Android 11’s got plenty of good stuff going on, both on the surface and under the hood — but one of the release’s most promising new additions is turning out to be one of its least compelling elements.

I’m talking about Bubbles, the long-under-development feature that first came into the picture as part of last year’s Android 10 update but ended up getting pushed back to this year’s release. If you haven’t thought much about Bubbles since getting Android 11 (or since reading about the software, if you’re using a non-Pixel phone and still waiting), well, I can’t say that I blame ya.

At this point, there really isn’t much to Bubbles in Android 11 — and what’s there tends to range from “unnoticeable” to “mildly irksome,” depending on your perspective. In its current form, Bubbles is relevant only for a handful of messaging apps, including Google’s own Messages program and a sprinkling of other services. It’s noticeably still missing from business-friendly enterprise tools, such as Slack, as well as from most non-Google, mainstream messaging destinations.

That, however, is another story for another time. The real issue is that even when Bubbles is present, its actual utility is almost shockingly limited. The system’s entire function, at least at this point, is to take messages from a contact you’ve designated as being high-priority and make ’em appear in a persistent, floating bubble that shows up on top of everything else you’re doing and can be collapsed down or expanded.

Android 11 BubblesJR

That’s…fine, I guess? Personally, I’ve mostly found myself scrambling to dismiss any such conversations and get ’em off my screen as soon as they show up in that manner. But whether you appreciate that interface or find it annoying, there’s no denying it’s a far cry from the far-reaching productivity value we were initially promised with this system.

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It’s easy to forget now, but back when Bubbles was first introduced as part of the Android 10 beta, it had a much broader purpose — one that stretched way beyond its current message-thread pop-out function. Google’s original presentation described Bubbles as a “new way for users to multitask and re-engage” with apps. And that was just the start:

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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