Here’s what we know about Android 14
Android 14 likely isn’t far off now, with Google being five betas into testing and the usual release window timing in October coming up fast. But Google’s been relatively quiet about what’s changing, beyond a brief discussion at Google I/O 2023.
It’s safe to say that Android 14 isn’t going to be the biggest series of changes to ever hit the operating system, but there are a good number of refinements and changes to keep Android up to date and competitive with Apple’s iOS. Excluding the bugs that afflicted early beta editions.
With most of the features now well-explored, it’s a good time to check out what exactly’s coming to Android 14, whether that’s in the form of the Android 14 beta or when it rocks up on your phone as a stable release. Read on to learn more.
ANDROID 14: RELEASE DATE AND AVAILABILITY
As of August 2023, Android 14 has had two developer previews and five public betas so far. This should mean, going by Google’s own timeline, that the next version of Android 14 we see will be the final version.
It seemed like we’d get this ultimate version of Android 14 in September 2023, but that no longer seems to be happening. The next likely date we could see the launch is October 4th, which is conveniently the day of the next Made by Google event. One Canadian carrier may have already revealed, perhaps inadvertently, that this is Google’s plan.
As is the way with Android updates, Android 14 rolled out to Pixel devices first. Google will likely launch Android 14 with the Pixel 8 series, then start rolling out the stable software to the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro first, before moving onto other devices.
The oldest device to get the update will likely be the Pixel 4a 5G, which is guaranteed Android version updates until November 2023. It’s the oldest one to get the beta, after all, and since the 4G Pixel 4a is set to lose update support in August it doesn’t look like it’ll be in line for Android 14’s stable release.
ANDROID 14: NEW FEATURES
Android 13 was a modest release in terms of features, and while Google highlighted only the sections that follow, members of the Android community have discovered several new Android 14 features of note.
Google has made changes to the share sheet in Android 14, allowing greater customization for specific apps that will hopefully make moving files around much more convenient.
Guest Phone app access
If you have a guest user profile on your device, you can grant them access to your Phone app. They’ll be able to see your call history, but they can make calls themselves. This is handy if you’re letting someone borrow your handset.
Secondary admin users
If you have secondary users on your device, you can raise them to admin-level permissions. This could be useful for things like tablets that multiple people in the household use.
Predictive back gesture
Swiping to go back on Android 14 still works as normal, but if you swipe and pause, you can see the page you’re returning to pop up to the side, in case you forgot where you’ll end up.
It’s similar to how you can see all your active apps by swiping upward and pausing, or tapping the three lines button. However, developers still have control over when this feature is enabled on a per-activity basis, so it may not appear consistently depending on which app you’re using, and what you’re doing in that app.
There’s also a more prominent back arrow when using swipe gestures for more intuitive navigation. Here’s how to enable it yourself.
Background app installation page
In a major blow to carrier and manufacturer pre-installed bloatware, Android 14 will feature a background apps installation page where you can see everything that was downloaded to your device without your permission. Furthermore, you can remove them here.
New game controller support
Android 14 will add support for the PlayStation DualSense Edge and SteelSeries Stratus Plus controllers. If you’re serious about Android gaming — and why wouldn’t you be, given the power of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 — you’ll be able to use these high-end peripherals later this year.
It appears that Google will finally add support for native app cloning in Android 14. This allows you have two separate instances of a single app on your phone, allowing you to have two accounts logged in simultaneously.
Other Android phone makers have let you do this for a while, but we’re still glad to see Google consider it. Bear in mind that, at the moment, it’s not ready for prime time.
Health Connect app
Google announced last year that it had collaborated with Samsung to make the Health Connect app, a hub that’ll let users keep their health data in one place to then sync up with other apps. Right now it’s a beta app that you need to download separately, but it’ll be part of Android 14 when it launches. Could this mean Android finally has a viable alternative to Apple Health?
More powerful photo picker
Android 13 introduced an iOS-style photo picker, where you could tell apps which photos they were allowed to access. The problem was that not all apps cooperated, still requiring full access to your gallery to function.
In Android 14, that should come to an end as Google enforces the new photo picker. Even if an app requires full access to your photos, Android 14 will still let you pick which ones you want to share.
Hearing aids page
In a win for accessibility, Android 14 adds a dedicated hearing aids page. This will make setting up the devices a lot easier. It’ll even feature a toggle for compatibility with older hearing aids in case they don’t work with Android 14.
Apps installed in the background page
Nobody likes it when your phone’s manufacturer or your mobile carrier downloads things onto your phone without you wanting them, or even knowing they’re there. But now with this new page, you’ll be able to see precisely what’s been added to your Android surreptitiously, and delete them easily if you don’t want them. Sounds ideal for quickly removing all the bloatware that some phone makers and carriers are quite insistent you have on your phone.
Ultra HDR and in-sensor zoom
Some phones already offer support for 10-bit images, which offer greater color detail than typical photos. Ultra HDR (high dynamic range) is a new format that Android 14 will offer to more easily show these images on your device. The JPEG-compatible standard will display just fine in standard dynamic range too if needs be. Android 14 also brings an in-sensor zoom function, which apps can use to digitally magnify an image from the camera. Most default camera apps already offer this, but having it available for other apps that utilise your phone’s camera sensors could prove very handy indeed.
Lossless audio via USB
Music fans rejoice! Android 14 will support lossless audio via your phone’s USB-C port, making it easier to use your favorite headphones (albeit likely with a dongle) to listen to music on your device. However, it sounds like from Google’s documentation that this ability may only be enabled after Android 14 has already launched.
Partial screen sharing
If you’ve ever tried to record your screen, but kept getting your recording ruined by pop-ups or other UI elements, you can now set your recording to capture the screen as it appears, or just a single app, stopping these other elements from appearing in your video.
ANDROID 14: BETTER BIG-SCREEN OPTIMIZATION
Continuing the work done in Android 12L and Android 13, Android 14 will push developers to ensure that their apps work across all display sizes and form factors going forward.
To facilitate this, Google has created window size classes, sliding pane layout, Activity embedding, box with constraints and more. Android 14 Developer Preview 1 introduced these to help developers start getting things ready for all kinds of devices, including foldables and tablets.
Google also confirmed a number of optimized apps anmd experiences at I/O. Apparently 50 different Google apps have been optimized for larger displays, like those on tablets and foldables, with Gmail, Photos and Meet mentioned by name. Partner developers have also been involved, with Spotify, Disney Plus and Minecraft getting more intuitive big-screen experiences.
A new “App Pair” feature has also been uncovered in the Android 14 beta 2, relating to split-screen multitasking. It’s unclear exactly how this will work, but it’s likely that we’ll see something similar to what Samsung and Microsoft already offer.
That would mean the ability to pair apps together and save shortcuts that open both apps side-by-side. That way multitasking can be made a little bit more effortless.
Given the company’s just launched the Pixel Fold and the Pixel Tablet, that makes a lot of sense, and hopefully will mean every other company in the Android ecosystem will benefit from these much-needed upgrades.
Drag’n’drop copy and paste between apps
Rather than tapping multiple times to select and copy an item from one app and then tapping several more times to open another app and deposit the item there, you’re now able to tap and hold some text, an image or something else and move it between apps with a single fluid motion.
Android 14 Easter Egg
Google always hides something fun within new versions of Android, and this time it’s a planet-hunting game. All you need to do is tap the Android version number a few times and you’ll be on your way.
ANDROID 14: CUSTOMIZATION
Improved per-app language preferences
Android 14 looks to improve a developer’s ability to dynamically adjust the languages displayed in Android’s per-app language settings. Most importantly, this means that developers can adjust their apps’ languages based on region, A/B tests, and server localization parameters.
For the user, this just means a more seamless implementation of alternative languages in your favorite apps, building the work in previous Android versions.
More lock screen customization
Much like how Apple has been boosting users’ ability to customize their lock screen, so too is Android with Android 14. Announced at Google I/O 2023, Android users will have a brand new range of customization options on the Android 14 lock screen.
Google didn’t offer a lot of specifics, but confirmed that users will be able to customize the lock screen’s clock face, add shortcuts to their favorite apps, and adding emojis.
Some of these wallpaper options won’t be exclusive to Android 14, however, including the ability to create reactive wallpapers from emojis, adding 3D and motion effects to your photos and creating brand new wallpapers with generative AI.
Grammatical Inflection API
If you speak a language with grammatical gender, Android 14 will improve support for it. For languages where gender is crucial, unlike English, this improvement will allow apps to display proper gender based on the user viewing the content.
The Grammatical Inflection API will handle the hard work. Developers just need to implement in their apps and add the proper translations.
Setting regional preferences
You’ll be able to fine tune your regional preferences in Android 14, including setting items like units of measurement and which day of the week starts in your calendars. This is meant for people abroad, such as an American in Europe.
Better font scaling
Android 14 will introduce 200% font scaling for accessibility purposes. Of course, as anyone who deals with standard scaling models knows, blowing things up that big might lead to awkward cutoffs, making text annoying to read.
That’s why Google has introduced a non-linear scaling curve that helps text wrap better on a phone’s display. What does this mean? As you can in the example image above, Android 14 will dynamically adjust only the text that needs to enlarge. Headings, for example, are already large enough in most cases and thus won’t scale.
You can also access font scaling from the Quick Settings in Android 14, making changing the size of words on-the-fly much simpler.
Separate notification and ringtone volume sliders
As spotted in the Android 14 Developer Preview 2, Google may be bringing back a long-requested audio feature — separate volume sliders for ringtones and notifications. That way users would be able to choose how loud or quiet one of these sounds will be, without necessarily having to keep the volume for both equal.
There are now three contrast settings – Standard, Medium and High – in the Android 14 developer settings. This looks like it could be fantastic for users with visual impairments, or for anyone who find the colors picked out by Android’s Material You theming make it hard to read parts of the UI.
PIN automatic confirmation
This small change now gives the option for your phone to automatically open when you input your PIN correctly, without having to hit an OK or Enter button. The catch is you need a PIN of six digits or longer.
ANDROID 14: PRIVACY AND SECURITY
Runtime receivers, safer implicit intents and dynamic code loading
Android 14 will prevent internal intents that don’t specify a package. This should prevent malicious apps from intercepting intents, thus improving security. And apps in Android 14 must declare if their receiver is “exported” or “unexported.”
Apps that use dynamic code loading must make the files read-only, thus theoretically improving security drastically.
These changes should not affect most users in any front-facing way.
Block installation of older apps
It seems like there’s a news story every week about Android malware, so Google is going to tackle that problem once again in Android 14. Since malware targets older SDKs, the Play Store will block apps that target lower than SDK 23. Google determined that a lot of bad actors targeted SDK 22.
Luckily, SDK 22 is rather old (introduced with Android 5.1 Lollipop in 2015), so this shouldn’t affect the best Android apps in any meaningful way.
Android 14 aims to replace passwords for good. It introduces an API to allow apps to use encrypted passkeys, thus greatly improving security. This should mean users can sign in more easily to apps with things like biometric security, as well as make for a more secure experience as passkeys aren’t susceptible to phishing attacks and scams like passwords are.
As such, Android 14 could be the first nail in the coffin of traditional passwords.
Location data sharing
In the Location permission picker, it’s now flagged when an app may share your data with third-party companies, and links you to an explanation of what that could mean.
You’ll also get a notification from Android if an app you’ve already given the Location permission to starts sharing that data with third parties if it wasn’t before. This and the above change help users understand their choices when giving apps their location data, and offers an easy way to revoke the permission if you don’t want that info going to other companies.
ANDROID 14: IMPROVING BACKGROUND EFFICIENCY
Thus far, Android 14 places a large emphasis on system resource efficiency and improving battery life. This should also improve system health and make the user experience smoother.
JobScheduler and Foreground Services
Google says that some background work in Android is far too complicated. For the user, this doesn’t mean too much on the surface, but it could relate to background efficiency, meaning that the system is taxing itself more than it needs to. That could lead to reduced battery life for your phone.
Android 14 will be stricter about what tasks can run in the foreground, such as user-facing applications and processes. With more things forced to run in the background, that should theoretically improve efficiency. If you haven’t noticed, that seems to be a core component of Android 14.
Two of Android’s core APIs, Foreground Services and JobScheduler, see some new features in Android 14. One is a new functionality for user-initiated data transfers, with Android making those uploads and downloads much easier, especially if there’s a constraint (such as downloading on Wi-Fi only).
Developers will further have to declare what foreground service types their apps use to better delineate what services will run in the background versus the foreground.
Optimizing system broadcasts
Android 14 will introduce optimizations to the system’s internal broadcast system to improve efficiency and battery life. A lot of these improvements shouldn’t affect apps or the user, but Google specifically mentions context-registered broadcasts.
These basically queue up broadcasts for cached apps for when they come out of the cached state. This ought to improve how many background resources the broadcasts use. Android 14 will even bundle repeated broadcasts into a single one for when the app resumes from cache.
Exact alarm permissions
You might be wondering what exactly an exact alarm is. Think of your clock or calendar app that sends you a notification about an upcoming event, timer, or alarm in the morning. These apps can use Android’s exact alarm system, but that can tax the system resources.
So in Android 14, apps that aren’t a calendar or clock will need to request a special permission at first boot before it can set exact alarms. Google wants developers to use this permission carefully and instead consider more efficient scheduled alternatives instead.
Android 14 hopes to improve on the annoyance on non-dismissable notifications. Basically, they’ll go away while your device is unlocked and return when it’s locked. Important items like system and policy notifications will remain, however.
ANDROID 14: APP COMPATIBILITY
Android 14 Developer Preview 1 briought some 300 OpenJDK 17 classes with more to come in future releases. This should help improve app quality thanks to new record classes and string and pattern matching.
Most users won’t notice this, but it should make developers’ offerings better.
ANDROID 14: WHAT WE STILL WANT TO SEE
Android 13 was a pretty solid release since it focused on incremental updates and improvements. Android 12 was a major launch with the new Material You system, so we’re glad to see Google continue to clean things up.
However, there are a few things we’d like to see.
Split Wi-Fi and mobile network toggles
We’ll keep this one simple. In Android 12, Google combined the Wi-Fi and mobile network toggles into one Quick Settings tile. This annoyed many users, us included, and it remained in Android 13 despite the outcry.
We want Google to split these in Android 14, just like some phone makers have done in their skins.
Bring back lock screen widgets
We’ll admit, iOS 16 inspired this wishlist item. If you didn’t know, on an iPhone, you can now add lock screen widgets. It adds more functionality to iOS. You’d be forgiven for forgetting, but Android once had this capability.
While the stock Android lock screen is pretty great with how much information it shows, it would be nice to add other things to it. We would just want something more seamless than what we got back in the Android KitKat days.
But with the promise of increased lock screen customization, it means Google may finally be listening. Whether lock screen widgets will make a true comeback or not has yet to be confirmed, however.
Native stacked widgets
Speaking of widgets, Google has some catching up to do with Samsung and Apple. We’re talking about stacked widgets, where you can, as you might expect, stack widgets on top of each other and scroll through them.
This is an iOS feature by default and Samsung has introduced on recent phones like the Galaxy S23 and Galaxy Z Fold 4. Of course, you would be limited on this since a lot of Android widgets are a lot more interactive than those found on iOS. So this could challenge Google to a fair degree, but we want to see it all the same.
Custom fonts and icon shapes
In Android 11, Google allowed to change the font and icon shape on Pixels. But since Android 12, that functionality went away. Simply put, we want it back. You can do it on other phones like the OnePlus 11, so its absence on a Pixel is especially notable.
A Dynamic Island competitor
Finally, after using an iPhone 14 Pro, we really want to see Google implement some sort of Dynamic Island competitor in Android. While notification banners do work better a lot better on Android than on iOS, they don’t dynamically expand and show live information such as sports scores or the location of your Uber.
Visually, Google could make notifications have black backgrounds that expand from the hole-punch front cameras so that they blend almost seamlessly like on the iPhone 14 Pro. Functionally, we could get more live information from these notifications.
For example, if you have music playing on an iPhone 14 Pro, you long-press the Dynamic Island and it’ll expand out into a media player, making it easy to pause or skip songs. You can also quickly see timers without leaving your current screen. The possibilities for Android could be practically limitless.