It's that time of the year. Android 11 is here — or, at least, the first early developer previews are. We're continually combing through these new versions looking for changes, willing canaries in the Android coal mines so that you, our readers, can see what's new without having to actually risk installing it on your own phone (if you don't want to). Now that we've had some time to look around, here's everything new we've spotted.

Google posted a full timeline of its preview releases, which will include three Developer Previews and three Betas at a cadence of around one a month until the final version lands sometime in Q3:

Before we dive in, we'd like to thank you: our tipsters and readers. Our job would be so much harder if it weren't for you guys, and AP ❤️s you.

Some of the features first spotted in Android 11 have trickled down to Android 10 as part of the March 2020 update/2nd Pixel Feature Drop. Though they first arrived in Android 11, they're no longer exclusive to it. We've left them in the lists, but struck them out and added an explanation in each case. For non-Pixels, some of these features may not surface on other devices until they receive Android 11, anyway.

We've updated our list with Android 11 Developer Preview 2 features. As always, the newly spotted features are also included separately just below, though they've also been integrated into the main list.

What's new?

Now that the second Developer Preview (and its bugfix update) has been out for a while and it's been combed through, we're confident most of its features and secrets have been discovered.

The Android 11 feature list

Entirely new Android 11 features

Visual tweaks

Privacy and security changes

  • Temporary/one-time app permissions: Android 11 adds the option to grant some permissions "Only this time," so you can continue to decide on a case-by-case basis.
  • Scoped Storage is back: Introduced in Android Q, we got a one-year reprieve before Scoped Storage goes into effect, and it will debut with Android 11. It may be slower, and it will interfere with some legacy operations, but Google champions the effect it will have on user privacy, better sandboxing app storage. Some apps may also be able to secure exemptions, like file managers and backup apps.
  • Repeatedly denying permission requests will block them: If an application requests a permission twice, and it's denied by the user both times, the app will be blocked from requesting the permission again.
  • Extra tap to grant overlay permissions: Overlay-based attacks are a serious concern for the Android platform. Starting in Android 11, apps that need you to grant it can't simply take you to the toggle, they can only dump you to the level before it, where you have to then navigate to the option and turn it on yourself. It's just one extra tap, but it might make a difference for those blindly granting permissions to malware.
  • No more background location access: Although apps can request an exemption, Google is pressuring developers to stop letting apps request continuous location access, so they can't gather that information in the background, only while they're running and you are aware of them. All new apps must meet this requirement by August, and in November, any that don't meet the requirement will be booted from the Play Store.
  • "Require eyes to be open" setting for face unlock on Pixel 4: This showed up in Android 11 DP2 first.

Modifications to existing features

Under the hood/developer/API changes

  • Developers will get a bit more time to fix things for Android 11: Google is giving us an extra "platform stability milestone" with final SDK/NDK APIs changes, so developers rushing to build for Android 11 have until June before things are finalized. Apps on the Play Store also don't have to be updated to support the changes until the end of 2021.
  • Better support for "waterfall" curved-edge displays: A new API augmenting the existing display cutout API will help developers better build apps for phones with curved screens, letting them exclude certain elements from hitting those curved, prone-to-accidental-touch sides when required.
  • More restricted and undocumented APIs getting the boot: Developers using non-public APIs for stuff will need to make sure their apps keep working with new restrictions in Android 11.
  • "Overscan" ADB command doesn't work in Android 11: We aren't sure if it's an intentional change or not (Google hasn't answered our inquiry), but Android 11 has killed the ADB overscan command, used by many third-party apps that modify the navigation bar.
  • Support for "soft" reboots: It doesn't save that much time right now, but a slightly faster way to restart userspace software while keeping lower-level systems running has been added in Android 11.
  • Generic System Image/DSU installer: It doesn't seem to work right now, but a built-in installer for GSIs is present in Android 11.
  • Built-in app compatibility tester: Android 11 has tools to better help developers test platform changes, individually enabling and disabling them to see how they might interact with apps.
  • Wireless ADB: Non-developer-types won't care, but Android 11 DP2 added proper wireless debugging with code- and QR-based pairing.
  • GPS improvements: We knew it was coming to the Pixel 4 with Android 11, and Google says Android 11 will deliver enhanced GNSS performance for even greater location accuracy.
  • More display cutout options for developers: Adding onto the notch cutout option Android P got, Android Q DP2 gets "Punch Hole" and "Waterfall" cutout settings, which developers can use to emulate those obstructions on other devices. Good for playing with layouts and designs without having every type of device on-hand.
  • Android Flash Tool compatibility: DP2 picks up support for the new Android Flash Tool for relatively easy installation from a browser, no ADB required.
  • Expanded support for authentication prompts: It's pretty technical, but Android 11 DP2 adds "Expanded support for authentication prompts," which we think means that apps can use more types of authentication mechanisms to secure user data.
  • New IPSec VPN options: Additional encryption options for VPNs are available in DP2.
  • ANGLE preferences return: DP2 adds preferences for Chrome's ANGLE WebGL/OpenGL ES.
  • New "Enhanced Connectivity" toggle: Does nothing yet as of DP2, lives in developer options.
  • New "HD audio toggle: Currently switches between SBC and AAC audio codecs in developer options.