NEW DELHI :
Google released the next version of Android ahead of schedule late last night. This is the first time the first developer preview has been made public before March. The company generally releases previews for its operating system ahead of its developer event -- Google I/O.
Android 11, as the operating system will be called, brings new features but doesn’t change the user interface for the operating system. Perhaps, the most important in the line of updates is the fact that Android will now allow users to grant a one-time location access option to apps, similar to Apple’s iOS’ “Allow Once" option.
This means you can take away location access for every app you use and allow them to access the GPS history only when they need it. The move will be a problem for various apps that make money from selling user location data, like Foursquare. However, it’s a good move for users who have been plagued by location tracking companies using their location for various purposes.
The location tracking feature is accompanied by temporary access options for camera and microphone too. The mic access has special meaning here, since apps like Facebook have often been accused by users of using a phone’s microphone to listen to them. It could also help put a stop to malware like Pegasus, made by Israeli firm NSO, which uses the mic to listen to users.
Another similarity to iOS is the fact that Android 11 will bring a native screen recording option to the platform. This feature originally appeared in Android 10’s betas but wasn’t brought to the final version of the platform.
Other interesting changes include a “conversations" feature in the notifications shade. This is also reminiscent of iOS’ iMessage, which allows users to see more than just the last message when you’re replying to texts from the notifications screen. Google recently enabled rich communication services (RCS) on Android, which allows iOS like texts on Android phones, so it makes sense that it is trying to make texting more accessible and feature-rich.
The conversations feature is complemented by a “bubbles" feature, which is similar to Facebook’s chat heads you may have seen on the Messenger platform. These are floating chat bubbles that appear on top of existing apps or your home screen and allow you to continue a conversation without opening the app again and again. Making such features native though means that all messaging apps, including WhatsApp, Telegram and even Messenger, could use them.
Lastly, keeping up with industry trends Google said it’s “enhancing" application package interfaces (APIs) for 5G connectivity. These tools help developers access 5G features on Android. There are also new APIs for neural networks.
Like most developer previews, Android 11 right now isn’t meant to replace your current operating system. “This initial preview release is for developers only and not intended for daily or consumer users," the company wrote in its blog post. To ensure the same, Google isn’t allowing anyone to download the preview through an over the air (OTA) update.