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Android Google

Google introduced a crippling Android app scaling bug to the Chrome OS Beta and Dev channel – Android Police

Android display scaling has been a controversial topic in the Chromebook community since the removal of Android’s DPI scaling setting in Chrome OS 67. The fonts and touch targets in Android apps appear tiny and illegible, making them incredibly frustrating to use compared to Chrome and native Chrome apps. There used to be workarounds to increase Android app scaling, but these methods don’t work anymore. People have complained about it in the Chromebook community forums and have been filing bugs, and, to be honest, I can’t blame them. Google is now testing a new system called “uniform scaling” in the Chrome OS Beta and Dev channel to tackle the problem with tiny Android applications, but it’s filled with issues.

Uniform scaling is Google’s answer to the Android app scaling complaints littered everywhere on the Chromium bug tracker and the Chromebook community forums. It scales Android apps to be 25% larger to become readable and less frustrating to use.

beforeafterunformscaling

Left: Telegram Android app without uniform scaling. Right:  With uniform scaling.

As shown above, the overall layout of Android apps appears larger with uniform scaling. The font and interface are scaled up significantly more than before, making it easier to read and interact with the app. While the decision to increase scaling for Android apps is the right move, especially from an accessibility standpoint, the change causes its own issues, such as making apps appear too big and cutting off content. There’s also one rather glaring unanticipated consequence.

Last night, I tried to catch up on homework using Squid, a popular note-taking app found on the Google Play Store. I started to write, and I noticed that my writing started to move away from my digital pen. That’s weird, I thought. I restarted Squid, and it did the same thing. I minimized the Squid app and tested the Concepts Android app to see if it was a Squid issue, and it exhibited the same problem. Take a look:

Canvas

Concepts app with uniform scaling. Completely off-centered from my digital pen.

As you can see, the input is nowhere near where my stylus actually is. I have to be actively compensating for the misalignment to draw correctly, which is a significant annoyance (especially when drawing faces).

squid

Squid app with uniform scaling. Ink initially trails behind my digital pen until I lift it.

Squid is impacted significantly more than the Concepts app. The ink initially trails my drawing pen until I lift it, shifting the whole stroke to the bottom right. This makes drawing impossible since I have to predict where the ink is going to end up.

Some of you might be wondering why I’m making a big fuss about it if the problem doesn’t exist on the Chrome OS stable channel. Think of it this way: we’re already late in the beta cycle for Chrome OS 86. The clock is ticking, and there’s not a lot of time for the issue to be fixed before the expected release of Chrome OS 86 stable (unless Google delays it, which does happen). Enthusiasts and web developers jumping to the Beta channel to try out upcoming features with “low risk” will find their Android apps near unusable. If you need drawing to work correctly on Android apps again, you’ll have to powerwash (or factory reset) your Chromebook to switch back to the stable channel, which erases all of your data stored on your Chromebook. I’m not the only one running into this problem either — people have messaged me saying they can no longer handwrite notes or draw on Android apps, which destroyed their workflow. Here’s what sucks about this: there is no way to turn uniform scaling off. Until Google fixes the awful uniform scaling bug, you’re stuck with misaligned inking. Not good, Google.

If you’re negatively impacted by uniform scaling problems and prefer not to back up and powerwash your Chromebook, there are a couple of things you can try to work around the issues.

Workaround #1

If you don’t annotate or draw on Android apps, try this workaround. You can change Android’s display scaling by exposing the hidden display settings in Android.

  1. Install Activity Launcher (or any equivalent app that can launch hidden activities) from the Google Play store.
  2. Launch Activity Launcher, search for “display,” and click on com.android.settings.DisplaySettings to launch the hidden display settings.
  3. Click on the “Advanced” button, then click “Display size.”
  4. Shrink the display size to “Small” by moving the slider to the left.

Your apps should appear exactly like how they used to look without uniform scaling. You must do steps #2-4 every time you log out or restart your Chromebook.

Workaround #2

If you need to annotate or draw on Android apps, this workaround will help get the pen’s inking centered. You’ll need to ADB into the Android subsystem and change Android’s display density using a few commands.

This workaround requires enabling ADB debugging, which allows you to install apps not verified by Google. Android Police and Google are not liable for damages caused by sideloading harmful apps. Disabling this feature will require a powerwash.

  1. If you already have Linux installed on your Chromebook, you may skip this step. Otherwise, launch Chrome OS Settings, click on Linux (Beta) on the navigation pane, and click the “Turn on” button. If you can’t find it, your device may not be eligible for Linux, a requirement for this workaround.
  2. Activate “Enable ADB debugging,” which is tucked under “Develop Android apps” in the Linux (Beta) section of Chrome OS Settings.
  3. Launch the Linux terminal from the launcher. ADB is required to modify the Android subsystem. To do this, type and enter the following: sudo apt update && sudo apt install android-tools-adb.
  4. Once ADB is installed, look for the Android subsystem: adb devices.
  5. You should see a device called “emulator-####.” Note that the “#” will vary depending on your device. Copy it.
  6. ADB into the Android subsystem: adb -s emulator-#### shell.
  7. If you did these steps correctly, your terminal should display your device name. For example, my Pixel Slate says nocturne_cheets:/ $ 
  8. Change the density of Android’s window manager to 120: wm density 120.

density

If done correctly, this is what your terminal output should look like.

The content inside Android apps will be very tiny, but the inking will accurately follow your drawing pen. I recommend reverting the density setting back to default when you’re finished drawing: wm density reset.

I hope the developers at Google will fix the bugs caused by uniform scaling. As of now, this new scaling has completely broken all Android drawing apps, significantly impacting artists and students. I filed a bug report on the Chromium bug tracker, and I hope the developers will jump in and quickly fix the issue before it reaches the stable channel.

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Android Privacy

The Android 11 Privacy and Security Features You Should Know – WIRED

If you’re lucky enough to be in the first batch of recipients, you might already have Android 11 up and running on your phone; if not, it’ll be rolling out to your handset in the weeks and months ahead.

As with most major Android updates, security and privacy features get plenty of attention, and there are now more integrated tools and options than ever to keep you and your smartphone safe from snoops and data thieves. Let’s take a look at them.

One-Time Permissions

You’re likely familiar with the process of granting apps permission to parts of your phone like the microphone and camera, but with Android 11 there’s a new setting to be aware of: a one-time permission that means an app can use your camera (or microphone or location) for now, but it will have to ask again next time it wants access.

It’s perfect for apps that you don’t altogether trust or that you don’t use very often—it’s less suitable for apps that you always use (approving Instagram’s access to the camera every time you want to take a snap would quickly get tiresome).

You’ll see the new option appear on key permissions—camera, microphone, location—when apps need them, so choose wisely. Android 11 has another new and related feature that’s less obvious: If you don’t use an app for a few months, all its previous permissions will be reset, and it will need to request them again.

Permissions will be reset on apps you don’t use.

Screenshot: David Nield

Scoped Storage

Not very exciting from an end-user perspective, but important in the behind-the-scenes security of Android 11, scoped storage means that apps have access to their own silos of data and aren’t necessarily allowed to access silos from other apps, which in theory should keep your sensitive information more secure.

It’s a somewhat controversial change: Apps might want to get data from other apps or services for a variety of reasons, such as an image-editing app accessing your photo gallery, for example. Scoped storage doesn’t make that impossible, but developers have to jump through more hoops and abide by Android’s rules to make it happen.

In terms of what you’ll see while you’re running Android 11, this shouldn’t make much of a difference: Your device will automatically be safer because apps will have greater restrictions on them. If you do see apps put up permission requests for storage folders on your device, just double-check what exactly they’re asking for before deciding to allow or block it.

Background Location Access

There’s one more permission-related feature in Android 11 that’s worth mentioning, and that’s background location access—apps being able to track your location in the background. When an app first asks for permission to track location, the option to enable this all the time (even when the app isn’t running) isn’t available: You need to visit the app’s specific page in Android Settings to do this. The extra steps should, in theory, make us all think twice about granting background location access to an app, rather than just automatically tapping to grant permission out of habit.

More security updates will arrive via the Google Play Store.

Screenshot: David Nield via Google

Secure Identity Credentials

This is more for the future of the mobile operating system rather than anything you can actually do right now, but Android 11 introduces special tools for managing secure identities on your phone—think electronic IDs or drivers licenses, for example, so your phone effectively becomes an ID badge.

None of this is fully enabled right now, but the tools are there inside Android 11 in case developers want to make use of them, which Google is encouraging them to do. It may not be available in every region and on every Android 11 device for a while, but it’s a start.

One of the crucial aspects of the new feature is that your credentials will be stored offline, so the ID information won’t be transmitted to the web, and will be very difficult to get off your phone should it fall into the wrong hands. Keep an eye out for more on this feature in future Android updates.

Biometrics and Encryption

Two smaller Android 11 security updates worth mentioning focus on biometrics and encryption. Biometric support in Android 11—fingerprint and face unlock—has been extended to a wider range of devices, Google says, with more levels of authorization (so face unlock that doesn’t use the most powerful recognition technology can’t be used to make mobile payments, for example).

As for encryption, Android devices are already encrypted by default, so without your PIN the data on your phone is essentially unreadable. But in Android 11 the encryption is applied immediately after an over-the-air update, before you’ve even logged back in. It’s a small change, but it closes another loophole that could have been used to get at your private information.

More Updates via the Google Play Store

Android 11 builds on an existing initiative called Project Mainline, which essentially pushes key security updates through the Play Store—this means you don’t need to wait for Samsung, Sony, or whichever company made your phone to get around to rolling out a new version of Android before your handset is secure.

Major Android updates are still going to drop once a year as usual, with new features and options, but Project Mainline means Google can react faster to security threats on Android and make sure any phone with access to its Play Store is patched up as quickly as possible.


More Great WIRED Stories

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Android interview

The Android 11 interview: Googlers answer our burning questions – Ars Technica

Via Google Meet, of course —

Android engineers Dave Burke and Iliyan Malchev are back for our yearly Q&A.


The Android 11 interview: Googlers answer our burning questions

Aurich Lawson / Getty Images

We’ve established a bit of a tradition here at Ars. Every year at Google I/O, we have a sit-down talk to learn more about Android directly from the people that make it. Of course, this year, just about every major event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, nothing is really normal, and Google I/O never happened.

We can still do interviews over the Internet though! So while it happened later in the year than normal, we were still able to hold our annual chat with some of the most important Googlers at Android HQ: Dave Burke, Android’s VP of Engineering, and Iliyan Malchev, Principal Engineer at Android and the lead of Project Treble.

We came prepped with questions about the more mysterious corners of Android 11, which actually led to a lot of interesting talk about the future. You’ll learn about a coming re-write of the Bluetooth stack, and there’s lots of talk about modularity and easy updating (like plans will hopefully, someday, allow you to update the Linux kernel and developer APIs as easily as you download an app update).

This interview took place just days before the launch of Android 11, which went final on September 8t. As usual, this has only been lightly edited for clarity, and I’ll include whatever background is needed in italics. Given the odd state of everything as we all popped into a Google Meet video chat, COVID was an obvious first topic.

Ars: How are you all dealing with COVID-19 in Android development land?

Dave Burke: Good. Like everyone, when we did the work-from-home switch, it was a bit of a scramble to say the least. We had a lot of developer productivity things to iron out. A lot of people use high-powered workstations for building the operating system, with a phone tethered over USB, and we wanted to find a way that they could still use their workstations but flash to a phone that was tethered to a laptop. So we did a bunch of infrastructure work and whatnot to get everyone up and running. That actually worked pretty well. I was pretty impressed.

Google Meet worked out great, too. I remember thinking a couple years ago, “Wow, Google is investing a lot in this video conferencing stuff, why not use something commercial?” But now I’m so glad Google built its own. A lot of us now use the Meet rooms, so we have a lot of like virtual, Slack-like channels, if you want to call it that. It’s been pretty good!

I mean it’s obviously been tough as well, not having things like corridor conversations. We saw somewhere between like a 7 to 11 percent drop in productivity, I would say, at the beginning. Then it seemed to recover as people adapted. We did set the schedule back about a month just because we need to accommodate folks with that transition. The industry needed time to adapt, too, but yeah, it’s mostly working out. Of course, I think we would all be quite happy to go back to work.

Iliyan Malchev: I think the biggest worry going into COVID was just, ‘Will the ISP infrastructure be able to handle this huge spike in media consumption?’ It seems to have held up for the most part.

Burke: The other thing I’ve been working on is is exposure notifications with Apple, so that’s been pretty intense. We’re building capacity to detect if you’ve been approximate to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. We’ve been running fast on that, so that’s been an exciting extra second job.

Ah, yes, Android’s COVID exposure notifications rolling out to a smartphone near you. The APIs for this have shipped in Google Play Services and rolled out to basically all of the two billion Google Play Android devices out there. Full OS updates might be dependent on your device manufacturer, but Play Services updates hit every phone that has the Play Store installed, so basically every Android phone outside of China.


Google is going to start generating COVID apps itself so states and other entities can get up-and-running easier.

Enlarge / Google is going to start generating COVID apps itself so states and other entities can get up-and-running easier.

Google

The current problem with COVID tracking is that individual health organizations need to make apps that plug into this API, and in the US, that’s usually your state government. States don’t really have competent app developers on call for something like this (Is your local DMV website as much of a disaster as mine?). So far, only six states currently have COVID apps. It sounds like Google’s next step to try and fix this is to make apps itself, so states only need to supply a configuration file to get up and running.

Project Mainline updates

Project Mainline, aka “Google Play System Updates” is one of the biggest changes to come to Android in some time. The feature debuted in Android 10, and it’s a major step in the modularization of Android. Mainline added a new “APEX” file type, designed to package core system components for easy updatability through the Play Store. Previously, the Play Store only shipped APK files, which, since they were built with third-party apps in mind, came with all sorts of security and functionality limitations that wouldn’t work for core system components. APEX files can only come from Google or your OEM, so these offer a lot more power and start-up earlier in the boot process. APEX files can do things like update the app framework, which you could never do with an app.

Mainline was also about getting OEMs on-board with Google taking over more of Android’s base code—code that previously was available to OEMs to customize. Google had to sit down with all the OEMs (I imagine these meetings look like the Galactic Senate) and ask, “Do you really need to customize the way the DNS resolver works?” When all the answers come back “no,” that becomes a Mainline module and everyone agrees to ship the same piece of code. When there are customization concerns, Google and OEMs are working together to upstream code into a module that everyone can use.

That was Android 10. For Android 11, the last news we got about Mainline was Google’s first developer preview blog post from February, which said there were “12 new modules” in Mainline. It didn’t provide much more detail than that.

Ars: Your blog post said there were “12 new apex modules” in Android 11, but what are they exactly?


Burke: Yeah, there’s a bunch. I have a list here: so statsd, which is our daemon for collecting stats, and that makes sense because you want to have uniform telemetry. Wi-Fi tethering is a new module. NNAPI—the neural networks API—again, that’s another space that’s changing rapidly as we learn more techniques in machine learning. ADBD. Cell broadcast. There’s some Wi-Fi modules. SDK extension stuff. Oh, and a media provider as well, which underpins scoped storage, so we wanted that to be updatable.

I think there’s a total of 21 modules now and I think probably more important than what the actual modules are is the work that’s gone into the infrastructure to make them possible. We have very advanced release management. We’ve got short-term, long-term telemetry. We’ve got A-B capability. We’ve got a file system snapshot in the rollback. And the other part, of course, is just a cultural change for the developers to learn how to write in a module that’s being updated all the time. I’m pretty excited about the foundation that we’ve laid more than what the specific modules are because there’s more to come.

Ars: Speaking of “more to come,” I wanted to ask about that “SDK extension module,” which sounds pretty important. Is this as interesting as I’m imagining? You want to deliver new API levels via the Play Store?


OK, time out while I explain this question: Android versions are identified to you and me by their version numbers, but internally Android identifies itself to apps with a number interchangeably called the “SDK level” or “API level.” So all the new features, permissions, and security restrictions in Android 11 are available to apps in “API Level 30.” In the past, API Levels have always gone up +1 with each Android release (even for the smaller 0.1 releases, which is why we’re at level 30).

The speculation with an SDK module is that Google would be able to ship entire new SDK levels to developers, including new features, without having to push out an entire OS update. This would be absolutely incredible for Android, since full OS updates have such poor distribution and small user bases that developers are reluctant to support new APIs when no one can run them. API levels over Google Play would be just like a Play Services rollout, where a new feature can hit two billion devices virtually overnight. This also sounds very hard to believe, because a new developer API can hit any part of the OS. How could you possibly update that via a single module?

Burke: I think the whole idea of updatable OS modules is a pretty profound shift, so it’s all pretty interesting. But yeah, we have the ability in Android 11—Android R, as we call it—to create new system APIs and deploy them in mainline modules. That’s in R. In S [Android S would be version 12], we’re going to plan to be able to actually deliver new public APIs in Mainline modules, so we’re really just extending the breadth of what’s a module and what’s updatable.

Ars: That’s going to have to be more limited than a full OS update, right? How well can that work compared to an OTA? It sounds amazing but also pretty hard.


Burke: Yeah, I think it’s still early. You’re right. The challenge with updatable modules is that the module updates but you can’t assume that everything around it updates. So, you have to be careful and have stable internal APIs or boundaries between those interfaces.

So yeah, we’re still working. I think what you really want is for the API to be connected only to another updateable module, otherwise it doesn’t quite make sense. We’re building out the capability and then we’ll see what we’ll use it for.

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Android shouldn't

5 Android apps you shouldn’t miss this week! – Android Apps Weekly – Android Authority

AAW Runelords Arena screenshot

Welcome to the 345th edition of Android Apps Weekly. Here are the big headlines from the last week:

  • There have been a lot of questions about Incognito Mode in browsers lately. We decided to do a deep dive and find out what it’s really all about. You can read our analysis of it here and see if Incognito Mode actually protects you from anything other than just other people with your phone.
  • Three years ago, Google Maps was removed from Apple Watches in favor of Apple Maps. This week, the world’s most popular navigation app made its triumphant return to the platform. It’s not quite as powerful as Apple Maps. However, it is one of the precious few real alternatives to Apple’s navigation app in this space.
  • Samsung added a new module to its Good Lock application. The new module lets you create custom live wallpapers. It’s a pretty basic function. You choose a base image and then add effects and motion to achieve a desired effect. Still, it’s a free product for Samsung owners who use Good Lock. It’s called Wonderland in case you want to check it out and you can get in the Samsung Galaxy Store.
  • Google’s new Phone app was a pretty big deal when it first came out a while ago. This week, Google announced it would make its way to more devices outside of just Pixels. Additionally, its Verified Caller function is rolling out to users in a few countries, including US, Brazil, India, Mexico, and Spain. Hit the link to learn more.
  • PUBG Mobile is trying to make a comeback in India after its ban a while back. The mobile game quit Tencent in order to shed its Chinese app tag and make its way back onto the Play Store in that country. The company in charge is PUBG Corporation and future updates are handled by South Korean video game company Bluehole. The developers hope this gets the game unbanned in India.

Bella Villa

Price: Free to play

Bella Villa is a free to play match-three game with fashion game elements. Players go from level to level solving the match-three puzzles and then follow the story line as they progress. The game boasts thousands of stages, a house that you can decorate and build as you play, an actual story, and some unlockables as you go. It’s definitely something a bit different in the match-three space even if its free to play price tag gets in the way sometimes.

Bella Villa screenshot


SlideScan

Price: Free / $5.99 per month / $19.99 per year

SlideScan is an app for digitizing old photographs. The app lets you scan old slides. It then applies some auto photo editing magic and you are free to share or store them anywhere you want. It works fairly well. You put the slide in front of something with a backlight so the camera can see what’s on it. The app then scans the image, applies some auto enhancements, and that’s it. The app worked well in our testing, but some people had issues getting it to focus on the slide and, thus, some images came out blurry. The only thing we don’t like is that this is a subscription service for some reason. We recommend paying for a month when you’re ready to digitize your slides and then cancel when you’re done.


Lord of Heroes

Price: Free to play

Lord of Heroes is a new mobile RPG and people seem to really like it so far. The story is nothing special, but it’s well executed and the mobile RPG elements seem relatively fair for free to play players. Even the Google Play description on this one is pretty cool. It’s a message from the game director and he talks about wanting to make the game fun and not an obstacle in your life. We only tested it for a bit, but this one has a lot of promise for a free to play mobile RPG.


Yuka

Price: Free / $20

Yuka isn’t the newest app on the block, but it did recently launch in the US. In Europe, it’s a reasonably popular health app with a simple premise. You scan barcodes and the app literally just tells you if the item is good or bad for you. It’s a bit broad so there isn’t a ton of context. However, if you scan a vegetable, the app says it’s good and if you scan a soda, the app says it’s bad. So it gets the basics right at the very list. The premium version is rather expensive for how simple the app is, but we suppose it’s probably pretty expensive to keep a database for all this stuff.

Yuka screenshot


Runelords Arena

Price: Free to play

Runelords Arena is a turn-based strategy game with some RPG elements. Players collect and level up heroes, group them in teams of five, and duke it out against other players. It focuses primarily on the PvP aspect of things but there are some other things you can do. For instance, there is an idle game element where you get loot even when you don’t play along with a campaign mode and a few other game modes. It’s pretty decent, but we thought the English translation was kind of bad and the campaign story is a little unimaginative. You’re definitely here for the PvP stuff if you decide to try it.


Thank you for reading! Try these too:

If we missed any big Android apps or games news or releases, tell us about them in the comments!

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Android Update

Android 11 update for Google Pixels includes September security patches – Android Police

Lost in yesterday’s Android 11 hullabaloo was another bit of news: Security patches for Google’s Pixel series were released together as part of the Android 11 update. This month’s security-oriented fixes are more numerous than usual, with plenty of “high” and “critical” vulnerabilities included, so be sure to install the Android 11 update sooner rather than later.

Functional patch notes for this release are simply a repeat of Android 11-related features, though you can peruse the full list here. In short, Pixel owners can look forward to a new conversation notification section, bubble notifications, built-in screen recording, improved media controls, and plenty of privacy-related enhancements on top of some Pixel-specific features. For a deeper dive, you can take a look at our Android 11 series coverage and a (slightly outdated) roundup of features.

This month’s release might seem later than usual, and it is. Normally, these releases happen on the first Monday of the month, but since the first Monday was Labor Day, this was all pushed back until the 8th. Humorously, Samsung is beating Google to release monthly patches these days.

Factory images and sideloadable OTAs for Android 11-based September patches are available now for Pixel devices. Build numbers and availability vary slightly based on carrier, region, and device. Curiously, they also indicate a build date for earlier this summer. Something similar happened with the first Pixel 4a images, so perhaps Google has changed how it’s handling build numbers again going forward — the company has done it before.

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Android Phone's

Android 11 is now available in stable for Google Pixel phones and in beta for some OnePlus, Xiaomi, Realme, and OPPO phones – XDA Developers

It’s finally here!

Android 11 is the latest update to the world’s most popular smartphone operating system, and the first set of stable builds are finally rolling out to support Google Pixel smartphones. We’ve gone through four developer previews (DP 1, DP 2, DP 3, and DP4) and three betas (Beta 1, Beta 2, Beta 3) to get to this point, and we’ve tracked every little detail along the way as best as we could. And now with the stable release of Android 11, we can finally look forward to Google’s vision arriving in the hands of consumers across the world!

Android 11 stable official

All Android 11 News on XDA

Android 11 comes with a fair few changes, but Google is highlighting some of the major ones.

Communication on Android 11

Conversations section in the notification shade

Conversations across messaging apps are now moved to a dedicated space in the notifications section. This will make it easier to manage ongoing conversations with people, and not have these notifications drown out in the flood of miscellaneous app notifications. Google mentions that you can also prioritize conversations from key individuals if you so want. This conversation section was first present in Developer Preview 1.

Android 11 Conversations section in notifications

Bubbles

Last year, we had pointed out how the Bubbles API introduced in Android 10 will replace the overlay API in a future Android version. With Android 11, Google is pushing developers of messaging and chat apps to make the transition to Bubbles to keep conversations in view and accessible when a user is multitasking on their phone.

As users, you can now respond to important conversations without having to switch back and forth between a messaging app and other apps on your phone.

Built-in screen recording

While you could take screenshots from the very early days of Android, you couldn’t really record the contents of your screen on Google Pixel phone without needing a third-party app. Android 11 for the Google Pixel finally adds a built-in screen recorder, so you can easily capture and share what is happening on your Pixel. You can record with sound from the microphone, from the device (internal audio), or both; and you can do this without needing any third-party apps.

Android 11 screen recorder

The screen recorder within Android was first spotted in Android 10 Developer Previews, but the feature was not user-accessible in the stable release. It was spotted again in Android 11 Developer Preview 1, and the feature received more polish in Developer Preview 2.


Device Controls in Android 11

Power Menu Device Control

Android 11 gets a new power menu that allows you to quickly access your connected smart devices. Simply long-press the power button to reach the new menu and control connected devices like thermostats and smart locks with a tap, without needing to open multiple apps.

Android 11 Power Menu Smart Home Device Controls

With this new addition, it finally feels that Google has brought the smartphone to the smart home!

Redesigned Media Controls

Media controls on Android 11 have been redesigned, now gaining a consistent spot in the Quick Settings menu. You can also quickly switch media playback to another device using a shortcut.

The new media player in the Quick Settings panel caused quite a stir when it was first spotted in Developer Preview 1. Over the course of development, the UI has been refined, and the feature itself has been upgraded with the ability to store up to five previous media sessions.

Wireless Android Auto

Android 11 now allows all devices to work wirelessly with Android Auto, as long as you have a compatible head unit or aftermarket receiver. We’re already heard about this change, and Google is confirming that wireless Android Auto will require support for 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. Consequently, some areas in the EU, Japan, and Russia will not have this function available because of specific requirements for 5GHz Wi-Fi being used in cars.


Privacy and Data on Android 11

One-Time Permissions

As the name implies, Android 11 allows users to grant single-use, one-time permission access to apps that request access to the device’s microphone, camera, or location. The next time that an app needs to access these device features, it needs to request those permissions once again.

Android 11 one-time permission use for location

The feature was first spotted in Developer Preview 1, and it allows the user to temporarily grant an app access to a permission so long as that app is in the foreground. Once the user navigates away from the app, the app loses access to that permission and must request it again. This is different from the behavior introduced in Android 10 in which users could grant the location permission to apps “while the app is in use.” One-Time Permission gives users even more control over sensitive permissions.

Permissions Auto Reset

The average user might not remember to revoke access to sensitive permissions after their use, so Android 11 will auto-reset all the runtime permissions of an app and notify the user if the app has not been used for “an extended period of time”. The app can request the permissions once again the next time the app is used.

This feature addition was first spotted in Developer Preview 3, and we’re glad to see it make its way to the stable release.

Google Play System Update — Project Mainline modules

One of the biggest changes in Android 10 for newly launched devices is the introduction of Project Mainline. The purpose of Project Mainline is for Google to take control away from OEMs of framework components and system applications that are critical to security and maintaining development consistency. Each Mainline module is encapsulated in either an APK or an APEX file and is updateable by Google through the Play Store. The user sees updates as a “Google Play System Update” (GPSU) on their device, and updates are released on a regular cadence as a train (ie. they’re downloaded and installed at the same time).

Google mandates the inclusion of specific Mainline modules, which at the time of Google I/O 2019, included 13. With Android 11 Developer Preview 1, Google mandated a total of 20 Mainline modules. Now, with Android 11 (starting from the Beta 1), Google has mandated a total of 12 Mainline Modules in addition to the ones present on Android 10. The total is now at 25 modules.

– APKs: Captive Portal Login, Documents UI, ExtServices*, Module Metadata, NetworkStack, Network Stack Permission Configuration, Permission Controller*, Telemetry TVP

— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) July 9, 2020

Android Enterprise Changes

Android 11 brings some changes for Android Enterprise users, with the work profile now giving the organization’s IT department the tools to manage a device without monitoring their personal profile data or activity. The announcement from Google leaves out most of the details, but you can view the changes here.


Exclusive features for Pixel users

There are some new features reserved for Google Pixel devices, likely being made available through the closed-source Pixel Launcher, Device Personalization Services, and other Pixel-exclusive applications. Google mentions that supported Pixel devices will get additional tools to organize and manage the phone, like app suggestions based on daily routines, new actions for selecting text and images, and for screenshots.


Android 11: Download and Rollout

Android 11 will begin rolling out today in stable for all Pixel devices going back to the Pixel 2, but beta releases are also now available for select OnePlus, Xiaomi, OPPO, and Realme smartphones. The OnePlus 8, OnePlus 8 Pro, Xiaomi Mi 10, Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, OPPO Find X2, OPPO Find X2 Pro, OPPO Ace2, OPPO Reno3 4G, OPPO Reno3 Pro 4G, and the Realme X50 Pro are the devices getting new Android 11 beta builds today.

Download Android 11 for Google Pixel devices

The Android 11 update should be arriving through an OTA update to your supported Google Pixel device. But in case it hasn’t, you can download Android 11 for supported Google Pixel devices from the following links, and sideload it very easily:

Google Pixels

GSI Downloads

You can track the other phones getting the update by visiting our Android 11 update tracker article. And if you’d like to take a peek under the hood, Google has also started uploading the Android 11 source code to AOSP. We’ll of course be digging into AOSP ourselves, so stay tuned for more news on Android 11!


What are your thoughts on Android 11? Have you tried it out on your device? Let us know in the comments below!

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Android Verizon

Verizon Galaxy Tab A 8.0 picks up Android 10, following unlocked model and Tab A 10.1 – Android Police

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Android Fortnite

Fortnite for Android has also been kicked off the Google Play Store – The Verge

Following its removal from the Apple App Store, Fortnite has also been kicked off of the Google Play Store for Android. Earlier today, Epic Games snuck in an update for both the iPhone and Android versions of the game that allowed users to pay Epic directly for in-app purchases instead of using the officially sanctioned system for both platforms.

What followed was a wild ride: Apple kicked Fortnite off the App Store, then Epic sued Apple, and finally there was an in-game video parodying Apple’s own 1984 commercial, positioning Apple itself as the monopolist.

Now, Google is in the conversation. As with Apple, Google requires that games use the Google Play system for in-app purchases. Although the Play Store’s rules are somewhat more lax than Apple’s when it comes to in-app purchases, Google does draw the line at games. It’s quite clear-cut: “Developers offering products within a game downloaded on Google Play or providing access to game content must use Google Play In-app Billing as the method of payment.” Google’s system takes a 30 percent cut, just as Apple’s does.

Epic’s update earlier today ran afoul of that rule, and while Google took longer to make a decision to ban Fortnite over it than Apple, both companies reached the same conclusion.

Google’s statement:

The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores. For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users. While Fortnite remains available on Android, we can no longer make it available on Play because it violates our policies. However, we welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play.

A Google spokesperson emphasized to The Verge that Android is an open ecosystem that allows multiple stores and that Google Play’s policies need to apply equally to all developers. It has no problem with those other stores existing nor with Epic distributing its game on them, the spokesperson said.

You can still install Fortnite on Android, however. Epic itself points visitors to its website, where they can either download Fortnite through the Epic Games app or via the Samsung Galaxy Store on Samsung devices. This is different from iPhone and iPad, where it’s now impossible to install the game if you hadn’t already done so.

Epic has a history of tussling with Google over this Play Store rule. In August 2018, Epic pulled Fortnite from the Google Play Store and began distributing it directly. That is only possible because Android allows installs from third-party sources, though it does make that process seem a bit dangerous because of the security warnings that appear when you do.

Eighteen months later, Epic capitulated and put Fortnite back into the Google Play Store, though not without some very angry rhetoric about it. Here’s Epic’s statement from April 2020:

Google puts software downloadable outside of Google Play at a disadvantage, through technical and business measures such as scary, repetitive security pop-ups for downloaded and updated software, restrictive manufacturer and carrier agreements and dealings, Google public relations characterizing third party software sources as malware, and new efforts such as Google Play Protect to outright block software obtained outside the Google Play store.

An app as popular as Fortnite being installed via other means — specifically other stores — has the potential to lessen the centrality of the Google Play Store on Android — and maybe increase fragmentation. There are already competing stores — Samsung is pushing its own store heavily on its Android devices, for example. But in general, the Google Play Store has been the go-to software source for most people.

Epic is already actively encouraging users to also use the version that comes from Samsung’s store, telling users that they can get the discount that started this whole mess if they do: “You’ll find that V-Bucks and real-money offers are now discounted by up to 20% through the Epic Games app at epicgames.com and the Samsung Galaxy Store.”

If Epic can get users in the habit of using other stores, that could mean users will start to want to use other stores for other app installs. If you’ve used any recent Samsung Galaxy phone, you have seen it offer the option to handle the installs for some major apps. It could mean that Google may be able skirt a monopoly issue with its decision, it would argue that there is real competition for app stores on Android.

For just one other gaming-related example, look to Microsoft. Its upcoming Game Pass Ultimate streaming service (you know it as xCloud) will be available both on Google Play and on Samsung’s Galaxy Store. If you install it via Google Play, you won’t be able to purchase DLC content for Xbox games because of that 30 percent cut. If you happen to install it via Samsung’s store, however, you are able to make in-app purchases. Here’s Microsoft’s statement on the issue:

Our vision is to bring a complete, full-featured experience with in-app purchase capabilities to app stores. However, we are complying with all store policies and do not offer in-app purchases in some stores at this time. To access complete, in-app purchase capabilities, Samsung customers can download the Xbox Game Pass app from the Galaxy Store; SK Telecom customers can also get a complete experience through ONE Store.

(Meanwhile, Microsoft’s game streaming service isn’t allowed on the iPhone at all — and Microsoft isn’t happy about that, either.)

Given Epic’s outsized response to Apple’s ban — the lawsuit and the 1984 ad — it’s a sure bet that the company will have a response to Google as well. We’ll obviously let you know what that is when it happens.

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Android Peacock's

Peacock’s Android app is live, Google Play Store snafu hid it from searches – CNET

peacock-logo-iphone-11-361src

Peacock launched in the US on Wednesday. 


Angela Lang/CNET

For the company that rules search, Google complicated the Android app launch of Peacock, a streaming service from Comcast‘s NBCUniversal, Wednesday, when the Google Play Store failed to show the app in search results for much of the app’s launch day.

Android’s Peacock app published overnight in the Google Play Store as planned, and it was available to download if you had a link to find it. But the app wasn’t returned in Play Store searches for terms like “Peacock” or “Peacock TV” until Wednesday afternoon 

The Google Play Store snafu complicated a major promotion Peacock struck with Google, allowing anyone who subscribed to Peacock’s paid, premium tier through a Google platform like Android to unlock an extended free trial.

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Spokeswomen for both Peacock and Google confirmed that the Peacock app published to the Google Play Store overnight. 

“We do not have control over when platforms release and surface the app to their users, but the app is now live,” Peacock’s spokeswoman said. “We have a large marketing and promotional plan with Google, which you will see across Google platforms starting today.”

The Google spokeswoman later Wednesday confirmed that the Peacock app had started appearing in search results. 

In rival Apple’s App Store, the Peacock app for Apple streaming devices like the iPhone was being heavy promotion. Peacock is the top ad when you opened the App Store in the Today tab Wednesday morning, and it’s getting top billing as a world premiere in the App Store’s App tab too. 

Competing with the likes of NetflixDisney Plus and HBO Max, Peacock is the last big new service to roll out in the so-called streaming wars, when a flood of services spilled out from tech and media giants over a roughly seven-month period. More than just jockeying between megacorporations, these battles could not only determine who shapes the future of television but also how many services you’ll have to use — and, often, pay for — to watch your favorite shows. In the case of Peacock, it means even traditional TV networks and cable companies like Comcast are placing big bets that they’ll never be able to turn the tide of cord-cutting. 

Peacock launched Wednesday with an always-free tier that lets you sample about two-thirds of its library of shows and movies with advertising, as well as a seven-day free trial for its premium tiers. Peacock Premium, which unlocks the full catalog, is $5 a month or $50 a year with advertising, or you can upgrade to an ad-free version for $10 a month or $100 a year. 


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Android dozen

Here we go again – more than two dozen Android apps caught stealing your data – BGR

  • Sketchy Android apps that spy on users and steal data have been a nagging presence inside Google’s Play Store for a while now, despite the search giant’s best efforts to rid its app marketplace of bad actors.
  • It’s basically led to a giant game of whack-a-mole, with the latest apps to be clobbered by Google and pulled from the app store being a batch of 25 malicious apps discovered by a French cybersecurity firm.
  • The apps could have stolen users’ Facebook credentials, and they racked up more than 2 million downloads.

Consider this your umpteenth reminder that for as much as Google keeps improving or promising it’s improved the company’s proprietary app marketplace, sketchy app developers will never stop coming and never stop trying to sneak into the Google Play Store — past all the company’s defenses — to put its apps into the mix and awaiting your download. Which we saw yet another example of in recent days, with the revelation that Google has booted another batch of Android apps from the store, this time 25 apps caught in a position to steal users’ Facebook login data.

Evina, a French cybersecurity firm, disclosed this news in recent weeks, with its report that a single threat group developed the batch of apps that were made to look like everything from wallpaper and flashlight apps to mobile games. However, all the apps had the same goal, as Evina explains in its report of the fraud.

“When an application is launched on your phone, the malware queries the application name,” the company explains. “If it is a Facebook application, the malware will launch a browser that loads Facebook at the same time. The browser is displayed in the foreground which makes you think that the application launched it. When you enter your credentials into this browser, the malware executes javascript to retrieve them. The malware then sends your account information to a server.”

The apps included:

Image source: Evina

One thing to note is that when Google pulled the apps from the Play Store after Evina shared its findings, the search giant also disables the apps on the user’s end — in addition to notifying the user via the Play Store’s Play Protect service.

According to Evina, it informed Google about the apps in late May. Google investigated and took action in June, though some of the apps have been live in the Play Store since at least 2019. Cumulatively, according to the French firm, these apps garnered more than 2 million downloads.

There have been a smattering of instances like this one in recent months, such as the malware-laden group of two dozen apps (including calendar, weather, and camera functionality) that Google had to kick out of the Play Store back in February after they were found to request all sorts of potentially nefarious permissions (but not before racking up about 382 million downloads).

One of the apps, as we noted in an earlier post about this incident, was called Weather Forecast and was apparently “caught collecting user data and sending it to a server in China.”

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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