With Android 11 creeping closer it’s hard not to start thinking about what new goodies it may bring to the table. Android is a mature platform now that’s stylish, easy to use, and packed with useful features, but when it comes to software there are always improvements that can be made. Google can also draw inspiration from a host of Android device manufacturers who make their own software flourishes for Android, deciphering what works and what doesn’t to find desirable new features for users.
Here are some refinements and new features I’m hoping to see in Android 11.
Easier and faster file sharing
While Google sorted out the sharing menu in Android 10, ensuring that it now loads quickly, it also ditched Android Beam and failed to replace it with anything. You used to be able to hold Android phones back-to-back for quick file sharing. It may not have been a popular feature or one that worked all that well for larger files, if I’m being honest, but Google’s decision to cut it and not replace it with anything was really annoying. There needs to be a quick and easy way to share files with other devices in the same room.
What we’re really looking for is something as simple as Apple’s AirDrop — a feature Samsung looks like it might be trying to emulate on its own. There have been plenty of rumors about a native fast sharing system in the works for Android, so this is less so a matter of if, and more a question of when. I’m hoping it will employ Wi-Fi Direct so large files can be transferred quickly — something which Android Beam lagged behind in. Sure, you can install a third-party app to do this, but it’s a perfect example of something that should be built into the platform so that any two people can use it without having to install the same app.
Better dark mode
It’s great having dark mode in Android. I like to be able to safeguard my peepers from glaring bright light in bed, and the aesthetic is quite nice, but I wish it was more consistent and could kick on automatically. The option to schedule, or just have it switch when the sun goes down, works great on Samsung phones and Google is plenty capable of adding this to stock Android. Better integration across third-party apps is also needed, though. That is a tough one to criticize third parties for, though, when Google itself hasn’t even added dark mode support to all of its own apps yet. Get it together, Google.
Whether you like them or not, and I mostly do like them, Android gestures are here to stay. I love how much easier it is to use my phone one-handed, for instance, but some gestures could use a little refinement. I still get slightly annoyed sometimes by the shared “swipe up” gesture to go home or bring up open apps, but the main problem is the back gesture. I’ve accidentally deleted and archived messages and emails while trying to back out of apps and I’ve been unexpectedly hauled out of apps when I was trying to use a slider and swiped too close to the edge.
If the back gesture is staying as is, then Google needs to change the rules for apps and ensure there isn’t any overlap here. This isn’t just third-party apps I’m talking about either — I’ve accidentally backed out of Google’s Photos app many times when I was simply trying to swipe through the images — another sub-par first-party app experience.
Many of us leave our phones plugged in overnight to charge, but we know that being at 100% is not really good for your battery. When your battery is completely full, or completely empty, it deteriorates at a faster rate. Ideally, for the best battery health, you should keep it between 20% and 80%. With optimized charging, your phone’s software notes when you usually wake up and it charges your battery to 80% and then waits to charge that final 20% just before you wake up and unplug. I first saw this feature in the Asus Zenfone 5 a couple of years ago, but Apple introduced it for iPhones with iOS 13 and it will be familiar to OnePlus fans, as well. I’d like to see Google introduce it as an option in Android 11.
Whether you want to show off some gameplay, highlight an issue for tech support, or catch a snippet of something on your screen, the ability to record video of what’s happening on your phone’s screen can be very handy. You’ll find options to do this with a lot of other Android manufacturers and there are third-party apps that can handle it, but a proper integrated option in Android would work better and avoid issues with quality, watermarks, or any other issues you can encounter with third-party options. While we’re talking about screen capture, I’d also like to see the ability to capture scrolling screenshots in stock Android, as we’ve seen with Samsung phones for years. And, you know what, let’s throw in the ability to make them into GIFs too. Thanks, Google.
We are creatures of habit and automated routines on our smartphones can be a genuine time-saver. Apps like Tasker and IFTTT have been offering automated phone tasks for a while, and Apple has Siri Shortcuts while Samsung uses Bixby Routines. This is an area that Google is already dabbling in, so why isn’t it a more prominent feature in Android? You can actually set up Google Assistant Routines, but you’d likely never know you could unless you went digging. Look in your Google Assistant settings under the Assistant tab and you’ll see a Routines option. You can trigger several bits and pieces simply by saying a specific phrase to Google Assistant, such as “Good morning” or “I’m home.” This can trigger Google Assistant to tell you about the weather or your schedule; it can trigger smart home products like lights or locks; and it can automatically send messages or put your phone on silent — among many other things.
It would only make sense for Google to leverage its artificial intelligence prowess and have the Assistant suggest different routines based on the way I use my phone and other devices every day. If it could go beyond the current options to actually trigger actions within apps that would be even better, but the whole thing has to be clear, easy, and seamlessly integrated into Android.
Improved backup and restore
Admittedly this may be a bigger problem for me than for most people, simply because I have to change phones frequently, but Android does not handle the process as thoroughly as I, or anyone, would like. When you switch up your iPhone and restore the last backup it copies over everything in a mirror image and you can pick up exactly where you left off. Switching from one Android phone to another always seems to result in something not working or getting lost. It works better if you go from say a Google Pixel 3 to a Pixel 4, or a Samsung Galaxy S10 to a Note 10 Plus, but switching between phones made by different manufacturers always results in something going wrong. For example, I have hundreds of old text messages on my phone right now that are labeled “unknown sender” even though those numbers are in my contacts. Duplicate contacts and files is another common issue. I don’t think it’s asking much for Android to feature a properly comprehensive backup and restore system that actually works.
A native call recording option would be really useful for a lot of people. There are ways to record a call on your Android phone, but I don’t really like any of them. The Recorder app, which debuted on the Pixel 4 and is now available in the Play Store, with its ability to produce a real-time transcript, is perfect, but it turns off if you start or receive a call. Why can’t we have easy call recording built into Android 11? Thankfully, it looks like Google is prepping call recording so there’s a good chance we’ll get this soon.
Phones are getting big and they can be difficult to handle without both your hands sometimes. Most manufacturers, Samsung and Apple included, have spotted this issue and included some kind of one-handed mode option, but there’s nothing built into Android to ameliorate this problem. The gesture system is a good step towards easier one-handed operation, but Google needs to add a proper one-handed mode that allows you to reach everything, as well.
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