Google today launched the fourth Android 11 developer preview with app compatibility and performance improvements. This is significant — an Android 11 Developer Preview 4 wasn’t supposed to exist. Android 11 Beta 1 was supposed to arrive in May. Hence the other piece of news today: There’s a new release schedule that pushes Beta 1 to June 3, Beta 2 to July, and Beta 3 to August.
Because Google’s I/O developer conference, where the first Android beta typically debuts, is canceled, Google is hosting an online developer event to kick off the betas instead. #Android11: the Beta Launch Show starts at 8 a.m. Pacific (11 a.m. Eastern) on June 3 with a keynote featuring executives Dave Burke and Stephanie Cuthbertson. The final Android 11 release is still slated for Q3 2020, but don’t expect it before late August, if not September.
We should have seen this coming. Google was forced to delay Chrome 81, skip Chrome 82 altogether, and move Chrome 83 up a few weeks. It makes sense that if the coronavirus impacted the Google developers building Chrome, it would also impact the Google developers building Android. “When we started planning Android 11, we didn’t expect the kinds of changes that would find their way to all of us, across nearly every region in the world,” Google VP of engineering Burke wrote today. “These have challenged us to stay flexible and find new ways to work together, especially with our developer community.”
The poorly named #Android11: the Beta Launch Show will span topics that were originally planned for I/O 2020. You can expect Jetpack Compose, Android Studio, and Google Play to all get proper airtime. Burke also promised a post-show live Q&A.
Android 11 DP4: No new features
You can download Android 11 DP4 now from developer.android.com — if you have the previous preview, Google will also be pushing an over-the-air (OTA) update. The release includes a preview SDK with system images for the Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a, Pixel 3a XL, Pixel 4, and Pixel 4 XL, as well as the official Android Emulator. Those eight Pixel phones are a tiny slice of the over 2.5 billion monthly active Android devices — the main reason developers are eager to see what’s new in the first place. Google was expected to release Android 11 to more phones with the first beta, but it looks like everyone will have to wait another month for that.
Android 11 DP1 brought 5G experiences, people and conversations improvements, Neural Networks API 1.3, privacy and security features, Google Play System updates, app compatibility, connectivity, image and camera improvements, and low latency tweaks. DP2 built on those with foldable, call screening, and Neural Networks API improvements. DP3 added app exit reasons updates, GWP-ASan heap analysis, Android Debug Bridge (ADB) Incremental, wireless debugging, and data access auditing.
DP4 is really just a stopgap measure. Burke says it gives developers “some extra time for you to test your app for compatibility and identify any work you’ll need to do.” Google recommends releasing a compatible app update by June 3 so you can get feedback from the larger group of beta users that will eager to finally try Android 11.
New Android 11 schedule
Google launched Android 11 DP1 in February (the earliest it has ever released an Android developer preview), Android 11 DP2 in March, and Android 11 DP3 in April. Unlike last year, Google did not make the previews available via the Android Beta Program, which lets you get early Android builds via over-the-air updates on select devices. You need to manually flash your device — Android 11 is not ready for early adopters to try, just developers.
Last year, there were six betas. This year, there were supposed to be three developer previews and three betas. Now we are on track for four developer previews and three betas. Here’s the new Android 11 schedule:
- February: Developer Preview 1 (Early baseline build focused on developer feedback, with new features, APIs, and behavior changes.)
- March: Developer Preview 2 (Incremental update with additional features, APIs, and behavior changes.)
- April: Developer Preview 3 (Incremental update for stability and performance.)
- May: Developer Preview 4 (App compatibility and performance improvements.)
- June 3: Beta 1 (Final SDK and NDK APIs; Google Play publishing open for apps targeting Android 11.)
- July: Beta 2 (Platform Stability milestone. Final APIs and behaviors.)
- August: Beta 3 (Release candidate build.)
- Q3: Final release (Android 11 release to AOSP and ecosystem.)
If you haven’t started testing yet, now is the time. After you’ve flashed Android 11 onto your device or fired up the Android Emulator, update your Android Studio environment with the Android 11 Preview SDK (setup guide). Then install your current production app and test the user flows. For a complete rundown on what’s new, check the API overview, API reference, and behavior changes. To help you test, Google made many of the targetSdk changes toggleable, so you can force-enable or disable them individually from Developer options or ADB. The greylists of restricted non-SDK interfaces can also be enabled/disabled. To help Google get to beta, give feedback and report bugs here.