Android 11: A Critical Analysis

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Android R

Looks like Google got back into the lettering game. After several massively huge updates, Android R beta previews are out. It’s Android R and not really 11 this time around. But it sure seems to bring quite the game to the table. From the Brand new Notification modes to the totally new and not at all Apple-inspired device controls, this articles aims to shine some light on some of the most interesting Android R features that were announced or previewed. 

With Apple blatantly ripping off or rather porting Android’s much-celebrated features to iPhones this fall, with the iOS 14, Google had to come in strong. It was a pretty much one-up when Android R feature list rolled out. Of course, Google didn’t copy iOS features. It was rather the Interface that made it’s way to Android. Keep in mind that Google did reveal there won’t be many ground-breaking overhauls or features introduced with R. It is meant to be a quality of life update with major focus to aesthetics.

Android R update

Looks like Android got an ever bigger reskin from the ground up. At least in the Notification drawer and Device Controls. Clearly, Android R traded the sleek stock look for an iOS-like slider and UI elements. Obviously, there are some really interesting features to watch out for. With that set in place, here’s a gentle reminder that only Beta 2.5 was out. There could be improvements or changes in the actual release version. 

Android 11 Media Controls

With iOS finally bringing in widgets to the game, Android really upped their game with the new Media Controls, literally. It is now apparently positioned above the quick-settings grid. Being an expandable live tile and taking up two times as many rows as previous versions, the Music Controls are definitely pleasing. 

If you ever felt like Media Controls was just taking up too much space in your Notification drawer, looks like this is just what you wanted. Additionally, the new widget is set to have an audio device option right from the music tile. If you have your Bluetooth headset connected and still want to listen using the speaker, this works out well.

This was definitely an innovative and clever idea from Google. It is one thing to have expandable notifications to deal with the clutter. But moving it all the way up to the quick settings was certainly well improvised. With that being said, the obvious music cards from iOS widgets are clearly there. Makes one wonder, who actually copies whom? At this point, it doesn’t matter. 

Android 11 Homescreen App suggestions

While iOS 14 works at reducing clutter by grouping applications into a secondary drawer, Android further expands upon this. The Android launcher dock is perhaps one of the most under-reworked features of all time. Keeping the dock in place all through Android 8 to 10, Android R is set to change this a bit. The App dock will now act as the recommended or rather, most used app list that you find inside your launcher. 

App suggestions

This simple reword could really save you some time. But there is still a hefty chance that it could blow up and be counterproductive. Imagine searching for the dialer and not finding it on the home screen. After all, that was the sole purpose of the wireless Mobile Phone. A certainly innovative feature. Not very sure about the feasibility yet.

Notifications

This is one really well planned and thought-out update to the notification drawer. Android has decided to ditch the traditional notification layout and further expand upon the format Android 10 brought in. Instead of splitting notifications to dismissable and not, Android 11 really tries something new. The new notifications will be split into several sections with Necessary ones like Conversations staying on top. 

notifications

This will organise the drawer much better and give a more clean layout to the current one. After all, if you’ve got just too many groups and chat-apps to keep up with but didn’t really like the clutter, this is supposed to make things better for you. One certainly innovative feature.

Android 11 Chat Bubbles

While people still talk about the most absurdly blatant rip-offs ever, Google entered the chat with chat bubbles. Much like Facebook Messenger’s chat bubbles, these are supposed to give you a one-way entry into the respective application you would use. Keep in mind, being an early feature, it is really ugly. A very basic design of the conversation with a red dot as a badge, this is not the very pleasing UI element Android has offered.

chat bubble

While it isn’t very pleasing or innovative at all, in that aspect, chat bubbles are sure to make people’s lives easier by offering an entry point into their chat apps, from where ever they are. It is more like a dialled down PiP mode, but with multi-application support.

Device Controls. 

If Chat Bubbles are ‘inspired’ by Facebook Messenger, the new Device Control screen is the epitome of a mindless rip-off. Android just reworked their Device Control menu and I’m not sure I like it. For starters, it’s very much like iOS black. But for some good reason, the connected home paradigm has entered the equation. Now, the power menu is revamped to incorporate the devices connected to your smart home and a payment interface for the same.

device control

A certainly innovative way to do things. Cleared the clutter in the app list only to clutter the power menu. A very interesting feature with brilliant usability. Further analysis is required to see just how feasible this will turn out to be.

Android 11 Overview

Android Pie did a really good job with the new Overview menu for the recent apps with launchable shortcuts in the dock and several other tweaks like Quick-switch. Since it is non-existent, Android 11 brings in a more zoomed-in Overview menu with the dock ditched. It certainly changes things about the app switching. But there are added bonuses of being able to screenshot apps and copy text without actually opening it.

overview

This is a certainly innovative feature. But did they really have to ditch the classical dock? It almost feels like Android went for one thing or the other and not both. While it has its downsides, this is certainly helpful. Keep in mind that the text copy features was introduced in Android Pie as an exclusive feature to Pixel devices. Kudos to Google for rethinking it.

Privacy

Google has closed out all-out access to apps by providing users with a brand new feature called One-Time-Permission. It basically restricts the permitted resource access by the application to just once. This provides an added layer of security.

Pixel 2 XL running Android R

Of course, these are not the only features available in Android R. A full feature-list can only be produced after the Software Update and rework rolls out sometime later this year. As of now, Android 11 looks really interesting, ignoring the ripped and reused components. We are yet to see what becomes of this new version of Android.