Before understanding the Android 11 update, we need to understand where Android came from and where it is today:
Android is a mobile operating system that is based on various open source software that is designed for smartphones and tablets.
Android is developed by several developers who are sponsored by Google. The first ever commercial Android device was launched in 2008. Since then, Android has been the best-selling operating system on smartphones globally since 2011. Fast forward to today and Android now has over two billion monthly users and over 2.9 million apps of the Google Play Store.
The first Android 11 beta was released on June 10th, 2020, and the final release is expected to be launched on September 8th, 2020.
The Android 11 update focuses on:
Android is focusing on making it’s operating systems more people-centric and expressive than ever before. This has been brainstormed and done through re-imagining the way that people engage in conversations through smartphones – allowing for the operating system of Android 11 to recognize the most important people/contacts in the user’s life:
- Conversation notifications appear in a dedicated section at the top of the shade, with a people-forward design and conversation specific actions, such as opening the conversation as a bubble, creating a conversation shortcut on the home screen, or setting a reminder.
- Bubbles help users to keep conversations in view and accessible while multitasking. Messaging and chat apps should use the Bubbles API on notifications to enable this in Android 11.
- Consolidated keyboard suggestions let Autofill apps and Input Method Editors (IMEs) securely offer context-specific entities and strings directly in a suggestion strip, where they are most convenient for users.
- Voice Access, for people who control their phone entirely by voice, now includes an on-device visual cortex that understands screen content and context, and generates labels and access points for accessibility commands.
The Android 11 update is granting more Android users much more control over sensitive permissions. This is maintained by Android making devices more secure through faster updates:
- One-time permission lets users give an app access to the device microphone, camera, or location, but only during that one time. The app can request permissions again the next time the app is used.
- Permissions auto-reset: if users haven’t used an app for an extended period of time, Android 11 will “auto-reset” all of the runtime permissions associated with the app and notify the user. The app can request the permissions again the next time the app is used.
- Background location: Android developers will now need to get approval to access background location in their application to reduce the chances of misuse. Note that this policy is not expected to be enforced for existing apps until 2021.
- Google Play System Updates, launched in 2019, lets developers update the core operating system components to devices in the Android ecosystem. The Android 11 update has doubled the number of updated modules to help improve privacy, security, and consistency for all Android users and developers.
The latest release of the Android 11 update can now help you quickly get to all of your smart devices and control them, all in one space:
Device Controls; now making it faster and easier than ever for Android users to access and control their connected devices. By simply pressing the power button longer, users are able to bring up device controls instantly, all in one place.
Media Controls; making it quick and convenient for Android users to switch the output device for their audio or video content; including via headphones, speakers or TV. Users can enable this feature from Android’s Developer Options.
Along with new changes to the UI, the Android 11 update will also have these main new features:
- Redesigned notifications
- New media playback widget
- Easy screen recording
- New screenshot visuals
- Smart apps suggestions and recent apps screen
- Adjustable sensitivity for gesture-navigation
- Phone control with voice access
- Dark-mode automation
Core updates for Android developers:
“This update for the tool-kits has a lot of improvements, for example, in the previous version, we used to have a lot of URLs, which were not automatic. Now, everything is done on that part and is fixed for custom views. The new toolkit is more like the last update of Android. On the developer side, for Android 11, it will be featuring more new classes and new methods to develop new features, like, integrated artificial intelligence with a neural network inside the phone – meaning now there are laws for the AI to not be on a cloud server. Then you have to communicate with the server but you can train your models on the phone and so on. So, this is all great news for us Android developers.”
Android has listened to feedback from developers and will put their focus on improving these following features:
- Making debugging more simple with wireless debugging over Android 11 devices, whilst also adding Database Inspector and Dependency Injection tools.
- Device testing is even better; now with the Android Emulator being hosted directly inside the IDE, meaning that tests can now run side-by-side to easily identify results from multiple devices at the same time. Additionally, also having an improved device manager for easier handling of the user’s Android devices.
- Machine learning is easier, meaning that users can now import models for ML Kit and TensorFlow Lite directly in the IDE.
- ‘Build and deployment’ techniques are now faster – this is made possible by the Kotlin Symbol Processing and faster application deployment to all devices on Android 11. The all new ‘build analyzer’ tool can help users diagnose when a build may have bottlenecks.
- Games tooling is more powerful, meaning an updated ‘performance profiler UI’, overhauled System Trace tool, and support for native memory profiling.
More friendly for developers
To make it easier for developers to take advantage of this new Android release, the new developer-friendly features include:
- Adding new UI in developer options; allowing for easy-toggle of these changes for testing
- Adding a new Platform Stability release, where all API and behavior changes will be complete; allowing developers to finalize the application updates knowing that the platform is stable.
The Android 11 update also includes a number of other developer productivity improvements such as: wireless ADB debugging, ADB incremental for faster installs of large APKs, and more null annotations on platform APIs to catch issues at ‘build time’ instead of ‘runtime’.
“One of the main points that we Android developers will need to face are the changes to screen sizes for devices. This may make it hard for us to programmers to integrate for new apps, for example, having an integrated camera on top of screens may be a challenge, this meaning that it covers a whole part of the top screen and so on. We also need to adapt to the new curved screens too. You can see on some of the devices such as on Samsung devices, it’s more integrated so you can be aware of these changes to adapt to these new screen layouts in the future.”
Kotlin & Jetpack
Kotlin is on the rise, especially as now over 70% of the top 1,000 apps on Google Play are now using Kotlin. This results in many more developers now preferably using Kotlin. Kotlin coroutines are a language feature of Kotlin, which make concurrent calls much easier to write and understand. Android will make coroutines the official recommendation, building coroutines support into three of the most-used Jetpack libraries, which are: Lifecycle, WorkManager, and Room. These libraries allow for developers to write better code than ever before.
Kotlin itself also continues to get better with every release. Kotlin 1.4 provides faster code completion, more powerful type inference enabled by default, function interfaces, as well as helpful quality of life improvements like mixing named and positioning arguments.
Jetpack will be continue its update as a suite of libraries which spans multiple Android releases being designed to make common mobile development patterns faster and easier. Android have also added a second new library called App Startup, which aims to help both app developers and library developers to improve the application startup time by optimizing initialization of libraries. There are many more updates to existing libraries coming, including a major update to Paging 3 that is rewritten Kotlin-first with full support for coroutines!
Updated UI toolkit, via Jetpack Compose
To ensure full-productivity, developers will need the help of a powerful UI toolkit to effectively build beautiful UIs on Android – with native access to the platform APIs. That is the reason why Android is building Jetpack Compose, a new modern UI toolkit that brings an application to life with less code, more powerful tools, and intuitive Kotlin APIs.
The launch of Jetpack Compose Developer Preview 2 is packed with features that developers have been asking for, including the following:
- Interoperability with Views; the mixing of Composable functions inside the existing application
- Constraint Layout
- Adapter list
- Material UI components
- Text and editable Text
- Themes and Graphics
- Window management
- Input and Gestures
Android have also added a number of new capabilities to the Android Studio, helping developers build apps with Compose, including:
- Kotlin compiler plugin for code generation
- Compose Preview Annotations
- Real-time interactive Compose previews
- Deploy individual composables to device
- Compose Code completion
- Sample Data API for Compose
“We have been using Jetpack libraries with MVVM architecture and so on since the beginning. So, as long as it is always more user developer friendly, it’s good news for us. However, on the coding side and on the Kotlin side, it can always be better. So I think it’s more like the updates of Android Studio which would integrate MVVM by default, or maybe a clean architecture by default would be great as well. But apart from that, on the code base, I think it’s already and will become even more developer-friendly than it is now.”
The Android 11 update was made to focus more on people, privacy and controls for its day-to-day users around the world. Along with changes to the UI, the update will also introduce some game-changing features such as: voice control for smartphones, smarts apps suggestions, gesture-navigation sensitivity and more.
For developers, life is looking to get easier as this update will also implement new tool-kits, plugins, libraries and more to ensure that Android will continue to become more developer-friendly.
What are your thoughts about the Android 11 update? Are you excited for the launch? Let us know!
BONUS: Good news for game developers!
🎮 The Google Play Console
Google Play is now focusing on helping developers grow their business. With that mission in mind, Android has redesigned the Google Play Console to help developers maximize their gaming development success on this platform. In addition to being clearer and easier to use, Android have added the following features to help developers:
Find, discover, and understand features to help you thrive on Google Play
Find new guidance on policy changes, release status, and user feedback
Better understand performance insights with new acquisition reports
Enable everyone on your team to use Play Console features with new user management options.
Are you interested in Android development? Get in touch with us below to see how we can help you!
“With Android, we not only want to help people get online, we want to make sure that when they get there, they can tap into the wealth of information and knowledge the web holds for everyone.” – Sundar Pichai
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