Hey, guys, how you all doing so today I will tell you about the all-new Android 11. Android is a mature operating system. What that means is that unless some designer inside Google has a wild-eyed hare-brained 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 checkboxes. 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 Google pulled that off. 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 toggle.
It is really a pretty good way to learn what you can do in new software. It’s like a site map, but for operating systems. Let’s talk about the new features in Android 11 but through the settings app. So the first setting I 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.
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 busy but that doesn’t mean you’re gonna miss it even though it’s muted because it’s still sitting at the top of your notifications.
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, the next new big feature in Android 11 is Google’s new Power Menu. Which combines three kinds 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. It is time to finally fix Android on the big screen. And also to do a better job helping developers navigate all of these new form factors that are coming soon.