Image: Jack Wallen

This year wasn’t exactly the most pleasant in memory–at least not for society as a whole. However, for technology, 2020 wasn’t all that bad. Sure, a large number of people had to figure out the whole work-from-home thing, but that wasn’t really all that challenging, as it turns out. As for the mobile space, there was a lot to celebrate, no matter your preferred platform.

Android had quite a lot of wins this year. The Google Pixel 5 was a much-improved take on Google’s flagship line of devices. Android 11 took the platform and polished just about everything that was already fairly spectacular in the operating system.

SEE: Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2020: Galaxy Z Fold2, Samsung Galaxy S20, and more (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Of course, with each release, there are new features to be found. Although Android 11 was more about improving an already solid platform, it did offer a few nice additions:

  • Built-in screen recording

  • Conversation notifications

  • Notification history

  • Chat bubbles

  • Smart device controls

  • One-time permissions

  • Permissions auto-reset

  • Dark theme scheduling

Not all of the above features would be useful to every Android user. Personally, I use the screen recording, notification history, one-time permissions, and chat bubbles. The other features? Not so much.

There’s one feature the Google devs rolled out that had me shooting my hands into the air to say, “Finally!”

What is that feature? App pinning to the Share menu.

That’s right, a feature that should have been available a long, long time ago, was finally brought to life in the 11th iteration of the platform. This particular new feature is one that most Android users will employ.

It makes sharing so much more efficient. Prior to Android 11, when I’d go to share, I never knew where the apps would wind up in the menu, and typically, I tend to share via a minimal number of apps:

  • SMS

  • Google Drive

  • Gmail

  • Facebook Messages

That’s it. Having those apps at the top of the Share menu makes the process far easier.

The caveat

When Android 11 was in beta, this feature worked to perfection, but something happened on the way to the final release. Now, when I go to share, those pinned apps aren’t at the top of the Share menu. Instead, Android AI insists it knows best. Fortunately, there’s a More button to tap, which finally reveals the regular share menu–which includes those pinned apps (Figure A).

Figure A

The More button will reveal your pinned apps.

Also, the AI doesn’t make suggestions for every Share menu instance to appear. For example: If you go to share a photo, AI will do it’s thing. However, if you share a screenshot or copy text to share, the pinned apps are right there at the top.

I get what Android is trying to do, but it really should stay out of the way of what I want to do. That has always been one of the best features of Android–it allows me to choose how I want to work. Having to second-guess which Share menu will appear can be frustrating.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for AI helping to improve the mobile experience, but in this instance, the AI is getting in the way, causing me an extra tap to get what should take precedence.

Even with this caveat, having the ability to pin apps to the Share menu is way overdue. Google rolling this feature out in 2020 at least made the Android experience a bit better.

Sure, there are more important features found in Android 11 (such as battery optimization and permissions), but having a feature that directly impacts how users work with the platform gives Share menu app pinning a bump to the best Android feature of 2020.

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