The latest and greatest version of Android has been out for a few months now and has slowly made its way to more devices.
Samsung recently announced the rollout of Android 11 to some of its Galaxy devices, adding new and exciting features to the company’s latest phones.
The rest of the launch will take some time, as is always the case with major Android updates.
If you’d rather not wait for your phone to receive the update, you can pick up Google’s Pixel 4a 5G or Pixel 5, both of which run Android 11 out of the box.
You’ll find subtle tweaks throughout the new operating system that make a big difference in how you’ll use your phone every day.
For example, there’s a new Bubbles chat feature that makes it easy to keep messaging from any app.
My personal favorite is the new quick-controls page for accessing my smart home devices with a swipe; and there’s a new screen-recording tool for showing off your favorite game helping someone troubleshoot a problem.
These are seven of my favorite Android 11 features and how to use them.
Android 11 quick controls are a true highlight
The first thing you should do after installing Android 11 is long-press the power button on your phone to bring up the new quick-controls screen.
On the Pixel, at least, this screen gives you power control options along the top; and provides shortcuts to your Google Pay cards and boarding passes.
Then below that you’ll find my favorite feature of Android 11 — quick controls for smart home devices.
Google Assistant can wait on hold for you
Instead of waiting on hold, listening to the same boring music on loop, Google is bringing a new feature to Assistant; and it debuted with the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5.
Called Hold for Me, Google Assistant’s new trick shows a prompt on the screen letting you know you can go about doing whatever it is you want to do and your phone will alert you when someone finally answers.
New message notifications get the limelight
After installing Android 11, you’ll notice that alerts from all of your messaging apps, like Google Messages; have a dedicated Conversations section in your notification tray.
The change makes it easier to find the alerts you likely care about most, but if you receive a lot of messages; even this section can get messy.
Messaging Bubbles for your friends look like they’ll be useful
Remember Bubbles? This feature was supposed to be part of Android 10, but Google pulled it at the last minute.
It made the cut for Android 11.
Bubbles are similar to Facebook Messenger’s “chat heads” feature. When activated, a small avatar — or Bubble; — shows up on your screen and is visible no matter what app you’re using.
Tap on the avatar and it will open a small window where you can read and send new messages in that thread, without fully opening the app.
You can drag the Bubble around your screen, or drag it to the bottom of the screen to delete it.
Android 11 gets fancier music controls
In Android 11, there’s a new playback control that no longer appears as a pending notification.
Instead, there’s a small box that shows up as part of the quick settings panel.
You can skip, go back, play, pause or switch the device the music is playing on all from the new control box.
As soon as you start playing some music, the new media controls will be available.
They’re so much better than the old notification.
A built-in screen recorder
Screenshots are a quick and easy way to capture something on your screen, but there are times when a recording is better suited to the task at hand.
For example, if you want to show off your gaming skills, or highlight the steps to reproduce a bug — screen recording FTW!
You can find the Screen Record tool in the Quick Settings panel after installing Android 11.
If it’s not visible, tap on the pencil icon to add it to your panel.
For Pixel owners: App Suggestions replace your app dock
At some point after installing Android 11, you’ll see a prompt asking you to enable app suggestions on the home screen.
Essentially, the new app suggestions will replace the app dock on your phone, leaving it up to your phone to swap apps in; and out of the bottom row — or dock — on your phone, based on which apps you use at certain times of the day.
The apps have a glowing border around them, letting you know your phone added them, and you’ll frequently see different ones when you go back to your home screen.
You can long-press on any of the app icons to pin that suggestion to your home screen.
You can also block apps from showing up as suggestions if you don’t want something like Gmail showing because you use a different email app.
To access App Suggestions and tailor how it works for you, long-press on your home screen and select Home Settings and then Suggestions.
There you can control suggestions in the app drawer and on the home screen or block apps from showing up on the list.
Google made some important changes to how Android handles privacy settings you should know, as well. And if you’re looking for instructions on how to install Android 11, we have your back.