

How display features like the "waterfall" sides or cut-outs for the selfie camera effect apps can now be simulated on Android. This is helpful for developers who have to adapt their apps to different display types.

Scoped Storage

Scoped Storage. should have been here on Android 10, but was then removed from the current version during beta testing. With the new feature, every app should be able to have its own storage area (the sandbox) that is protected from other apps. Access to the general device memory is also restricted. Up to now, each app could in principle access the memory of another app and, in the worst case, access data. With Scoped Storage this should be a thing of the past and Android would move a bit towards the iPhone operating system and its restrictions.

Bluetooth in flight mode

Until now, flight mode and Bluetooth also worked in parallel, but activating flight mode also switched off Bluetooth, which then had to be reactivated manually. So the solution for this is rather a usability thing.

Scrollable Screenshots

If you want to have a WhatsApp chat history as a screenshot and it goes over multiple pages/screens, you have to take a new screenshot each time or use alternative apps.

Have you discovered any other cool Android 11 features? Share them with us below the line.

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David McCourt

David McCourt

David enjoys staying abreast of the latest technology and newest Android apps. Outside of the office, he can be found playing snooker and writing bad 00s indie songs.

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  • Simone Costi 21
    Simone Costi Sep 11, 2020 Link to comment

    In the meanwhile, I 'm still using Android 9.

  • Goldvin 11
    Goldvin Sep 11, 2020 Link to comment

    Seems interesting. Will see how it will be be on practice