Google's third developer preview (DP3) of the Android 11 operating system is an enticing look at the future of the platform, where new features and UI tweaks abound.
But before we get into the meat of things, a bit of a throat-clearing. In the past, features have appeared in Android developer previews that didn't ultimately make it into the finished product. As a result, it's always worth looking at these with a healthy awareness of the fact that they're experimental in nature.
Google has planned six releases before Android 11 starts slithering onto devices in Q3 2020. So, again, anything mentioned here is subject to change.
Arguably the most exciting feature – at least for road-warrior IT pros – is the ability to tether devices to your phone's internet connection via Ethernet. This makes sense, especially given that both Huawei and Samsung offer desktop "experiences" with their phones. Attach a monitor and peripherals to your pricey blower with a USB-C hub, and you've effectively got a pocketable desktop computer.
And now you can easily share your internet connection via that hub. Plug in an Ethernet cable, and another machine can share your phone's data. All you have to do is enter your tethering settings and toggle a switch.
This could also be handy for those living in areas seldom frequented by Openreach vans. If you can't get decent broadband, but there's solid 4G connectivity, you can easily turn your phone into a router, breathing life into devices that might perhaps lack integral Wi-Fi, like some older smart TVs, or an Xbox 360.
Another cool enhancement is found in multitasking – or, in Android parlance, "Recents". Those with Android phones know that there's a lot of dead UI space when you flick between apps, and Google has chosen to fill that with new functionality, allowing you to easily take screenshots and share them via the usual places.
And if you accidentally close an app, Android's Recents now comes with an undo functionality, allowing you to restore it without losing your data.
The rest of Android 11 DP3 is a bit more humdrum – with modest UI changes in the notifications tab, as well as various bug fixes. If you're tempted to try it for yourself, you can easily side load it to one of the supported Pixel-brand phones. These include the Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a, Pixel 3a XL, Pixel 4, and Pixel 4 XL.
Of course, this isn't for everyone. Beta releases tend to be buggy and error-prone. And side-loading DP3 involves a fair bit of command-line work. Install it at your own risk. ®