Android 11—The Ars Technica Review

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Android 11 has lastly arrived after a prolonged beta course of that began roughly three years in the past in February 2020. That is the thirtieth launch of Android, if we’re counting by API ranges, and in a 12 months when it appears almost all the things has been delayed or canceled, Google has managed to show in one of many smaller Android releases.

Final 12 months, Android 10 was an enormous launch, including gesture navigation, a darkish mode, Challenge Mainline, a dual-boot system, scoped storage, foldable smartphone help, and 1,000,000 different issues. As compared, Android 11 is extra restricted. This being the annual Ars Technica evaluate, nonetheless, there are in fact nonetheless loads of issues to speak about—like one more notification panel revamp, a brand new media participant, chat bubbles, sensible house controls, and extra.

Desk of Contents

The notification panel

The notification panel is without doubt one of the largest strengths of Android, and Google can not seem to let a significant launch go by with out iterating on it. This 12 months, the theme appears to be round group and creating what Google calls a “devoted persistent area” for sure forms of notifications.

Notifications are actually damaged up into 5 classes, some with large headers on prime of every part. “Conversations,” “Notifications,” and “Silent” notifications get the massive header labels within the notification panel, whereas ongoing notifications from issues like Google Maps navigation do not get a label however are pinned to the highest of the panel. The fifth kind is for media notifications, which now stay inside the Fast Settings panel. This can be a wild change.

The persistent media carousel

The media participant can truly find yourself in two spots, relying on while you final performed a chunk of media. When you’ve got a at the moment enjoying or just lately paused media session, the media participant will present up above the notification panel. In the event you swipe away the media participant or have not performed something shortly, it would present up on the backside of the expanded Fast Settings. Because you entry the expanded Fast Settings from the notification panel, it is form of just like the media participant can find yourself on “Web page 1” or “Web page 2” relying on how just lately it was used.

To make room for the media participant, the Fast Settings icons are actually down to 6 icons per web page, the place beforehand there have been 9 icons per web page. So that you swipe down the notification panel and see six objects on the prime, after which while you develop the Fast Settings panel you see… the identical six icons. It would not make a ton of sense.

The media notification area helps a number of gamers. In the event you’ve began up a couple of media app just lately, you’ll horizontally swipe by means of a number of media gamers, which is nice for switching between a music participant and podcast app. It is as much as every app to carry a spot for itself within the media participant carousel, which may maintain as much as 5 apps.

Apps can supposedly safe a persistent spot within the media participant by calling the brand new “MediaBrowserService” API. I do not assume any apps, nonetheless, truly do that proper now, so it is exhausting to know the way it works. Google claims that apps pinging the brand new API will stick within the media participant carousel round without end (sorted by while you final used them), even after a reboot. If any app truly carried out the persistent conduct, you’d have the ability to flip it off by swiping over the media participant, urgent the little gear that seems underneath it, and turning on the choice to “cover participant when the media session has ended.”

The media participant has a brand new output-picker button within the prime left, and while you faucet on it, you get a pop-up card itemizing audio units. Proper now, this tends to checklist issues like “Telephone Speaker,” “Wired headphones,” and the names of any related Bluetooth units. Since that is all of the button ever lists for the time being, it isn’t notably helpful.

Google’s developer paperwork present Google Solid units, like Google House audio system and Chromecasts, popping up on this checklist, which might be unbelievable. The docs say, “By default, solely native media routes are proven. In case your app helps different media routes, akin to distant playback you will have to let the system know.” “Distant Playback” right here means Google Solid units, with a “Google House” and a number of other different audio system popping up within the accompanying image. So whether or not or not Google House audio system seem on this checklist can be as much as every particular person app. So that can must be up to date.

For builders, the advisable option to get Google Solid audio system within the audio picker on your app is to incorporate model 1.2.0 of the MediaRouter jetpack library and allow a couple of remote-playback flags. The issue is that this model of the library continues to be in beta. Which means—and that is in all probability going to be a operating theme on this article—that from what I can inform, no apps help this Android 11 function but.

I feel the particulars of how the brand new audio picker will work with Google Solid units is a giant deal, as a result of the present Google Solid interface (accessible by way of the “solid” button inside an app) might be the one worst interface transport on a contemporary Android cellphone. It jogs my memory of the share-sheet issues that used to exist earlier than Android 10. The Google Solid checklist in an app is constructed at runtime, so while you press the solid button, you first get a clean sheet, after which it slowly fills up because the app pings audio system in your community prefer it’s taking attendance for a classroom. Not all of the audio system present up without delay, so the checklist jumps and shifts round as attendance is taken. It is common to see the speaker you need, go to faucet on it, and precisely 1 millisecond earlier than you contact the display, the checklist updates and the incorrect merchandise shifts to the spot beneath your finger.

The checklist can be sorted alphabetically, not by one thing extra helpful like “last-used” or “most-commonly-used.” It is also a mishmash of audio system and speaker teams, and there’s no option to cover audio system you by no means begin individually or flag sure checklist objects as vital. That is loopy, since while you make a speaker group, you will most definitely wish to begin the speaker group and by no means a person speaker. For now, the checklist is not even sensible sufficient to place speaker teams on the prime.

I actually just like the concept of the brand new media controls. Switching between apps with a fast horizontal swipe is helpful. More often than not, all I wish to do is resume the final media I used to be enjoying, and having a listing of my previous couple of media periods could be a super-easy option to do it. As somebody who usually has a couple of media-player widgets on my house display for simple startup, a persistent media participant looks like a really perfect function. The issue proper now’s that nothing is definitely persistent. No apps activate persistent mode, so quite a lot of occasions you go searching for the media participant and it is simply… not there. It is fairly disappointing opening the Fast Settings anticipating to make use of your favourite media app and for it to be lacking. After a couple of missed connections, I simply gave up making an attempt to make use of the Fast Settings participant. With out persistent mode, it is more-or-less an identical to the outdated media notification, simply with the cool multiplayer help.

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