Almost exactly a month after it released the first Developer Preview for Android 11, Google is releasing the second one. As it’s a developer preview, it’s not designed to be a public beta, nor does it include all of the features we’re expecting in Android 11, but there are a few new things to talk about.
At the top of that list is an API that allows a foldable to tell apps what angle the hinge is bent at. That could make it easier for devices like Microsoft’s upcoming Surface Duo to change their screen state if the company adopts it. More generally, the ability for Android devices to show different things depending on where the hinges are is becoming a more important feature, and it ought to be handled at the system level. Other devices like Samsung’s Z Flip and Galaxy Fold will also benefit.
Google is also adding an API so apps can check on a call’s SHAKEN/STIR status to make it easier to build call screening apps. It also adds the promised way for apps to check on the 5G status of the network, essentially an on / off switch in addition to the bandwidth estimator. It lets apps show a 5G icon if they’re on a 5G network, basically. I’m sure that carriers will be happy because it’ll give them yet another way to hype 5G.
Android 11 will finally handle variable refresh rates at a system level, so developers and manufacturers won’t have to roll their own solutions. Given the proliferation of 90 and 120Hz screens we’re expecting this year, it’s an overdue feature and hopefully won’t come too late to prevent fragmentation.
On the privacy and security front, Android 11 will have further restrictions on how services can access the camera and microphone. Their permissions will act a little more like location in Android 11, so foreground services cannot access the camera and microphone without an explicit declaration that will appear in the notification shade. Android’s march to limiting access to system storage continues, with this release providing migration tools for apps.
Although this release isn’t meant for consumers, Google is giving developers options to more easily install it: “To make flashing a bit easier, you can optionally get today’s release from the Android Flash Tool. For those already running Developer Preview 1 or 1.1, we’re also offering an over-the-air (OTA) update to today’s release.” It is, of course, only available on Pixel phones, starting with the Pixel 2 on up.
Correction 3/20/20 3:30pm ET: the original version of this article incorrectly said “foreground services” would apply to background apps. We have clarified that paragraph and regret the error.