Playing nicely with media controls

Posted by Don Turner - Developer Advocate - Android Media

In Android 11 we've made it easier than ever for users to control media playback. This is achieved with three related features: media controls, playback resumption and seamless transfer.

This article will explain what these features are, how they work together and how you can take advantage of them in your apps.

Media Controls

Android 11's media controls are found below the Quick Settings panel and represent a dedicated persistent space for controlling media playback.

Media controls in Android 11

Part of the motivation for media controls is that users often have multiple media apps (music player, podcasts, video player etc) and regularly switch between them. Media controls display up to five current and recent media sessions in a carousel allowing the user to swipe between them.

On Android 10 and earlier, media notifications for multiple apps can occupy most of the notification area. All those control buttons can also be confusing. Moving the controls into a dedicated space means that there's more room for other notifications, and provides a more consistent user experience for controlling media apps.

Here's the comparison:

Android 10 media notifications (left) Android 11 media controls (right)

Displaying media controls for your app

Now, the really good news. As long as you're using MediaStyle with a valid MediaSession token (both available since Lollipop API 21), media controls will be displayed for your app automatically - no extra work for you!

In case you're not using a MediaStyle and MediaSession here's a quick recap in code:

// Create a media session. NotificationCompat.MediaStyle
// PlayerService is your own Service or Activity responsible for media playback.
val mediaSession = MediaSessionCompat(this, "PlayerService")

// Create a MediaStyle object and supply your media session token to it.
val mediaStyle = Notification.MediaStyle().setMediaSession(mediaSession.sessionToken)

// Create a Notification which is styled by your MediaStyle object.
// This connects your media session to the media controls.
// Don't forget to include a small icon.
val notification = Notification.Builder(this@PlayerService, CHANNEL_ID)

// Specify any actions which your users can perform, such as pausing and skipping to the next track.
val pauseAction: Notification.Action = Notification.Action.Builder(
pauseIcon, "Pause", pauseIntent

The small icon and app name are shown in the upper left of the media controls. The actions are shown in the bottom center.