Android 11 first impressions: payments with less stress

My pick for the single most helpful new feature in Android 11 doesn’t even get a description in Google’s highlights of its mobile operating system’s new version.

This addition lurks behind the power button: Press and hold that, and instead of Android 10’s sidebar menu with the “Lockdown” option that disables biometric unlocking and scrubs notifications from the lock screen, you see a full-screen menu with large buttons for that security feature, your Google-linked smart-home gadgets–and the credit cards you have active in Google Pay.

I’ve been a fan of NFC payments for years, but the world has caught up to me since March as merchants have rushed to provide contactless payment options. But until Android 11 landed on my Pixel 3a 11 days ago, matching a purchase with the card offering the best cash-back or points reward required me to open the Android Pay app and switch payment methods. Now, I just mash the power button and tap the card I want.

The Conversations features that do lead off Google’s sales pitch for Android 11 also seem like they’ll simplify my digital life. That’s “seem” because it took me until today to remember to swipe left on a text-message notification to expose the option to make the sender a priority–starring them in the Contacts app doesn’t affect this, nor do I see a way to promote people from within the Messages app. But at least now I know that messages from my wife will show up on my lock screen with her picture.

Android 11 also brings some less-obvious application-privacy enhancements, as detailed Google’s developer guidance. It improves on Android 10’s ability to deny apps background access to your location by letting you give an app only a one-time peek at your location. If you turn off location services altogether, COVID-19 exposure-notification apps like Virginia’s COVIDWISE now still work. And if you don’t open an app for a few months, the system will turn off its permissions automatically.

The biggest problem with Android 11 is one that has existed with every other Android update–but which fortunately doesn’t affect me as a Pixel 3a user. This update will probably take months to reach Android phones outside the small universe of Pixel devices and those from such other, smaller vendors as Nokia and OnePlus that decided to commit to shipping Google’s releases quickly.

Weekly output: iPhone electrocution, Ethernet chat, VLC and the DMCA, phone upgrades, disabling Android apps

Getting sick when you work for yourself is no fun: There’s nobody else who can fill in to complete the work you signed up to do, so sometimes you can only write slower than usual and take lots of breaks. That’s how I spent part of Tuesday (when my daughter’s cold caught up with me) and all of Thursday (when I was recovering from some weird digestive discomfort by largely taking a break from food).

WTTG iPhone electrocution7/16/2013: iPhone death allegations, Fox 5 News

WTTG had me on the air to talk about a strange story out of China involving a woman electrocuted when she used an iPhone while charging it. I suggested that a poorly-made knock-off charger might have been at fault, and that now seems to be the case.

7/17/2013: Bandwidth Chat, IDG Enterprise

I’ve signed up with IDG to help host a few Twitter chats it’s running for various clients. This week’s Comcast-sponsored chat focused on “carrier Ethernet”–a dry topic that did not seem to draw much interest. But at least it was a good practice for the slightly more consumer-relevant topics coming up.

7/19/2013: Trying To Ban Links to Software Is The DMCA Joke That Never Gets Old, Disruptive Competition Project

I’d meant to write this reaction to HBO asking Google to remove a search result link pointing to the open-source video app VLC sooner–Friday afternoon is not a good time to get a wonky tech-policy post any extra attention. So I submitted a recap of the story on Slashdot (I know, old school), and the editors there were kind enough to put that on the site’s front page.

7/21/2013: Pegoraro: How often should I upgrade my phone?, USA Today

I was amused to see the headline for this analysis of AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon’s new frequent-upgrade deals start with my name–as if I’m some tech sage whose name alone can be invoked to settle arguments.

On Sulia, I offered a preview of what I’d say on Fox 5, observed how a hack into a Congressional site revealed some Hill staffers’ terrible taste in passwords, teed off on the exploitative pricing of the AT&T and Verizon early-upgrade deals, and confessed how my query about an apparent exemption to MLB.tv’s idiotic regional blackouts might have gotten that magic Zip code fixed.

Weekly output: Facebook Home, Android updates, Joe Rospars, social media, smartphone keyboards, smartphone sounds

Monday was about as bad of a start to the workweek as I care to imagine; things have been better since then.

D News Facebook Home review4/15/2013: Facebook Home: Social Network Engulfs Android, Discovery News

I reviewed Facebook’s add-on software layer, as seen on the HTC First phone. I did not like it much–how could a company that generally gets the importance of security ship an app that bypasses the entire screen-lock function on Android?

4/19/2013: Yes, Android Updates Are A Mess. What Do We Do About That?, Disruptive Competition Project

The ACLU wants the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on wireless carriers that ship Android security updates late or not at all. Would it help if the FTC made examples of one or two of the worst offenders?

4/19/2013: Joe Rospars fireside chat and “Social media: What’s the next big thing?” panel, Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit

I helped kick off this one-day conference at Gannett’s Tysons Corner HQ with an onstage interview with Joe Rospars, chief digital strategist for the Obama campaign and co-founder of Blue State Digital (my schtick was to preface each question with one of the Obama campaign’s quirky e-mail subject headers, such as “Hey” or “We could risk losing everything”). That afternoon, I moderated a panel about upcoming shifts in social media with Vocus’s Brendon O’Donovan, New Media Strategies’ Gayle Weiswasser, the Pappas Group’s Lisa Byrne and Susan Ganeshan of newBrandAnalytics.

4/21/2013: Try these alternative keyboard options for your smartphone, USA Today

A reader’s seemingly simple question about physical versus virtual keyboards gave me an opportunity to cover the variety of keyboards available in Android; hearing a Samsung phone’s whistling alert in the Quiet Car on Amtrak reminded me of why it’s a good idea to change a phone’s ringtone and notification sounds from the defaults.

This week’s Sulia highlights: observing a brief outage for some Google accounts; notes on a minute or two of wearing Google Glass; my takeaways from an enlightening discussion about passwords and security; relating an apparently successful attempt to convince Google that “DCA” and “National Airport” are valid terms for the airport closest to D.C.