Android 11 developer access arrives earlier than expected

Developers can now preview the latest OS, with the full launch scheduled for Q3 2020

Developers can preview and test their apps against the latest iteration of Google’s Android mobile OS a month earlier than expected.

The free Android 11 Developer Preview programme offers developers a runtime environment in which to test their apps, as well as experiment with any OS changes that could improve app functionality.

Although Google usually releases its Android developer preview versions around mid-March, the preview iteration for the forthcoming Android 11 OS has been given an unexpected mid-February launch. 

Further updates to the developer preview will be issued in March and April, while Google currently expects to release Beta iterations of Android 11 in May and June. This period will focus on achieving platform stability, with a final release slated for the third quarter of 2020.

"At key development milestones, we'll deliver updates for your development and testing environments. Each includes SDK tools, system images, emulators, API reference, and API diffs," Google said in a post, the latter point referencing a visual tool for comparing versions of software.

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"We're introducing a milestone called 'Platform Stability' to help you plan your final testing and releases," the post added. "This milestone means that Android 11 has reached final internal and external APIs, final app-facing behaviors, and final non-SDK graylists."

“We expect Android 11 to reach Platform Stability at Beta 2 in June 2020," Google added. "From that point, you can expect no further changes affecting your apps."

The Android 11 preview can only be used on Google’s smartphones, including the Pixel 4 and 4XL, Pixel 3a and 3a XL, Pixel 3 and 3 XL, and Pixel 2 and 2 XL

Google’s new mobile OS is expected to introduce a swathe of new features for users as well as developers. One of the most significant changes is in data access auditing, whereby developers can better identify and rectify potentially unexpected data access in their apps.

Android 11 also adds several methods to the MediaStore API with regards to performing batch operations, to the benefit of consistency across devices and added user convenience. Generally, this will be useful for apps that want a streamlined flow for modifying media files, such as editing a photo in-place.

Moreover, in situations involving machine learning or media playback, the OS allows large datasets to be cached on the device using ‘shared data blobs’ which can be shared between apps. This is a change from the way that both apps would currently each need to download a separate copy of the same large dataset.

In terms of security, Android 11 introduces an interface that defines the possible strengths of biometric hardware elements, with the handset manufacturer denoting a strength for each element. 

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