Android 11 Tightens Privacy Controls, Touts Conversation Management

Google has taken the wraps of its Android 11 mobile operating system, whose release was delayed from the summer.

Android 11 is apparently aiming to assist users in getting to what’s important on their phone, with easier ways to manage conversations, connected smart devices, and better privacy controls.

The release is available for Google Pixel smartphone owners, and some third-party devices from the likes of OnePlus, Oppo, Realme and Xiaomi. Samsung users will have to wait a couple of months.

Image credit: Mishaal Rahman/Twitter

Conversation management

The latest Android OS had been delayed, after Google had released Android 11’s first Developer Preview in February.

It had planned to release the first official test version in early June, but when that date arrived, Google delayed the launch, saying it was not the right time to “celebrate”.

That delay was influenced by the global Coronavirus pandemic and public unrest in the United States.

So what exactly has Google now delivered with Android 11?

Dave Burke, VP of Android Engineering explained the latest developments in a blog post, and started off by explaining the conversation and communication improvements.

“I often find myself switching between multiple messaging apps to stay connected with people I care about,” wrote Burke. “In Android 11, conversations across messaging apps will be moved to a dedicated space in the notifications section, making it easy to manage your conversations in one spot. You can also prioritise conversations from the key people in your life so you never miss an important message.”

He went to describe another new feature called ‘Bubbles’, which makes multitasking easier. Users can now respond to important conversations without having to switch back and forth between what they are doing and the specific messaging app.

Another new feature is built-in screen recording.

“Now you can capture and share what’s happening on your phone,” wrote Burke. “Record with sound from your mic, device or both – no extra app required.

Smart devices

And Burke pointed out that there are now new ways for users to control their connected devices (thermostat, smart lock etc), as Android 11 users can now access all their smart devices in one place, simply by long pressing the power button, with no need to need to open multiple apps.

Android 11 comes with redesigned media controls, so users can now quickly switch the device that media is playing on, so they can take their music with them from headphones to speaker, without missing a beat.

And for car users, Android Auto now works wirelessly for all phones running Android 11 as long as the user has a compatible vehicle.

Privacy control

Finally Android 11 if offering users more control over their privacy and data.

“One-time permissions will allow you to grant single use access to your most sensitive permissions: microphone, camera and location,” wrote Burke. “The next time the app needs access to the sensors, it must ask you for your permission again.”

And Burke said that if the user has not used an installed app in a while, the user may not want it to keep accessing your data.

“Android will now “auto-reset” permissions for your unused apps and notify you accordingly,” wrote Burke. “You can always decide to re-grant the app permissions the next time you use the app.”

And Burke said that Google Pay system update modules will allow the user to get security and privacy fixes as soon as they’re available, without having to wait for a full OS update.

And for enterprise Android users, Android 11 brings the privacy protections a user would get on a personally-owned device to their company-owned device.

“The work profile gives your IT department tools to manage a device without monitoring your personal profile data or activity on your phone,” Burke concluded.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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