When Android 11 arrived last year, it included a lot of new features to try. Samsung has manage to do fairly well at updating its devices this time around, with the S20 and Note20 series receiving Android 11 by the end of 2020, and many other phones getting it ahead of schedule. While Samsung added plenty of its own features, Google's enhancements still shine through, and here are the ones you really owe it to yourself to be using.
Google Home Controls
One of my favorite features in Android 11 is the Google Home panel built into the power menu, providing quick access to smart device controls. I use this all the time with my lighting and Chromecast. And it's not limited to the Home app — any developer can take advantage of this system.
Since Samsung infamously remapped the power button to Bixby, the implementation of these controls has been changed for One UI. Swipe down on the notification shade, tap devices, and then press SmartThings — a drop-down box will appear listing any compatible app, including Google Home. Other than the change of location, everything works the same as it does on a Pixel.
It should be noted that this only debuted with One UI 3.1, which first arrived with the Galaxy S21. Thankfully, older Galaxy devices have already started to receive this update.
Teased in Android 10, Notification Bubbles finally arrived in Android 11. Although Samsung's pop-up view is more flexible in that it works with any app, Bubbles are faster and more convenient for quick access to important notifications. Some apps still don't support this, unfortunately.
Tighter control over our data has been a growing priority for Google lately, and with Android 11, that extends to app permissions. Rather than a black-and-white allow-or-deny approach, we can now grant one-time access to location and other permissions. If there's an app that you want to temporarily give location access to but don't want it to continue doing so in the background, this is a welcome tool.
Left: Notification settings, Middle: Advanced settings, Right: Notification history
All too frequently I've mistakenly swiped away a notification before I had the chance to read its contents. Android 11 adds a history button in the pull-down that shows all recent notifications, even if they had been dismissed. While this has been included in One UI, Samsung has made it more difficult to get to than it should be.
Pull the notification shade down, press "notification settings," "advanced settings," and then "notification history." Here, you'll find everything from the last 24 hours. It's annoying that it's been hidden away like this, but it's still useful when you miss something you wanted to see.
Media controls have seen a few design tweaks in recent years, but the new version found in Android 11 is the most significant. Rather than existing as a notification, it is now part of the quick settings instead. The downside to this is losing a row of toggles, but it looks better and provides some useful new features. If more than one app has media playing, the controls become paginated and can be swiped through, rather than taking up unnecessary space as separate notifications.
Android 11 has made many improvements to the user experience, and these are just some of the new features to explore. Samsung's own features make that experience even better, so be sure to play around with those as well.