Google officially releases Android 11 for Pixel phones

Android 11 Pixel 4 XL header 2

Google has officially released Android 11, the company’s latest version of the world’s most-used operating system. The software has been in development since February with both developer and public betas hitting the airwaves. Now, all users of Google’s Pixel phones can install the upgrade.

Well, I shouldn’t say that. Android 11 is available on all Pixel phones starting with the Pixel 2 series. The original Pixel phones released in 2016 will be stuck on Android 10. Interestingly, Android 11 is also available for certain phones from OnePlus, Oppo, Xiaomi, and Realme starting today.

So what’s new in Android 11? Right off the bat, Google is tweaking notifications (like every major Android release). The company will now sort your notifications into groups so that your conversations live in their own section. Speaking of which, message notifications will now be at the top of your notification list so you don’t miss anything important.

If you do miss something important, Google includes notification history in the settings app.

While in the settings app, you may want to toggle on Bubbles. They’re chat icons that float around your screen and give you quick access to conversations you’re in the middle of. They can be enabled for virtually any messaging app. And in case you’re wondering, yes, you’ve seen Bubbles before. Facebook Messenger has had them for years.

The Power menu in Android 11 is getting a bunch of updates. You can now quickly access smart home controls through the Home app, and you can quickly access cards stored in Google Pay to pay for something. In the quick settings pane live new media controls where you can control playback of any content coming out of your speakers. Screen recording, wireless Android Auto, app suggestions in your dock, improved screenshots, better multitasking tools, and enhanced performance are also onboard.

Of course, Android 11 also focuses on privacy. You can now tell apps to only use certain aspects of your phone (e.g. camera, microphone, location) while the app is open, and security permissions can now automatically reset if you don’t use an app very often. There are also multiple patches and smaller security improvements under the hood of this new version of Android, which is to be expected since it ships with the September 2020 security patch.

If you own a Pixel phone, it’s worth smashing your “Check for Updates” button since it likely will grab the Android 11 upgrade immediately. That was the case for my Pixel 4 XL and 4a. My Pixel 3 running the Android 11 beta took a bit longer to get the final version of the OS, but unless you have the beta installed, you should see version 11 almost instantaneously.

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