Learning a trick from Apple’s playbook
Like many of the best Android phones, Google Pixel devices offer a bunch of accessibility features to make life easier. Apps like Digital Wellbeing on Pixels go a step further by proactively displaying warnings for potentially harmful conditions like sleep apnea. Now, there’s sufficient evidence to believe Google is developing a new warning for loud sounds that can damage hearing, this time delivered through the At a Glance widget.
You can no longer downgrade system apps beyond the pre-installed version
You may not rely on it often, but downgrading to an older version of an Android app pre-installed on your phone is a vital capability. It can help you get an app up and running again when it breaks due to corrupted data, and provide a clean slate for you to upgrade back to the latest available version on the Play Store. With Android’s latest security patch for May 2023, a small change now makes that process more secure. It is no longer possible to downgrade to an app version older than the one your device originally shipped with.
Squashing bugs and plugging CVEs
Google is running two concurrent beta programs right now — one for Android 14 and one for the June Pixel Feature Drop — but that hasn't stopped the company from pushing ahead on its stable channel updates. As fun as new features can be, security patches are more important from a practical standpoint, and the May 2023 update has now arrived to shore up weaknesses in Android 13 for Pixel phones.
The company has been working on separating the currently unified volume controls for a while now
As we track Android 13 QPR3 Beta 3 for signs of what's to come for June's Pixel Feature Drop, we're all already looking forward to what Google has in store for Android 14 this fall. One of the features that's been requested for a while is separate ringtone and notification volume controls: while plenty of Android phones (including Samsung phones) offer them by default, Pixel users have gone without. It looks like Google is going to fix this with Android 14.
A new theme style will more closely match your wallpaper's colors
Introduced in Android 12, Material You dynamic color theming has become a core part of Android's UI identity. But while automatically generated custom themes do make for a lot of potential variety, the themes Android kicks out are often more drab than the wallpapers they're based on. But 9to5Google reports that could change in Android 14, with a new Fidelity theme style that's currently in development.
We don’t yet know when it’ll arrive
Nothing may only have one smartphone on sale right now, but the company is aiming to be a go-to choice for Android fans that don't want to have a Pixel phone. Android 14 Beta 1 landed on Pixel phones earlier this month, and Nothing has now confirmed the first beta version of the software will come to its smartphone soon.
So, so many bugs
The first Android 14 open beta arrived right on schedule this month, making it easier than ever for anyone with a supported Pixel phone to test out the next version of Google's mobile OS. Unfortunately, as we — and thousands of other testers — found, Android 14 Beta 1 was pretty damn buggy. From unresponsive fingerprint sensors to system crashes, an incremental release was bound to drop ahead of next month's I/O conference, and lo and behold, Beta 1.1 is now available for download.
Google is bringing one of the best privacy features from Android to ChromeOS
2021's Android 12 added helpful privacy indicators on top of a big Material You interface redesign to all the best Android phones out there. When an app is using your microphone or your camera, you will see a small notice and a dot in your phone’s status bar. In addition to that, you can also cut off microphone and camera access for all apps using quick settings toggles. These same features are now coming to ChromeOS, as Google announced in an enterprise-focused blog post.
Taking and sharing screenshots of your Wi-Fi passwords and QR codes is possible again
Android allows you to easily share the credentials of the Wi-Fi network your phone is currently connected to through a QR code. Any other Android or iPhone can scan the QR code to connect to the same network. It was also possible to take a screenshot of the QR code for sharing purposes. But then, for some inexplicable reason, Google changed this behavior with the Android 13 March Feature Drop. So, when you took a screenshot, you only got a blank screen. Thankfully, the company seems to have had a change of heart and has reverted this change in the latest Android 13 QPR3 Beta.
The company wants to make the settings app the central place to manage all your personal data
Google Maps offers a timeline view on an opt-in basis that makes it easy for you to go back into the past, checking out the places you’ve been to. It looks like a timeline like this might soon make it into the proper Android system settings, living right along Google Account-related data options. This would further cement the settings app as the place to go to organize and manage your personal data on your favorite Android phone.
When a life-saving feature becomes a source of headache for first responders
The best Android smartphones are more than just about their big displays, high-resolution cameras, and insane charging speeds. With features like the Personal Safety app and Emergency SOS, they can also help ensure your survival in a life-threatening situation. In fact, with the release of Android 12 in 2021, Google mandated all Android phones to have an Emergency SOS-like functionality that can be easily triggered from the power button. Now, it looks like the feature is causing a lot of accidental calls to 911.
New Chrome flags suggest that you could soon find tabs and bookmarks using the Pixel Launcher
Your Google Chrome tabs and bookmarks might soon be integrated right into your Pixel phone’s launcher search. New Chrome flags suggest that the integration could go live sooner than later. This would make it possible to launch right back into your browsing session without opening Chrome, and could help you reduce the number of tabs you have opened. It might also make it simpler to find information you’ve already saved to your bookmarks.
Google is juggling two betas right now, and this one’s for the June Pixel Feature Drop
Google is running two separate beta programs for its Pixel phones at the moment, so things are getting a little confusing. But the company has just started rolling out the Beta 3 release of its Android 13 QPR3 build, which will eventually be sent out to the stable channel as the June 2023 Pixel Feature Drop. If you're currently running Android 13 QPR3 Beta 2 or the Beta 2.1 patch release, you should see this new update today.
Samsung is already testing One UI 5.1.1 on these upcoming foldables
With Samsung's new Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Z Fold 5 expected later this year, most likely at an August Unpacked event, users will soon have access to the latest and greatest the smartphone giant has to offer. While new foldable hardware may steal the limelight, the company's One UI software could also be showing off its latest improvements. Evidence points to Samsung already testing One UI 5.1.1 on its upcoming foldables, making it likely these two models will be the ones to introduce the next revision of the company's Android interface.
Changes not quick locked up yet
Earlier this year, we reported on a planned split in Android's Smart Lock scheme which allows host devices such as phones and tablets to be kept unlocked while connected to a recognized Bluetooth device. Now, we're starting to see the follow-through on that charter as users are reporting sight of the newly-termed Extend Unlock in their devices' system settings.
Adoption more than doubled over the last three months
Android fragmentation is a big issue that despite Google's best efforts hasn't been fixed. It has gotten better, but it's far from sorted. Apple frequently flaunts how most of its iPhones are running the latest version of iOS, and Google, understandably tired of being dunked on, just made these market share graphs harder to access. They can still be accessed through Android Studio, but they're quarterly rather than monthly. The latest numbers, though, are showing promising growth for Google's latest OS, Android 13, with numbers doubling over a quarter.
We finally have something like AirDrop for Android
It may not be the most common pairing, but there are lots of people who prefer the polish of Apple's computers and the flexibility of Android phones. The trouble comes when trying to get these two otherwise awesome platforms to play nice together. Windows users can send files from their phone to their PC using Google's Nearby Share, and of course macOS users can AirDrop stuff to and from their iPhones. Meanwhile, it's always been a little tricky to send files from an Android phone to a Mac, but that's finally changing.
Taller walls for scammers to scale
Android 14 is loaded with plenty of new features, and we're trying out all the latest ones right now, following the release of the first public beta this week. The update also includes wonderful accessibility improvements, like better high-contrast text that works with Material You. Sadly, the Accessibility API is also frequently misused by hackers, like those behind infamous Android malware like Nexus and Cerberus. Thankfully, with Android 14, Google has a new trick up its sleeve to prevent these bad actors from stealing your personal data.
Wallpaper and style settings keep crashing
The latest iteration of our favorite operating system is now in the public beta stage, with Android 14 Beta 1 rolling out earlier this week. The new beta is loaded with changes and is easy enough to join if you have a recent Pixel phone to run it. However, as with any beta, this build has its fair share of bugs, but one, in particular, doesn’t allow you to touch the dynamic theming for icons on the Pixel Launcher.
Force transparency by diving into dev settings
Android 14 Beta 1 is finally here, giving us yet another look at the future of our favorite mobile operating system. While we'll likely have to wait until Google I/O for an in-depth exploration of everything that makes this year's update tick, today's launch is still pretty excited for anyone with a spare Pixel lying around the house. And while the list of changes does seem pretty small to start, a new tweak to the navigation bar looks to fix a long-time complaint about certain Android applications.