Google has announced the Android 11 version of Android Go, the special edition of Android tailored for the most affordable devices with limited memory specs. While previous versions of Android Go were targeted at phones with just 1 GB of RAM, Android 11 (Go edition) will also be made available to phones with up to 2 GB of RAM. This change accommodates features such as fingerprint readers and dual cameras, which are increasingly common on entry-level phones, and require extra RAM. In version 11, apps now launch 20% faster. Google also continues to shave down the RAM and storage required by the OS itself, making available 270 MB more RAM for apps, and 900 MB additional free storage space. The new OS includes many of the key features of standard Android 11, including new privacy controls and a dedicated notification area for conversations. Android 11 (Go edition) will be available starting next month.
Google is launching Android 11 today, having completed the beta period. The new OS will begin rolling out today on select Pixel and OnePlus phones, with more partners launching and upgrading devices over the coming months. Key features of Android 11 include:
- New treatment for "conversation"-related notifications from messaging apps, including a dedicated area in the Notifications shade, and Bubbles, which lets you briefly view a conversation thread as a pop-up overlay, without leaving the app you're in.
- Privacy improvements, including the ability to grant apps one-time access to sensitive permissions, an "auto-reset" of permissions for apps that haven't been used in a while, and an extra steps required to enable background access to location. Google will also start requiring that developers obtain explicit permission from Google before their app is allowed to ask for background access to location.
- A revamped screen when the lock button is pressed provides quick access to smart-home device controls.
- Support for digital IDs, including digital driver's licenses.
- Support for wireless Android Auto on all phones.
- New media controls that make it easier to switch output device.
- New screenshot tools, including built-in screen recording on all phones. On Pixel phones, Android 11 brings a new feature when taking a screenshot that lets you easily copy an image or text to the clipboard instead.
- For phones linked to a company network, the personal/work Profiles features has several improvements. New Personal/Work tabs have been added to several places including the Share pop-up sheet. A new API available to apps will allow certain apps to present both work and personal data together, while protecting both company data and employee privacy. Google Calendar will support this feature, and third-party apps will be able to support it as well.
- New APIs allowing apps to better support new display technologies, including "waterfall" displays that wrap around the side, and variable refresh rates.
Google is making its own Phone app available to "even more Android devices" starting this week. Google's Phone app offers Google's unique Verified Calls feature, which shows the caller’s name, logo, reason for calling and a verification symbol indicating the business has been authenticated by Google for incoming calls from participating businesses. The Google Phone app comes pre-loaded on Pixel and select other Android phones, but many manufacturers pre-load their own Phone app on their phones. Google's app hasn't been made available to most such phones before now.
Google and Apple are updating their COVID-19 Exposure Notification system to support US states that have yet to develop their own Exposure Notification app. While the initial release of Exposure Notifications required countries or states to release their own app supporting the system, the new Exposure Notifications Express removes that requirement. States must still opt in to the system, but once they do, most iOS and Android phones in that state will receive a push notification inviting them to opt in to the system. On iOS, opting in will activate the new Exposure Notifications Express feature built in to the just-released iOS 13.7. Android users opting in will be prompted to download an app from Google to enable the feature. As with all variants of Exposure Notifications, privacy is protected since personal-identifying and location data is neither collected nor sent to states. Instead, randomly-generated ID numbers are exchanged with nearby phones via short-range Bluetooth, to keep track of which phones are near which other phones, and for how long. When someone enrolled in the system self-reports that they have tested positive for COVID-19, others enrolled in the system that have been near that person are notified, so they can seek testing. Maryland, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. have already announced that they will participate, while six states have already released their own apps to enable Exposure Notifications.
Google today released a new "feature drop" update for its Pixel Buds true wireless earbuds, adding a number of new features. With the new Attention Alerts feature, the Buds will now actively listen for specific outside sounds that may be important — such as dog barks, baby cries, and emergency vehicle sirens — and automatically lower the volume so you can safely remain aware of your surroundings. A new "transcribe" mode for language translation will continuously translate from one language to another and speak the translation into your ears. This one-way mode is ideal for understanding lectures or tour guides, unlike the existing "conversation mode" for back-and-forth interaction. Transcribe mode is initially available for translating English into Spanish, French, German, and Italian. Another new feature gives each Bud individual volume controls when sharing one bud with another person. Google has also added a new Bass Boost option. Finally, the Find My Device function can now display the last known location of your Pixel Buds on a map. Pixel Buds are available from Google for $179.
Epic Games, the maker of popular battle royale game Fortnite, has filed suit against Apple and Google for anti-competitive and monopolistic behavior related to their app store policies. Epic is challenging the companies' monopolies on both app purchases and in-app purchases on their respective mobile platforms, and their 30% cut of such purchases. Instead of monetary damages, Epic is asking the courts to force the companies to change their policies. In apparent preparation for the suit, this morning Epic started offering a discount for players who purchased in-app content directly from Epic, instead of via the standard in-app purchase systems provided on iOS and Android, in violation of Apple and Google's policies. Apple quickly responded by pulling Fortnite from the App Store. Google pulled Fortnite from its Play Store hours later. Epic initially resisted listing Fortnite in Google's Play Store in protest of these policies, before relenting this April. Fortnite can still be installed on Android phones by working around the Play Store, but it can no longer be installed on iOS devices. Existing installations on both platforms still function for now.
Google has added several major features to Lookout, its app that uses computer vision to help people who are blind or low-vision. The new features include the ability to scan longer documents into readable text, identify food products from their labels, and automatic flash. The updated Lookout app is available now for Android 6+ devices with over 2 GB of RAM.
Google has updated its own Clock app with a Bedtime tab to help users maintain a consistent sleep schedule. The feature initially debuted on Pixel phones, but is now available for all Android (version 6+) phones. The new tab includes the ability to track your screen time at night, fall asleep to a variety of soothing sounds, and wake up more gently with visual cues from the Sunrise Alarm and your favorite sounds or song. It works in concert with the Bedtime features built into the Android OS, which remind you when it's time for bed and limit interruptions by keeping your phone dark and quiet while you sleep.
Google is launching two new earthquake-related features on Android today. First, Google is enabling Android phones in California to receive alerts from the state's ShakeAlert early-detection network. In many cases, the notifications can give users a few seconds of warning before an earthquake, enough time to find cover. Second, Google has launched its own earthquake-detection system that uses the accelerometers in Android phones. Starting today, if "the phone detects something that it thinks may be an earthquake, it sends a signal to our earthquake detection server, along with a coarse location of where the shaking occurred. The server then combines information from many phones to figure out if an earthquake is happening." Eventually, Google plans to use this new data to power a notification system like the one in California. But initially, the system will only feed Google search results for searches such as "earthquake" or "earthquake near me".
Google has added a Calendar app to Android Auto, and is working to allow navigation, parking, and EV charging apps from third-party developers. The Calendar app makes it easy to get driving directions to locations saved in calendar events, and call phone numbers saved with events. The company has also added a new Settings app to Android Auto. For the additional categories, Google is working with developers such as ChargePoint, SpotHero and Sygic to launch beta apps by the end of this year. The move follows Apple's announcement in June that it will allow parking, EV charging, and fast food ordering apps in CarPlay with the launch of iOS 14.
Google today announced Nearby Share, a new feature being added to Android 6 and newer that makes it easier to share files with other Android devices nearby. There are controls over visibility to prevent unwanted file transfer requests, and each transfer can be accepted or declined. The feature automatically selects the best technology to execute the transfer quickly, utilizing Bluetooth, Bluetooth LE, WebRTC, or peer-to-peer Wi-Fi. Google Pixel and certain Samsung phones will receive the feature starting today. Google "will continue to work with our partners to bring Nearby Share to more smartphones in the Android ecosystem over the next few weeks."
The newest affordable Pixel phone from Google is the Pixel 4a, which starts at $349, making it the most affordable Pixel phone ever. (The Pixel 3a started at $399 at launch.) A 5G version will also be available this fall starting at $499. The Pixel 4a is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G chip paired with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. The 4a is a relatively small phone, with a 5.8-inch OLED display that covers the front. A small hole punch in the corner accommodates the 8 megapixel selfie camera. The single rear camera is 12 megapixel with dual-pixel focusing. The phone comes with an 18W USB-PD fast charger for its 3,140 mAh battery. It also has a fingerprint reader on the back, headphone jack up top, stereo speakers, and NFC. It does not have water resistance nor wireless charging. It will be available in black (only) starting August 20th from Google, Best Buy, Amazon, Google Fi, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon. Pre-orders from Google and Google Fi start today. Google also revealed that a 5G-enabled Pixel 5 will be announced in the "coming months" and be available this fall, but said little else about it.
Google today provided an update on the quickly-evolving Exposure Notifications System (ENS) they developed and launched in partnership with Apple to augment pandemic contact tracing efforts. The system now supports interoperability between countries and states, including a "national key server" run by the Association of Public Health Laboratories to allow the system to work across the 20 US states and territories using ENS with their own official public health apps. Also, "Bluetooth calibration values for hundreds of devices have been updated to improve the detection of nearby devices". As always, ENS is completely anonymous, does not track your location, and is opt-in. Google also explained the technical reasons users may be asked to turn on "location services" to use ENS, even though ENS does not us location data and ENS apps are prohibited from collecting location data. At a system level, in Android 10 and earlier, permission for an app to use Bluetooth is linked to "location services" because the app may connect to Bluetooth beacons, which are intended to mark locations. But ENS apps are prohibited from gathering this data. In Android 11, ENS apps will be given an exemption that allows the location services setting to remain off, since those apps cannot collect such data.
Google has sweetened its Google One service to offer full, automatic phone backup for free for all Android phones. (Full automatic phone backup previously required a paid subscription.) The company is also launching a Google One app for iOS, which will offer a free backup service and storage manager for that platform. On iOS, Google One will be able to back up photos, videos, contacts, and calendar events. The Google One service on both platforms uses the 15 GB of storage that comes free with all Google accounts. Google One will continue to offer paid subscriptions that offer more storage and enhanced support.
Google has updated Messages — its own standards-based rich messaging app for Android — to support emoji-like message reactions, similar to the reactions features in iMessage and Facebook. Available reactions are: like, love, laughter, surprise, sadness, anger, and dislike. The feature only works in "conversations with chat features enabled", referring to message threads using rich messaging (RCS) instead of standard text messaging SMS. Google and some US carriers have been increasingly supporting RCS on new Android phones in the past couple of years.
Google is rolling out its own call verification system that will allow the incoming call screen on Android phones to not only confirm that a call is legitimate, but also display the calling business' reason for calling and company logo. The feature requires that the phone's default phone app be set to Google's Phone app, that businesses supply this information to Google's servers before each call, and that users have the phone's mobile number associated with their Google account.
The Google Photos app and service has been redesigned, and now includes a map feature that lets you explore all of the photos you've ever taken as pins on a map. The map feature is part of a new Search tab in the redesigned app interface. The new Search tab also includes automatic shortcuts to specific people and pets that you frequently photograph, using automatic facial recognition. The new Google Photos app "rolls out over the next week" on Android and iOS.
The first public beta version of Android 11 is now available for Pixel phones. The release contains several new features not previously announced, in addition to features announced in February. Long-pressing the lock/power button will now bring up smart home controls, in addition to Google Pay and power options. New media controls make it easier to switch audio and/or video outputs. To enhance privacy, app permissions will automatically reset when an app hasn't been used for "an extended period of time". Also improved are keyboard suggestions, Voice Access, the Share menu, and features for developers. The beta is available now for Pixel 2+ phones, and other devices in the coming weeks.
Google has rolled out another "feature drop" for its Pixel phones, adding several new features via software update. The Personal Safety app, previously exclusive to Pixel 4, will now be available on all Pixel phones. It also gains a new "Safety Check" feature that lets you schedule a time for the app to ask if you're safe. If you fail to acknowledge, it will alert your emergency contacts. The app will also support car crash detection on Pixel 3 devices. The feature drop also includes a new "bedtime" feature in the Clock app, which includes an array of features to help you maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Finally, the update also improves battery life and adds Assistant shortcuts for the Recorder app.
Apple and Google have started to make their new, jointly-developed Exposure Notification technology available for public use. The technology automatically tracks which other phones your phones has been near for a certain period of time, using a new, Bluetooth-based system. When one user reports that they have tested positive for COVID-19, other users they have come into contact with are automatically alerted, so they can get tested. The system uses anonymous, frequently-changed tokens to preserve privacy. To use the system, users must install an official app from their local public health agency and explicitly opt in to the service. Apple and Google are only allowing one app per geographic region, and have multiple safeguards in place to protect user privacy, including a ban on collecting users' locations. The system is available now for public health agencies to develop and release their apps using the system, although not all governments plan to do so. It requires a new OS version to function. Apple released iOS 13.5 today, which includes Exposure Notification as well as other features specific to the ongoing pandemic. New versions of Android are expected soon that support Exposure Notifications. The two companies have promised a more comprehensive version of Exposure Notification in the coming months that will not require the installation of a special app, although it will remain opt-in.
Google has updated its Google Lens computer-vision app with several new features. The app already recognizes printed and hand-written text in the real world, letting you copy it into other apps on your phone, or translate it to another language. A new option lets you select text and send it to you computer's clipboard, where it can be pasted into other apps. The feature requires the Chrome browser on your computer, and that both devices be signed in to the same Google account. Also new in Google Lens is a feature that tells you how to pronounce translated words. Google Lens is available for both Android and iOS.
Apple and Google are preparing to launch Exposure Notification, a new technology to address the COVID-19 pandemic based on the principles of contact tracing. The first phase will center around downloadable apps developed by various government public health agencies. These apps will have exclusive access to new Exposure Notification APIs in forthcoming versions of Android and iOS. Apple and Google recently announced special rules that will apply to such apps. The companies will only allow one app per geographic region. The apps can only be used for pandemic response and no other purpose. To protect privacy, the apps must minimize the amount of data they collect, and are barred from collecting location data. The apps must also gain explicit user consent for initiating Exposure Notification technology, which operates using Bluetooth in the background.
A new contact-tracing technology developed by Apple and Google to address the COVID-19 pandemic will see its first release to developers on April 28th, earlier than originally planned. The technology uses Bluetooth to keep a history of which phones come near which other phones for certain periods of time, as an approximation of people who have come into contact, so that when someone tests positive for COVID-19, other people who need to be tested can be identified quickly. The technology is fully interoperable between iOS and Android phones, thanks to a unique collaboration between Google and Apple. The API being released next week will enable verified public health authorities to use the technology in their own apps. Such apps will need to be installed on a large percentage of phones for the technology to be useful in any given population. Later, Apple and Google plan to integrate a more complete contact-tracing technology into both iOS and Android, which would not require an app install. Apple and Google have designed the technology to be anonymous, voluntary, transparent, temporary, secure, and interoperable, and EU regulators are working with the companies to ensure the technology meets their strict standards in those areas.
The popular battle royale game Fortnite is finally available via Google's Play Store on Android phones. Previously, those with Android phones had to jump through hoops to download and install the game, bypassing Google's security warnings. The game's developer has been protesting Google's 30% cut of Play Store purchases, including in-app purchases. Fortnite has been available via Apple's App Store on iOS for some time, even though Apple takes the same 30%.
Google has updated its Duo video calling service with several new features. First, the maximum number of people on a group video has been increased from eight to 12, and will be increased further in "the coming weeks". Google has also added a photo snapshot feature that will capture a moment and send the still photo of everyone to all participants, to save. Finally, Google is upgrading to the new AV1 video codec, "to improve video call quality and reliability, even on very low bandwidth connections." All of these new features work across both Android and iOS versions of Duo, and most work across other platforms as well.
Google is tightening both its policies and practices regarding Android apps with subscriptions, including those with free trails or introductory offers. Under updated Play Store policies, Google will now require apps to make clearer disclosures up front about how a specific subscription works. Google will also pro-actively send timely emails to users to ensure they aren't billed for a subscription they may be unaware of, or have forgotten about. Google will now email users before a free trial or intro price ends, and also when a renewal is coming up for a 3-month, 6-month, or annual subscription plan. Google is also adding a specific notification to let users know that un-installing an app does not automatically cancel the associated subscription.
Google is updating its Play Store for Android with a new Kids tab, highlighting "'Teacher approved' apps that are both enriching and entertaining". The Kids tab lets you filter by age group. Each "Teacher approved" app has been reviewed by academic experts and teachers and meets Google's quality standards. A new section on the app's page lists specific reasons that app earned the "Teacher approved" badge. The feature is rolling out this week in the US, expanding internationally in the coming months.
Apple and Google will work together to build interoperable contact-tracing technology into both the Android and iOS phone OSes. The technology will use Bluetooth — which has a typical range of about 30 feet — to keep track of everyone you come near, so that public health workers can quickly look for additional new infections when someone is diagnosed with COVID19 (Coronavirus). This new OS-level technology will have an API designed to integrate with official apps offered by public health authorities. Google and Apple have committed to making "user privacy and security central to the design". The technology will roll out in two phases. First, in May, both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. Second, in the coming months, Apple and Google will build a full contact-tracing function into each OS that is opt-in and works without a special app.
Google is expanding the accessibility options in its Android OS with the addition of a braille keyboard option. It uses a standard six-key layout common for braille input. It works across all apps, supports braille grade 1 and grade 2 and is available initially in English. The feature is rolling out to Android devices running version 5.0 or later, starting today.
Google has updated its Maps app with prominent filter options for restaurants offering Delivery and Takeout, to help people find and support local businesses during the pandemic. The feature is available in the Maps app for both Android and iOS.
Google has redesigned its Podcasts app, and made a version available in Apple's App Store for iPhone users. Google Podcasts now stays fully synced between all platforms, including Android, web, and iOS, so you can pause a podcast on your phone and automatically pick up where you left off on the web. The new interface design has three tabs: Home, Explore and Activity. The Home tab features a feed of new episodes and gives you quick access to your subscribed shows. When you select an episode you want to listen to, you'll now see topics or people covered in that podcast. In the Explore tab, you can browse popular podcasts by category, and the app will make personalized show and episode recommendations. The Activity tab displays your listen history, queued up episodes, and downloads. For each show in your subscriptions, you can now enable automatic downloading and/or push notifications for when new episodes come out. The new Google Podcasts is available on iOS today and rolling out to Android this week.
Google will no longer hold any sort of developer event this year, due to the current pandemic. The company's annual I/O event was already changed to an online-only format, but now will not happen at all.
Google will not hold its annual, in-person developer conference this year, to avoid the risk of the gathering helping to spread the coronavirus (COVID-19). The company is refunding paid attendees. A Google spokesperson said the company "will explore other ways to evolve Google I/O to best connect with and continue to build our developer community."
Google today started rolling out a new software update for Pixel phones that adds new capabilities. A long-press of the lock/power button will now surface a simple Google Pay interface that lets you swipe to choose a card or pass before tapping. Another new feature will automatically detect airline boarding pass barcodes when taking a screenshot, and suggest the option to add them as a pass in Google Pay. There is also a new option to have Dark Theme enabled automatically when the sun sets locally. On Pixel 4 phones (which have a RADAR-based gesture sensor), a new mid-air "tap" gesture will pause/play music. Pixel 4 phones will also now be able to capture depth information with the selfie camera, "which improves Portrait Blur and color pop, and lets you create 3D photos for Facebook." Finally, new settings let you configure location-based actions, such as silencing the ringer when at work, or Do Not Disturb mode at home. These can be triggered by either standard location or being in range of a specific Wi-Fi network.
To improve user privacy, Google is updating its Play Store policies to restrict the use of location data by Android apps when they're not actively running. Currently, any Android app can request permission for such access from the user. Starting in August, apps will only be able to do so with explicit permission from Google, having demonstrated a specific need for access to location data in the background. In November, Google will remove apps from the Play Store that have not complied with the new policy. Also today, Google announced the first Developer Preview of Android 11, which includes a new user option to allow apps to access location data on a one-time basis.
Google has released the first Developer Preview of Android 11. The list of features in this version provides a glimpse of what to expect when Android 11 becomes available to consumers later this year. Messaging receives the biggest update, with a new dedicated section of the notifications shade devoted to ongoing conversations. Messaging apps can also use "bubbles" to float a simple messaging thread window above other apps. System permission dialog boxes (for access to location, etc.) now have an "Only this time" option, similar to iOS. Android 11 also adds native support for secure storage and retrieval of verifiable identification documents, such as ISO 18013-5 compliant Mobile Driving Licenses. Call screening apps will now have standardized access to STIR-SHAKEN data, as well as a new screen that appears after each call, "to let users perform actions such as marking a call as spam or adding to contacts.". Also new are better support for pinhole displays, waterfall displays, animated HIEF image files, and low-latency video modes. Developers will benefit from new APIs for machine learning, as well as 5G network status and performance. Android 11 also advances Google's Project Mainline, moving additional components of the OS into modules that are quickly and easily updated via the Google Play Store, instead of requiring a manufacturer-supplied full OS update. The Developer Preview released today is not a "public beta" and is not intended for consumers; it will only run on certain Pixel devices and requires manual installation. Separately, Google announced that Android 11 will enhance Work Profile so that companies issuing company-owned phones to employees can give employees separate work and personal profiles on the same device. Companies still control the work profile and can set device-wide restrictions, but personal data is kept private from the employer. This feature was previously only available for personally-owned devices, not company-issued devices. Google is expected to reveal additional features of Android 11 at its developer conference in May.
Google is expanding the list of phones supported by its Stadia game-streaming service on February 20th. Initially supported only on its own Pixel phones, Stadia will support Samsung flagship Galaxy S and Note series phones (S8 and newer), as well as gaming phones from Razer and Asus (ROG Phone and ROG Phone II). For a controller, gamers can either connect a Stadia controller via USB, or third-party controllers via Bluetooth. Stadia competes with Microsoft's xCloud and Nvidia's GeForce Now. Like those other game-streaming services, Stadia runs full console-quality games on powerful servers in the cloud, streaming video of the rendered graphics to the user's device. Such services benefit from the higher data rates and lower latency of 5G networks. Forthcoming 5G SA networks will further reduce latency and improve data rates.
Google has updated its Gboard keyboard option for Android phones to include a new Emoji Kitchen feature, which lets you create sticker graphics based on custom combinations and variations of standard emoji. For example, when you tap the face-with-cowboy-hat emoji, it presents options for monkey cowboy, ghost cowboy, laughing cowboy, kissy cowboy, in love cowboy, pleading cowboy, and pensive cowboy. The feature is rolling out to all Gboard users starting this week.
Google has launched a new support service for Android. Anyone using the hashtag #AndroidHelp on Twitter will receive Android tech support from Google.