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Early Android 11 release reveals new Pixel 5 features

Published Feb 20th, 2020 7:40AM EST
Pixel 5 Release Date
Image: Zach Epstein, BGR

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It’s only February, but the first Pixel 5 leaks are already here. In a matter of days, we saw the first Pixel 5 render that suggested Google is working on a unique triple-lens camera system and heard a disturbing rumor that said the Pixel 5 might come with mid-range specs on board rather than flagship components. A different rumor said Verizon might not even carry upcoming Pixel phones, including the Pixel 4a and Pixel 5, just as Google released its first Android 11 build. That’s the Developer Preview release, a beta that’s better suited for developers rather than regular Android users — the first Android 11 public beta will drop in May after Google’s I/O 2020 event. While Google will unveil Android 11’s new features in May, the developer preview already contains a few features that give us an idea of what to expect from Pixel 5.

Each Android beta release contains clues about the next-gen Pixel. After all, the only way for Google to show the world what its next major Android OS release can do is through the new Pixel. Android 11 is no different, and we can already spot two features that seem like no-brainers for the Pixel 5, as well as two other features that might tease at things to come.

First up is a new Motion Sense gesture to pause music on the Pixel 4, as found by xda-developers. Music Sense is the fancy marketing name Google gave to the Soli radar functionality of the Pixel 4. Radar use is one of the coolest things that Google invented for the Pixel, a technology that has no rival. It’s also utterly useless and totally ruins the design of the Pixel 4. The chip sits at the top of the phone next to the 3D face recognition camera and takes up plenty of space. That’s why the Pixel 4 has a top bezel, which is a rarity for flagship handsets these days.

The fact that Google is adding more features to the Soli chip seems to be an indication that Google isn’t about to drop the Soli chip right now. That means the Pixel 5 will also inherit the Pixel 4’s Motion Sense features, and that it’ll be uglier than its rivals. The leak that showed us the triple-lens camera setup of one of the three Pixel 5 prototypes that are currently in development at Google also said the Pixel 5 will have a top bezel.

Because Motion Sense is associated with Face unlock, we expect the Pixel 5 to also come with 3D face recognition support, which is excellent news.

The same xda-developers also found a hidden Battery Share menu in Android 11 Developer Preview, which suggests Google is about to support a feature that’s already available on other devices, reverse wireless charging. The Pixel 5 is likely going to be the first Pixel phone to support the feature, as it seems unlikely for Google to retroactively add the feature to Pixel 3 and 4 phones. Even if the Pixel 5 isn’t getting Battery Share, adding native support for reverse wireless charging to Android is definitely great news.

While it’s very likely we’ll see Motion Sense and Battery Share on Pixel 5, Google may always change its mind regarding both of them.

Android 11 also contains other features that could fit well with a future Pixel phone, whether it’s this year’s model or a more distant handset. Android Police found that Android 11 will prevent apps from displaying content on the edges of phones that feature curved displays, including handsets with more extreme curved screens (the so-called waterfall displays). The new API will prevent apps from showing buttons on texts on the sides, and, therefore, prevent accidental touches, as long as developers implement them.

That doesn’t mean the Pixel 5 will have curved screens, as Google is yet to show any sort of courage when it comes to designing its iPhone rivals. But if it does, then Google is making sure the curved screen won’t ruin the app experience.

Image source: Samsung

Finally, we’ll remind you that Google confirmed the new split-screen app feature (Flex mode) it created for the Z Flip foldable will be available to other Android handsets. That means Android 11 will include support for running two apps on the screen at the same time, a feature that a foldable Pixel might benefit from. Just like with the waterfall screen, we don’t expect Google to make a foldable Pixel anytime soon.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.