There be dragons ahead, so use caution.
It’s that time of year again, though earlier than ever before: a developer preview of the latest version of Android is available, called Android 11. And while Google explicitly says that only developers should install it, many of us want to see what the company is planning for the next big update, set to be released sometime this summer.
Top 10 features in Android 11 you need to know about right now
Given that this is a developer preview, there are going to be missing features and bugs, so you shouldn’t expect a fully working experience. But if you’re curious about what’s next, here’s how to download and install it, plus answers to a few questions you may have.
Update, May 6, 2020: Google has released the fourth Android 11 developer preview for Pixel phones. It’s still aimed primarily at developers, but there will be far fewer bugs, and newer features, this time around. Google has delayed the release of the first Android 11 beta beyond June 3 as the U.S. contends with civil unrest and riots.
What phones support Android 11 Developer Preview?
- Pixel 4 XL
- Pixel 4
- Pixel 3 XL
- Pixel 3
- Pixel 3a
- Pixel 3a XL
- Pixel 2
- Pixel 2 XL
How to install the Android 11 developer preview
In order to flash the Android 11 developer preview right now, you’ll need to flash the factory image. Public beta versions, released later on in the year, will use Google’s Android Beta program which streamlines a lot of the work.
Before we go through the steps of sideloading Android updates, it is strongly recommended that you have previous knowledge of working with the Android SDK (software development kit) and the Terminal (OS X or Linux) or Command Prompt (Windows), as it is possible to harm your device if something were to go wrong in the following process.
If you need to download the Android SDK you can grab it from the Android Development website and follow their instructions on how to install it correctly. For the following process, all you will need is the adb and fastboot files which are located in the Platform Tools folder, so make sure to read the description at the dev site and grab the right download.
Additionally, all the following commands are written as they would be in Terminal on a Linux or OS X platform. If you are following this guide and using a Windows machine, you will not need to use the “./” seen in the guide. Just type the rest of the command line by line in the order they are listed and you’ll be good.
Enable developer settings and USB debugging
Go to your Settings and scroll down to About Phone/Tablet.
Tap on the Build number seven times until the dialog box says you are now a developer.
Go back to the Settings menu and you should find a new option called Developer options. Tap into the Developer options.
Make sure that the developer options are turned on and that USB debugging is checked on.
Plug your device into your computer and tap “OK” on the dialog box asking you to Allow USB debugging while connected to the computer. You can also select to always allow access on that computer.
If done correctly, this will be everything you will need to do on your phone or tablet for the moment.
Unlocking your bootloader
Pixel phones bought from Google directly have a bootloader you can unlock. If you want to manually flash software, you’ll need to do this.
To do this you must first boot into your bootloader. You can either manually turn off your phone or tablet and hold down the power button and the volume down button to enter your device’s Bootloader Menu or you can enter the following commands into your terminal or command prompt.
Run the following command to make sure your device is properly connected to your computer. If it returns a string of characters it means that you are all set to start updating your device.
Now to enter into the Bootloader menu just run the following command.
./adb reboot bootloader
At the bottom of the screen, there will be several things listed including the lock state of the device. This should say locked unless you have unlocked your bootloader in the past and never went back and locked it again.
To unlock your bootloader, which is required only when flashing a stock firmware image (not sideloading an update), you must enter the following commands. Remember that when unlocking your phone’s bootloader it will factory reset your device, so you will lose everything stored on it. If you have not yet backed up anything important on your device you can hit the power button while Start is highlighted in the Bootloader menu and this will boot you back into your device like normal. Now back to unlocking your bootloader.
./fastboot flashing unlock
A dialog will appear on the device asking if you are sure about unlocking. Again this will factory reset your device, so if you want to back out of the process you just need to select no with the power button. If you are ready to unlock your bootloader you press the volume up button and then the power button to confirm that you wish to unlock your bootloader.
It is recommended to reboot the bootloader just to give itself a check to make sure everything is working correctly before moving on to the next step.
Flashing the Factory Image
Now that your bootloader is unlocked, it’s time to flash the new firmware. To find the images, head on over to the Android 11 Factory Images page, find your device, and download the latest image. It is easiest to then uncompress the file in the Platform Tools folder you downloaded (where the adb and fastboot files are) so that you don’t have to type the path to the different files when flashing the firmware. (Or if you know that you can drag a file into a terminal window to copy the path, just do that.)
To begin, make sure you are still in the bootloader menu on your device and double-check that your bootloader is in fact unlocked. If you’re not in the bootloader menu, you can use the ./fastboot reboot-bootloader command to reboot there.
First, make sure that your computer is communicating correctly with your phone or tablet. As long as your device’s serial number comes back as a connected device you are ready to begin updating your device.
Once you’ve verified that the phone and the computer can communicate the way they need to, you can get to flashing.
- Navigate to the directory on your computer where you’ve extracted the factory image files.
- As stated above, it’s best to uncompress them to the Platform Tools folder.
- Use the flash-all command to begin flashing the firmware.
- On a Mac, use flash-all.sh.
- On a Windows machine, use flash-all.bat.
If that command fails for whatever reason, you’ll need to flash the different components manually.
First, you’ll need to flash the updated bootloader with the following command.
./fastboot flash bootloader [bootloader file].img
You will not see anything on the screen of your device but there should be a dialog in your terminal or command prompt. When it is done flashing the bootloader you should reboot back into the bootloader to make sure everything is still working correctly.
Next, you flash the updated radios. This step is only necessary if you are updating the firmware of a phone or tablet that has cellular radios built into it.
./fastboot flash radio [radio file].img
Finally, it’s time to flash the actual system image to your phone or tablet.
Warning: The following line of code will wipe your device.
./fastboot -w update [image file].zip
When this is done, your phone will restart itself and boot up normally. As this process clears all data from your device, it will take slightly longer for your device to boot up for the first time. Once you have been greeted with the device setup walkthrough process, you know you have successfully flashed a new version of the firmware.
That’s it! Once the beta is installed, your phone should reboot and you’ll be greeted with a new Android 11
When will Android 11 be released as a public beta?
Google has released a public beta of its latest Android versions at Google I/O for the past few years. While the Google I/O’s physical event has been canceled, Google plans to hold a virtual developer conference May 12-14, where it’s expected to release the first Android 11 public beta.
The final version will be released in Q3, and overall there will be three developer previews, and three betas. As of March 18, there have been two developer previews.
Will Android 11 get a tasty treat name?
Nope. Google says that future versions of Android will just have numbers, both to simplify things and to get away from the alphabet, of which it was slowly approaching the end.