How to install the Android 11 Developer Preview on your Google Pixel smartphone

How to install the Android 11 Developer Preview on your Google Pixel smartphone

We may earn a commission for purchases made using our links.

It’s a fresh new year and that means we can move ahead with the annual Android release cycle with the arrival of new developer previews and betas for Android 11. Even though Google has chosen to dump the dessert branding with Android 10, they have still continued to internally refer to the next Android update with the alphabet sequence — Android R in this case. Android 11/Android R’s first Developer Preview has just been released for supported devices, which means that experienced developers can now load the bleeding edge of Android software onto their test devices and ensure that their own apps are ready for the changes that the new OS update would bring about. If you’re looking to install Android 11 Developer Preview 1 on your Pixel smartphone, read along.

The following instructions are for supported Google Pixel devices only, namely the Pixel 2Pixel 2 XLPixel 3Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a, Pixel 3a XL, Pixel 4, and Pixel 4 XL.

Also note that these updates are intended for developers only, and not for everyday casual use. It goes without saying that these Developer Previews and Betas will contain bugs. We highly recommend backing up all of your important data before proceeding, even if the steps do not result in a data wipe.


Method 1: Sideload Android 11 Developer Preview 1 via Recovery and ADB

To install the first Developer Preview, you need to sideload the OTA package from Recovery through ADB. This method will work for devices with a locked bootloader. One drawback of this method is that you do need a computer with ADB installed to install the update.

  1. Download the update .zip file on your computer from here. For convenience, you can rename this file to a simpler name and place the file in the directory where ADB is located on your computer.
  2. Optional but recommended: Verify the SHA-256 checksum of the file you have downloaded to ensure that the file has been downloaded completely and correctly.
  3. Enable USB Debugging on your phone — Go to Settings > About Phone > Tap “Build Number” 10 times to enable Developer Options, and then navigate to Settings > Developer Options > Enable “USB Debugging”.
  4. Connect your phone to your computer. Authorize your computer connection on your phone when the prompt comes up on your phone, if this is the first time you are connecting with this ADB computer.
  5. On your computer, run the command:
    adb reboot recovery
  6. Your phone should now be in Recovery mode.
  7. On your phone, select the option “Apply Update from ADB”
  8. On your computer, run the command:
    adb devices

    This should return a device serial with the “sideload” next to its name, indicating that your device is connected to the computer in sideload mode.

  9. On your computer, run the command:
    adb sideload "filename".zip

    Where “filename” is to be replaced with the name of the file downloaded in Step 1

  10. The update should install on your phone. Once the installation is complete, choose “Reboot system now” on your phone to reboot into Android 11.

Method 2: Flashing full Factory Image via Fastboot

If you have an unlocked bootloader, you need to flash the full factory image of the Android 11 Developer Preview 1 via Fastboot. Usually, this is done through a flash-all.sh or flash-all.bat script file that is included in the downloaded file, but this also wipes the device completely. You can, however, retain your data by deleting the “-w” wipe attribute from the command within the script.

  1. Download the factory image .zip file on your computer from here.
  2. Optional but recommended: Verify the SHA-256 checksum of the file you have downloaded to ensure that the file has been downloaded completely and correctly.
  3. Extract the .zip file, and copy and paste the resultant files onto your ADB and fastboot folder on your computer for convenience.
  4. Optional: The resultant files would contain a flash-all.sh or flash-all.bat script file. Using a text editor, open the flash-all.sh if you’re on macOS/Linux or the flash-all.bat script file if you’re on Windows. Find and remove/delete the -w flag in the fastboot update command. This will skip the data wipe for your phone. To avoid compatibility issues, a data wipe is recommended though.
  5. Enable USB Debugging on your phone — Go to Settings > About Phone > Tap “Build Number” 10 times to enable Developer Options, and then navigate to Settings > Developer Options > Enable “USB Debugging”.
  6. Connect your phone to your computer. Authorize your computer connection on your phone when the prompt comes up on your phone, if this is the first time you are connecting with this ADB computer.
  7. On your computer, run:
    adb reboot bootloader

    This will reboot your phone into Fastboot mode.

  8. On your macOS/Linux PC, run:
    flash-all

    This command executes the flash-all.sh script file, which will then install the necessary bootloader, baseband firmware, and operating system. If you are on Windows, you can simply double click the flash-all.bat file.

  9. Once the script finishes, your device will reboot into the new OS.

If you’d like to check out all that is new with Android 11, follow along our coverage!