Home Android How to get Android 11’s best features on any phone today

How to get Android 11’s best features on any phone today

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Android 11 has officially landed — although for most phone-carrying mammals in the world, its arrival is still mostly just theoretical.

You know how this works by now, right? Google announces a fancy new Android version. It sends the software out to its own self-made Pixel phones more or less immediately. With the occasional small exception, most other Android device-makers yawn, stretch, and go about their regular business without so much as even acknowledging the new release or making a peep about their plans to provide it — and then, somewhere between a few months and a few hundred days later, they finally get around to processing the thing and getting it into the hands of their highest-paying customers.

Well, that’s for the customers who bought a top-tier flagship phone within the past year, anyway. The poor souls who picked up a high-end handset even one year earlier will probably have to wait another few months to see the update. And as for those who bought a midrange or budget-level device? Uh, yeah. Good luck.

We’ve talked about the pokey nature of Android upgrades ad nauseam in these quarters, but today, it’s time to talk about how you can get around your phone-maker’s indifference, in a sense, and give yourself some Android-11-like features right now — without needing any official rollout.

It’s not the same as having the actual software, of course, and it won’t bring you the important platform-level improvements to privacy and other such areas, but it’s at least something — and it absolutely will add some genuinely useful new touches to your rapidly aging device. Even when you do get Android 11, you might find that these features are a teensy bit better — more powerful, more capable, and a heck of a lot more customizable — than what the software itself provides.

Ready to start your unofficial upgrade?

Android 11 feature #1: One-time app permissions

One of Android 11’s most important additions is its built-in ability to let you grant an app a limited, one-time permission to access your location, camera, or microphone — meaning it will be able to tap into that area for that one single session, while you’re using it, but will then lose that power as soon as you move on to something else.

That’s a powerful bit of added control for you to have, and it opens up the door to smarter and more selective permission granting — and thus enhanced privacy — since you’re no longer faced with an awkward all-or-nothing proposition.

Well, good news: This one is super easy to replicate on any Android version. The key is an incredibly useful little app called Bouncer (which, not coincidentally, is one of my picks for Android’s finest privacy apps). Just install the app onto your phone and follow the steps to grant it the access it needs in order to operate. It’ll prompt you to enable it as an Android accessibility service, which sounds scary but is legitimately required for what the app needs to do.

If you’re at all worried, note that Bouncer itself doesn’t require any other permissions — including the ability to access the internet — so it couldn’t do anything shady with your data even if it wanted to. The app also comes from a known, reputable Android developer and has a 4.4-star average rating with 50,000 installs.

Once you’ve made it through those initial configuration screens, Bouncer will do its work automatically in the background: Anytime another app is granted a permission — any permission — Bouncer will add a prompt into your notification panel asking if you want to keep that permission in place permanently, remove it as soon as you exit the app, or remove it on a specific set schedule.

JR

It not only matches the Android 11 one-time permission, in other words — it actually exceeds it, with even more nuance, breadth, and flexibility. It also gives you a simple way to review your app permissions at any time and to see exactly what permissions you’ve granted and denied.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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