Android 11 Beta 1 leaks on to handful of handsets days after official release postponed

Weird icon shapes, functionality tweaks, and notifications shaken up

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The Android 11 Beta has leaked to some Google Pixel users before its official release, revealing new details about the future of the world's most popular mobile operating system.

Google originally planned to formally unveil the Android 11 beta on June 3. It later opted to wait, following the outbreak of mass protests across America following the death of African-American man George Floyd at the hands of a police officer.

"Now is not the time to celebrate," tweeted Mountain View from its Android Developers account. At the time of writing, it had yet to set another release date.

Several Pixel 4XL phone-owners have confirmed receiving the Android 11 Beta 1, which carries the build number RPB1.200504.018.

Many of the changes focus on the UI design. Google is experimenting with three new home screen icons: Pebble, which is a not-quite-perfect circle; Tapered Rectangle, which has the shape of a Quality Street Orange Crunch; and Vessel, which is a square with several indents down each side.

They're weird, but only a handful of users will actually use them. Phones that ship with the stock Android experience are extremely rare. If you buy a TCL, Xiaomi, Samsung, or Huawei device (to name just a few), you'll end up using the vendor's own customised environment, and app icons are one of the most tweaked components of a vendor-issued UI.

Google is also looking at adding more functionality to the power button. One menu suggests Google's open to allowing punters to access their saved cards by holding down the power button. That's similar to Apple Pay, which is opened by two rapid clicks of the power button.

Notifications also get a bit of love. While you can currently control playback on an app (like Spotify) by swiping down from the top and navigating to that app's particular card, Google is considering adding media controls to the quick settings box. That'll place them adjacent to the various Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and airplane mode controls.

It's expected that Google will release a further two betas before its final release in Q3 2020, and thus it's likely Android will continue to evolve in the coming months, adding new features and potentially discarding ones that didn't quite pan out. ®


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