The first Android 11 Developer Preview arrived for our Pixels today, bringing a variety of updates, and preparing for things to come in the later betas. In an example of the latter, the Google Pixel Launcher has been updated with references to a smart hotseat of app shortcuts and a back gesture tutorial.

‘Smart hotseat’

On the Pixel Launcher as we know it today, there’s a row of five apps pinned just above the Google Search bar, known as the “hotseat.” These five apps stay in place and don’t move when you flip between the pages of your launcher.

In a set of new strings in the Android 11 Developer Preview version of Pixel Launcher, we learn that this hotseat will soon become “smarter,” replacing the five apps you chose with apps the Pixel Launcher thinks you may want to use.

Get suggested apps on the home screen

Suggested apps replace the bottom row of apps

Your hotseat just got smarter

Once the smart hotseat launches, any blank spaces in your hotseat will be replaced with suggested apps, likely decided the same way that the top row of the Pixel Launcher’s drawer offers suggested apps. If you don’t like a certain app being suggested, you can press and hold its icon to hide the suggestion.

To pin a favorite app, drag it over a suggested app. To hide a suggested app, touch & hold it.

You can remove items from the hotseat manually to see suggested apps in their spot.

It seems that when you first set up the new smart hotseat, the Pixel Launcher will offer to “migrate” you to the new version by moving your old hotseat selections to an open launcher page. Or you can leave your chosen hotseat selections in place.

Your hotseat items have been moved to the last page.

Tap to set up

Admittedly, I don’t foresee using this smart hotseat, if only because I like the consistency of knowing where my go-to apps are as soon as I reach the home screen.

Back gesture tutorial

While Android 10 introduced the notion of gesture navigation, Android 11 is iterating on it further with things like side-specific back gesture sensitivity settings. For its part, the Pixel Launcher in Android 11 is adding what looks to be a simple tutorial walking folks through the basics of using Android’s gesture navigation, or at least the back gesture.

Try the back gesture

Start at the right edge and swipe toward the middle

Try the other side

”That’s it! Now try swiping from the left edge.”

To change the sensitivity of the back gesture, go to Settings

How to update?

Unlike most apps, the Pixel Launcher is deeply integrated with the system and doesn’t get updates from the Play Store. To get your hands on this version of the Pixel Launcher, you’ll need to install Android 11 Developer Preview 1 onto your Pixel phone.

Thanks to JEB Decompiler, which some APK Insight teardowns benefit from.

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