Android 11 adds conversation grouping to the notification shade
Bubble notifications are no longer hidden in Android 11
Android 11 makes the Pixel 4's Motion Sense gestures a whole lot better
Android 11's hidden Battery Share menu hints at Pixel 5 reverse charging support
Android 11 makes it easy to check what audio codecs your Bluetooth headphones support
- View All 92 Articles In This Series
When the Pixel 4 landed, one of the biggest features included in the phone was a new radar-based "gesture" system called Motion Sense. Unfortunately for Google, it was pretty garbage at launch — personally, I could never get it to work right. But a new "pause" gesture is rolling out now (probably as part of an app update, but definitely included in Android 11), and across the board, we see big improvements in the overall "finickiness" of the gestures. In short, they don't suck now.
I've spent the last hour or so fiddling with the new controls delivered in the latest Motion Sense app update. (Again, we know for sure the update is included in Android 11, but it could be rolling out to those on Android 10, we aren't certain if it is.) In that time, I've been using my dinky Pixel 4 next to my keyboard to control music in Spotify on my desktop, and the difference under Android 11 is immediately tangible. At first, I assumed it was just placebo since I haven't used the gestures that much since launch, but switching to my Pixel 4 XL on Android 10 (without the new pause gesture) shows a night and day difference.
Previously, I don't think it's an exaggeration to say my first gesture always failed. At most, I'd see the little halo light along the top give a half-hearted wobble in the direction I flicked my hand. Two or three tries later at varying heights and angles, and it would eventually work. And that's ignoring all the false positives I'd get at the gym with the swinging arms of the elliptical. For me, the Pixel 4's gestures were basically unusable, and I cursed them as a pointless novelty.
I don't know what the company changed, but this is a distinct and tangible improvement.
Now, with this latest update, almost every flick and dip seems to work on the first try. It's still not perfect, I'd say one in four or five tries fails, but Motion Sense has gone from majority failure to majority success for me, easily. Now that it works, it doesn't feel like a gimmick at all — it's an actual feature I can see myself using, especially when jamming out on my headphones at the cafe, laptop out, riding a tethered connection off my phone.
I don't know what the company changed, but this is a distinct and tangible improvement. Kudos on making the feature actually usable now, Google. If it doesn't spaz out at the gym the next time I'm on the elliptical, I might not leave the feature turned off.