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  • (bright music)

  • - So when I first previewed the new features

  • inside Android 11,

  • I said that Android is a mature operating system.

  • What that means is that unless some designer inside Google

  • has a wild-eyed harebrained idea,

  • things just aren't going to radically change

  • that much in a mature OS.

  • Instead, the updates are gonna be about cleaning up

  • some bugs or fixing some security and privacy issues

  • or adding new features.

  • But the thing about adding new features

  • is that if you don't do it right,

  • you end up just overwhelming the user.

  • It all becomes this weird slurry of things

  • that you just completely ignore.

  • I mean, look at every single Samsung phone

  • from like the Galaxy S3 to the Galaxy S8

  • if you want a good example of that.

  • If you don't wanna bear your user in check boxes,

  • what you have to do is manage complexity.

  • And that is the real job of a mature operating system,

  • managing complexity.

  • So for this review of Android 11,

  • the big question is whether or not Google pulled that off.

  • And my answer is barely, and I think I can explain

  • why I point at this thing that a lot of us do

  • when we get new software,

  • it's the very first thing that I do after a big update,

  • it's that I go to the settings.

  • I poke around and see what's new inside the settings

  • because often a lot of the new features,

  • they're just sitting in there waiting to be toggled.

  • It really is a pretty good way to learn

  • what you can do in new software.

  • It's like a site map, but for operating systems.

  • So, all right,

  • let's talk about the new features in Android 11,

  • but through the settings app.

  • I promise this will be fun, no, really.

  • I mean, look, if you're watching a review of Android 11,

  • you are almost as big a nerd as I am,

  • so don't act like you're too good

  • to look at the settings app with me.

  • (gentle music)

  • So the first setting I wanna look at is bubbles.

  • So you got to Apps Notifications, Notifications, Bubbles,

  • and you make sure it's turned on.

  • But the thing to actually pay attention to is what happens

  • when you get a notification from a chat app

  • like Android Messages or Facebook Messenger or whatever.

  • Firstly, they appear in the section

  • at the top of your notifications called Conversations.

  • And this section is awesome.

  • It means that you don't miss chats

  • in the mix of all of the other notifications you get

  • from all those other apps you don't care about.

  • And it also means you can do stuff like mute notifications

  • on a given chat thread because it's really, really busy,

  • but that doesn't mean you're gonna miss it

  • even though it's muted 'cause it's

  • still sitting at the top of your notifications.

  • I really love it.

  • Anyway, bubbles, if you look at the notification,

  • you're gonna see a little box

  • in the lower right-hand corner of the notification.

  • There's one version of it that has an arrow

  • pointing to a circle, that's to turn bubbles on,

  • or an arrow pointing away from a circle

  • to the turn bubbles off.

  • I think this icon is confusing and weird,

  • but I guess the square represents a notification

  • and the circle is a bubble.

  • Anyway, you tap it to toggle bubble mode

  • on or off for any given conversation.

  • Now, when you bubble a conversation,

  • it turns into this little circle that you could

  • put anywhere on the screen, and then you tap on it.

  • It opens up the chat thread and then you can chat.

  • And you can intermix services.

  • So you could have a stack of three or four or five

  • different chat apps all in a single bubble,

  • and tap and toggle between them.

  • And this is great because it lets you have

  • a conversation with somebody going for a while,

  • really quick, while you're doing other stuff.

  • And then you can just toss the thing away

  • when you're done chatting with that person.

  • Now, I know the first time you see bubbles,

  • it's weird to have this thing pop up on your screen.

  • You're probably gonna want to turn it off,

  • but honestly, give 'em a shot.

  • I ended up liking bubbles way more than I expected to.

  • Okay, as long as we're talking about the notification shade,

  • there is another new thing up here.

  • Your media controls are no longer interspersed

  • throughout the top of your notifications.

  • They're up there with your quick settings.

  • That's just how it works now.

  • But there is one setting that you can check.

  • So you go to Sound, Media, Hide Player.

  • and you can turn this off.

  • And I have it turned off.

  • Disabling it means that your media controls

  • will stick around for a while, even if you pause them.

  • It creates some extra space in the shade,

  • but it's worth it because then you can go there

  • and play paused stuff more quickly.

  • And the media player itself,

  • it's the same buttons as before,

  • but if you've played something from a few different apps,

  • say Spotify and then YouTube and then Pocket Casts,

  • instead of having all those stacked up

  • in your notifications one after the other,

  • now you swipe between them horizontally in this new section.

  • And so that's really neat.

  • Also, don't miss the output button

  • inside this new media section,

  • which lets you select where the audio is going.

  • It would be pretty nice if this output things,

  • some more things than, you know,

  • just basically Bluetooth things,

  • but maybe that's something for the next version of Android.

  • Okay, the next new big feature in Android 11

  • is Google's new Power Menu,

  • which combines three kind of random things

  • under a long press of the power button.

  • So you've got Power controls, Google Pay,

  • and then Smart Home controls.

  • Google says this is like your phone's interface

  • to the real physical world, which sure.

  • This is where I think Google's attempt to manage complexity

  • is starting to get a little strained.

  • So for example, let's say you want to find

  • the settings for this Power Menu.

  • So you go to the settings app,

  • which by itself seems like not too bad.

  • I like that important controls

  • like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth are right at the top.

  • But anyway, where are the power controls?

  • Well, they're under System, Gestures.

  • Gestures?

  • I mean, I know that they're there

  • because Google put all of its custom controls

  • underneath Gestures 'cause those used to be

  • actual gestures for the way

  • that you'd control custom Google things,

  • but nobody else knows that.

  • It's a button, it's not a gesture, what the heck?

  • But honestly, I'm not that angry about it.

  • I mean, I will point out that if you

  • wanna find something in settings,

  • the easy thing to do is just go to the top

  • and type in the thing you're searching for

  • and it'll pop up.

  • But I do wish that Google'd do this thing that Samsung does

  • where at the bottom of some of its settings pages,

  • it tells you that if you're looking for something else

  • that you thought should be in that setting page,

  • it's over in some other spot.

  • Like I would always expect the Always On Display

  • to be under the display settings, but it's not.

  • It's actually under the lock screen

  • and Samsung gets that that's confusing.

  • And so they give you a little shortcut at the bottom.

  • But let's just assume you found your way

  • somehow to the power settings.

  • You get there and this is where you can

  • toggle different parts of the Power Menu.

  • And even though I think that metaphor

  • for what the Power Menu represents is weird, I love it.

  • I do think it's super convenient to have access

  • to these smart home controls so quickly.

  • And I have found myself using this Power Menu all the time.

  • So look, I'm not gonna go over every single feature

  • in Android 11 in this video.

  • I'm not gonna talk about how screen recording finally works,

  • how screenshots look just like they do on the iPhone now,

  • or, you know, actually this one's nice.

  • Android is finally cracking down on apps

  • that want background permission all of the time.

  • Pretty much everything is getting moved to only have

  • location permission when the app is open.

  • And that's how it should be.

  • All in all, all the other features

  • that I'm not getting to here,

  • that's all pretty good stuff.

  • At this point, I should really

  • just call out the elephant in the room.

  • We're mainly talking about Pixel phones here.

  • Although this year, a couple others are

  • getting it right away, which is great.

  • Other Android phones are gonna get Android 11 at some point.

  • Now, speed on updates has gotten better

  • over the last couple of years, but it's still not great.

  • And even when the Android updates do come,

  • it's hard to predict if everything

  • is going to work the same.

  • So for example, most Android phones still have

  • the three buttons at the bottom,

  • and some little swipey swipey controls

  • that Google tried to get everybody

  • to switch to a couple of versions ago.

  • Here's another example.

  • That Power Button Menu, on most Samsung phones,

  • long-pressing the power button now takes you to Bixby,

  • but Google wants the power button

  • to take you to that new Power Menu.

  • So is Samsung gonna switch to that or not?

  • And when they do, are they gonna use Google Home

  • to power the smart home controls like the Pixel does,

  • and Google Pay like the Pixel does?

  • No, they're not.

  • They're gonna wanna use SmartThings for home control

  • and Samsung Pay for paying inside that menu.

  • And it's that kind of complexity

  • that I don't know if Google knows how to manage.

  • I'm not talking about the complexity

  • within Android 11 itself.

  • I'm talking about complexity

  • across different versions of Android 11,

  • Samsungs, and Microsofts, and LGs,

  • and Googles, and whoever else.

  • I'm starting to worry that we're gonna

  • have to start saying the F word again.

  • Fragmentation, that's the F word,

  • but what word were you thinking?

  • Honestly, though, I really do hate ending

  • every single Android review with a gripe

  • about how only Pixels get it first,

  • and everybody else is a little bit later.

  • So I'm not kidding when I say that I think

  • that update timing is getting better.

  • It's never gonna be day and date

  • as good as the way the iPhone does it,

  • but we are a long ways from the battle days

  • when you would wait six months to a year to never

  • for Android updates.

  • Plus companies like Samsung and OnePlus are committing

  • to three years of updates and that really matters.

  • So that's my review of Android 11.

  • It has a bunch of new features that are

  • just barely contained into something

  • that feels comprehensible.

  • I do think it's a fine update,

  • but you know what I want for Android 12?

  • Well, I'll tell you what I want.

  • I want Android to be better on foldables and tablets.

  • Samsung and Microsoft are doing

  • two totally different things.

  • And Android is still messy on Chrome OS.

  • You know, phones, I think they've got enough features

  • to last us for a while.

  • It is time to finally fix Android on the big screens,

  • and also to do a better job helping developers

  • navigate all of these new form factors that are coming,