Google quietly deploys the test version of the Android upgrade

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In this file photo from January 8, 2020, the Google exhibit building showcases a variety of devices with Google Assistant, including Android smartphones and Wear OS smart watches at CES technology show in Las Vegas. Google has released a test version of its annual Android software upgrade without the usual fanfare announcing the latest operating system powering most smartphones. The launch of the “beta” version of Android 11 was announced on Wednesday June 10 in a blog post, as well as video tutorials for creators of smartphone applications on Google’s YouTube service. (AP Photo / Ross D. Franklin, file)

Google has released a test version of its annual Android software upgrade without the usual fanfare announcing the latest operating system powering most smartphones.

The debut of the beta version of Android 11 was announced Wednesday in a blog post, as well as video tutorials for smartphone app creators on Google’s YouTube service.

Android 11 will offer several new features that make it easier to find notifications on incoming text messages. It also gives users the ability to quickly open a digital conversation by tapping a floating “bubble” identifying the person at the other end of a text. The new Android bubbles reflect a feature that Facebook has been using in its Messenger app for years.

The next version of the software is also designed to better protect users’ privacy, which Google is frequently accused of invading when it collects information to sell advertisements.

Users will be asked if they want to allow an application to access their location for one time only, and then Android will not allow access until the user authorizes it again. Android 11 will also automatically identify when an app has not been used for a long time and deactivate previous permissions that users may have forgotten in the past.

The beta version is mostly downloaded by app makers while Google continues to fix software bugs before the operating system is offered free to owners of smartphones running Android. But smartphone manufacturers and wireless carriers don’t always quickly offer the next version of Android software to users, leaving many devices to run on older versions of the software for years.

Google usually showcases the next version of its Android software at an annual event in May near its headquarters in Mountain View, California, with thousands of application creators and computer programmers in attendance.

But the pandemic forced Google to cancel the event this year and move it to a virtual gathering it planned to hold last week. But the plan was also scuttled amid mass protests in American cities following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis after a white police officer kicked his knee in the neck.

The new versions of Android are quickly being offered to owners of Google’s Pixel phones, but these represent a tiny fraction of the more than 2 billion devices running on different versions of Android.

In contrast, more than 80% of iPhone users typically download annual iOS upgrades from Apple, the software that powers these devices. Apple plans to preview the next version of its iOS device on June 22 at an online event instead of an in-person event that draws thousands of people from around the world to Silicon Valley.


Google will serve the next version of Android as “Oreo”


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