With the release of Android 14 Beta 1, we're starting to get a more realized picture of what Google is bringing to the table with this year's launch. Android 14 will be the operating system that will power the best Android phones of 2023 and 2024 once its stable build arrives later this summer. While it is highly unlikely to be a big redesign like Android 12, it still looks like it's poised to bring a ton of quality-of-life improvements like better battery life, improved accessibility, and a revamped back navigation gesture. It's definitely shaping up to be a bigger update than what Android 13 was.
Android 14 timeline, potential release date, and supported devices
Android 14 follows a similar roadmap as previous releases. As you can see in the timeline shared by Google below, we're looking at two developer previews, with the first released in February and the second released in March. On April 12, Google released the first beta, with a follow-up Beta 1.1 release just two weeks later, but the bigger release will likely follow in May. Historically, the company has always held back some of the most interesting consumer-facing changes for the release that ties in with its developer conference, Google I/O. That's officially scheduled for May 10th, so pencil that date in on your calendar to see Android 14 in action on stage.
In June, the roadmap indicates that Android 14 is reaching platform stability with the third beta. This means that developers can program their apps using the new features and APIs introduced in Android 14 without having to worry about any further changes. A fourth beta will arrive in July, and sometime after that, the stable release will follow. If history is any indication, we're likely looking at an August or September release.The following Google Pixel smartphones are compatible with the first developer preview:
- Pixel 7 & 7 Pro
- Pixel 6a
- Pixel 6 & 6 Pro
- Pixel 5a 5G
- Pixel 5
- Pixel 4a (5G)
Note that the Google Pixel 4a without the 5G denominator isn't slated to receive this beta anymore. It was released a few months before the 4a (5G). It's still unclear if it will get the update or not, but since it launched with Android 10, it isn't guaranteed to get any update beyond Android 13 as per Google's promise of three software upgrades.
As usually, the developer preview and initial beta builds are restricted to the Google Pixel phone lineup. More phones from other manufacturers could join the beta program later, which has been the case for the last few Android releases. In the past, beta builds were available for phones from Xiaomi, Asus, OnePlus, Oppo, Nokia, and more.
Google will almost certainly release generic system images (GSIs), which you can install on any phone that supports Project Treble. Be sure you know exactly how to install an Android beta before you think about going that route.
After the beta testing is finished, we expect Android 14 to become available on all recent Android phones and the flagship phones from the last few years. The rollout may take longer than a few months, depending on your manufacturer, though. Samsung's phones are usually updated pretty quickly, within a few months after the stable release, but the same can't be said for Asus, Motorola, and more.
What's new in Android 14 Beta 1
With Android 14 Beta 1, the new release of Google's OS is finally available for everyone, even those who don't want to go through the hassle of installing the developer preview. Google is light on new feature in this release. Instead, the company highlights a few features that were already available in Developer Preview 2. There are some more interesting chances spotted within the code, though.
Loyalty card suggestions based on location
Google Pay used to show you relevant loyalty cards based on your location, making it easy to pull up the right card at the right place. This was taken away with the Google Wallet rebranding, but it looks like Android 14 might offer an app-agnostic solution. Mishaal Rahman spotted strings that suggest Android 14 will show relevant loyalty cards from any payment app you've set as the default on your phone — even if that isn't Google Wallet.
Redesigned back arrow for gesture navigation
If you start your Android 14 journey with Beta 1, you'll notice that the back arrow now sits in a Material You-colored bubble. Some apps like Google News and settings also support predictive back animations, revealing which screen you'll get to next as you drag your finger across the screen. Both of these options were already live in Developer Preview 2, but they may be new to you when you upgrade just now. Google notes that it's improving both of these aspects, so bear with us while we dig into this release and find out what exactly has changed.
System share sheet with app actions
We already spotted Google's new system share sheet with app actions in Android 14 Developer Preview 2, but now the company is making this official. In Android 14, apps can add custom actions to the system share menu. This allows an application like Chrome to include custom sharing options like Send to your devices, QR code, or Copy link, omitting the need for a custom share sheet altogether.
Simpler per-app language setup for developers
Google used the Beta 1 launch to showcase a new Android Studio capability. Developers who use Google's development environment can now enjoy automatically generated language files required to make per-app languages work. Given how few apps support Android 13's per-app languages so far, this is a welcome improvement.
More security options to protect you from malware that abuses accessibility services
In Android 14, app developers can limit visibility of their apps to disability-focused accessibility services. This effectively blocks malware that uses accessibility services from snooping on private data in your password manager or your banking app. Only true accessibility apps screened by Play Protect and the Play Store can then access sensitive information protected by the new measure.
Forced transparent navigation bar
Hidden under developer options, Google has added a toggle that allows anyone to force a transparent nav bar in any app. This solves one of our longest standing issues with navigation on Android: inconsistencies between apps that haven't had specific color tuning from developers. There's always the chance this disappears before a final build, but it being hidden from most users seems like a positive sign that it could be here to stay.
Image permission changes
One of the biggest security features coming to Android 14 saw a couple of tweaks in Beta 1. Those image permission controls we spotted in DP2 are ever-so-slightly tweaked. The option to "Select Photos" is now "Select Photos and Videos" — which, frankly, does do a good job of alleviating some of the iOS comparisons — and places it on top... just like iOS. Ah well.
New PIN animations
Although it's disabled right now, Android 14 Beta 1 includes some swanky new lockscreen animations when typing your PIN. Rather than the numbers simply appearing, a new shape appears with each number, as spotted by Mishaal Rahman.
Tons of bugs
Unlike the fist Android 13 beta last year, Android 14 Beta 1 is riddled with bugs and broken bits and pieces. For example, if you had themed icons enabled before you updated, the wallpaper app will always crash when you try to open it. There are a few more issues in the release, and we've got a guide on how to fix the most egregious bugs without downgrading to Android 13.
What's new in Android 14 Developer Preview 2
With the release of Android 14's second developer preview, we're getting a more realized look into what's coming in this year's OS upgrade. This includes the arrival of some of the hidden features first spotted in DP1, which Google is now highlighting as official features in the DP2 announcement.
Regional per-app preferences
For example, the regional preferences page is here in DP2. Mishaal Rahman initially found this page hidden behind flags in February, but with this month's launch, we can see them in action. These settings are found right below the per-app language options in Android 14, and they will make it possible for you to set your units and number preferences. You can use it to switch individual apps between Celsius and Fahrenheit, use different calendars like Chinese, Dangi, or Hebrew, select which day of the week you consider the first, and which number system to use.
The original leaked screenshots for regional preferences from DP1
Revamped permission controls
We're also seeing the revamped permission control option for media files first alluded to in DP1. These settings are similar to how iOS works currently, forcing all apps not using Google's permissionless API to ask for your level of control options for media.
Preparations for a passwordless future, better battery life, non-dismissable notification improvements
Google's announcement for DP2 also focuses on improving the Credential Manager API it announced last month, which should help lead us to the passwordless future we all dream of. Meanwhile, DP2 continues to focus on improving system performance, forcing cached apps to stop running much faster than Android 13 could, which should provide better battery life and resource management. Non-dismissable notifications will also cause far less annoyances in the future, as you can now swipe anything flagged as an ongoing event away outside of critical tasks when your phone is unlocked.
This just covers what Google has formally announced, but there's more beyond this.
Predictive back gestures are live for some apps
Google has enabled predictive back gestures for the handful of apps that support them, like Google News and the system settings. When you enable predictive back gestures in the developer options, you can see previews of which screen you'll navigate to next. This works with views within the same app, across different apps, and from apps to the home screen.
Lava lamp media player
Google also added small tweaks to the media player. Telegram channel Google News spotted a lava lamp-style animation that billows on top of the media player has returned after first making its entrance in Android 13 QPR2 Beta 1, and the play/pause button now comes with a splash animation.
Super low battery warning
If you're someone who likes to run down their phone until the very last drop of energy has left the battery, this change might be for you. On Android 14, Pixel phones will send you a notification when your battery drops to 2%, giving you one last chance to scramble for your charger and top it up before the battery is fully depleted.
Faster and more secure PIN entry
On the security front, Mishaal Rahman spotted Google working on a faster PIN entry option, as he shared on XDA. When you pick a PIN that has six digits or more, you might no longer have to hit enter to confirm your identity anymore. Instead, the phone will automatically recognize that you've just typed in the correct numbers and will unlock your phone when you hit the last digit. This is a feature popularized by the iPhone, but it's also available on many Android phones and in custom ROMs.
In that same vein, Google added a more secure PIN entry screen to Android 13 QPR3, a change that's live in Android 14 Beta 1. In settings, you can turn off animations for the PIN entry screen, making it harder for others to peek which numbers you're entering on your lock screen.
Emoji Kitchen wallpapers
If you're a sucker for customization and Emoji Kitchen, you might be in for a treat with Android 14 on your Pixel phone. As spotted by Mishaal Rahman, you might soon be able to create custom wallpapers using your favorite Emoji Kitchen variants. It's certainly a great way to give you access to a sheer infinite amount of personal wallpapers. The feature is currently called Emoji Lab.
Improved high-contrast text when using Material You themes
Some people rely on Android's high-contrast text to be able to read better. Right now, this system clashes with dynamic theming as introduced by Android 12. As discovered by Mishaal Rahman, Android 14 will take high-contrast text into account when creating a color palette, opting for even more contrast-rich options when the option is enabled.
Unfortunately, this toggle disappeared in Android 14 Beta 1, and it's unclear if it'll make another appearance in a future version.
Flash for notifications
A new accessibility option allows you to enable your display or your camera to flash whenever a notification rolls in. It could be a handy way to bring back notification lights on devices without them, although you can't customize the camera's flash settings at this time. In any case, the feature is meant for those with hearing impairments first and foremost.
Separated ringtone and notification volumes and less goofy volume slider on bigger phones
For ages, Pixel phones have only allowed to set one volume level across your notifications and ringtones. Android 14 might change that and make Pixel phones behave more like Samsung devices. Many people running the Android 14 Developer Preview 2 are seeing separated volume sliders for ringtones and notifications, which would finally make it easier to prioritize phone calls. Even better news — this change is still there in Beta 1, suggesting it should stick around to stable.
Further code changes suggest that Google is looking into a dynamically scaling volume slider to make it taller or shorter depending on the screen size. It's possible that this has been added in anticipation of more complicated devices like foldables, which offer different screen sizes depending on how you hold it and which screen you use (Pixel Fold anyone?).
Independent live wallpapers on lock screen and home screen
It has been possible to set independent wallpapers for your lock screen and home screen for ages on Android, but this wasn't the case for two different live wallpapers. Android 14 is looking to finally change this, as spotted by XDA. The publication was able to activate a new option that lets you set independent live wallpapers.
Left: Android 13 stable. Right: Android 14 DP2
Although it's not currently enabled, Beta 1 includes this change behind the scenes. It's a small touch, but one that should go a long way in forwarding Google's customization efforts. Hopefully, we'll see this make a public debut in Beta 2 in May.
Call streaming to tablets
Mishaal Rahman spotted that Google is working on call streaming between different Android devices. This may allow you to take a phone call on your tablet, even if it doesn't support mobile data. It's similar how Apple lets you take phone calls from your iPhone on your MacBook, your iPad, and your Apple Watch. Right now, this isn't live though, and it's not clear whether the feature will make it to the stable release of Android 14. Google was spotted working on it on older Android releases already.
The end is nigh for spammy task manager apps
In what could be a major change for the apps your relatives install on their smartphones, Google is working towards effectively disabling those scammy task manager apps riddling the Play Store. Instead of allowing these services to clear your background tasks — leaving Android to be forced to restart tasks that didn't need to be killed in the first place — a change to the specific permission these apps use will only allow it to kill its own background processes. Starting with Android 14, only system apps with this KILL_BACKGROUND_PROCESSES permission can stop other tasks from running.
What's new in Android 14 Developer Preview 1
Google released the first developer preview of Android 14 on February 8, 2023. Its sole purpose is to help developers get their apps ready for the new release, so most announcements revolve around features that developers have to pay attention to. Nevertheless, there are some interesting tidbits in here, so let's dive right in with the official announcements from Google:
A focus on big screens and cross-device use cases
Google is continuing its quest to make Android and its app ecosystem a perfect match for all screen sizes, whether on smartphones, foldables, tablets, or Chromebooks. The push for big-screen optimization started with Android 12L and was then subsequently further enhanced with Android 13, and things aren't supposed to be any different with Android 14. The company is rehashing some of the progress it's made and pointing developers to its best-practices and new classes that allow them to build for different form factors more easily.
Google says it updated its large screen app quality checklists, which give developers an easy way to gauge how well their products will perform across different devices. There are also new example layouts for different kinds of apps, which are supposed to inspire developers to create similarly adaptive layouts and apps that make the best use of available screen real estate.
One novel way this could manifest is improved support for keyboards and touchpads, which would be a big benefit for tablets with keyboard cases and laptops that can run Android apps. According to findings from Android expert Mishaal Rahman writing for XDA, Android 14 might allow you to remap modifier keys like Ctrl, Alt, and Meta (the button that's used for the Windows menu). You might also be able to map more commands for different system-level options to keyboards, like access to the Recents screen, mute, and zoom.
On top of that, Mishaal Rahman discovered that Android 14 might add support for touchpad gestures. This will allow you to take advantage of features you long know from MacBooks or Windows laptops. Some code reveals that vendors could add support for gestures for going back, home, opening the Recents overview, the notification drawer, and for quickly switching between apps.
Less battery drain thanks to streamlined background operations
Standby battery life has greatly increased on Android over the years, but there is still work to do. With Android 14, Google is making changes to reserve foreground services to the highest priority user-facing tasks only, meaning that apps won't be able to use your phone's full power when they just want to do something in the background. Additionally, Google is making it easier for developers to program more complicated rules for background tasks, like forcing an app to only download big files when your phone is connected to Wi-Fi.
Google has more restrictions planned for apps that use exact alarms to fire a notification or a task at a specific time in the future. Newly installed apps targeting Android 13 or higher will need to ask users for permission to set exact alarms, though Google encourages developers to avoid exact alarms whenever possible. The restriction doesn't apply to alarm and calendar apps.
In the background, Google is also optimizing how Android's internal broadcast system works. If you're not familiar, this is basically Android communicating certain events to apps, such as when a specific battery level is reached or when airplane mode is entered or exited. Most of the changes to this system are supposed to be internal to Android and shouldn't affect the way apps work, but developers have to know that in certain circumstances, context-registered broadcasts might be queued up before they're sent to cached apps. In practice, this should lead to better standby battery life as the system has to wake up less often to send these broadcasts.
There will also be new Google Play policies that will force apps to adopt these new, more restrictive APIs, with the company saying that more details on this are coming soon.
As to make a point about its promised battery life improvements, Android 14 DP1 is putting your screen-on time front and center in the system setting's battery stats, right above all other usage statistics. After screen-on time was fully hidden from the battery section in Android 12 and only re-introduced with Android 13, this switch is a boon for those who use screen-on time as a gauge to how good or bad the battery life is.
Better accessibility thanks to bigger fonts and new hearing devices settings
As it does with almost every Android release, Google is improving the accessibility of the system. Android 14 is making it possible to scale text up to 200% rather than the old maximum of 130%. In order to prevent any layout issues arising from this setting, Google is also introducing a non-linear font scaling curve. This will prevent text that is already large enough not to get bigger than necessary.
Mishaal Rahman additionally uncovered a new hearing devices section in the Accessibility panel within Android 14's settings. It will make it possible to pair a new hearing device using Bluetooth and collect relevant toggles in one place, like the hearing aid compatibility option that's meant to improve streamed audio to these devices. It's likely that Google will turn this option on in subsequent releases.
Improved per-app language and regional preferences
There are also changes to Android 13's new per-app language options that Google announced, which allow you to tweak the language individual apps are displayed in. Developers will be able to tweak which languages are displayed in the settings menu, allowing them to show different options for different regions or to run A/B tests on which languages should be supported.
Meanwhile, for languages that have a grammatical gender, Android 14 officially introduces a new Grammatical Inflection API. This makes it easier to display different grammatical genders depending on how the app user should be addressed. Rather than having to tweak each string that uses a grammatical gender individually, developers only need to add inflected versions for every relevant term in a translation — the API takes care of the rest.
More security thanks to an installation block for older apps
As already spotted in inadvertently leaked source code, Google is restricting sideloading with Android 14. By default, you won't be able to install apps that target an SDK version lower than 23, introduced 2015 with Android 6. Google explains that malware often uses SDK versions targeting older versions of Android to avoid restrictions part of SDK version 23 and higher. This will effectively make it much harder to get malware on devices, even when bad actors manage to convince users to sideload an app rather than getting it from the Play Store.
If you absolutely rely on an outdated app that targets an older version of Android, it will be possible to override the block by installing it using ADB with the adb install --bypass-low-target-sdk-block FILENAME.apk command.
Android will get a useful and beautiful new back gesture animation
When Google introduced full gesture navigation in Android 10, it completely changed how many people use their phones. Since then, the company has only made small tweaks to gesture navigation, never completely reinventing how it works. While the company will likely stick with the way gestures currently work, Android 14 will offer a serious upgrade in the form of predictive back gestures, as Google shared in an Android Dev Summit panel. The system will offer new animations showing which screen you will navigate to next when you use the back gesture. This will work within apps and when your next move takes you to the home screen.
On Android 14 Developer Preview 1, we're in for a first glimpse of how these animations will look like in action. Android expert Mishaal Rahman managed to activate hidden flags inside a rooted version of the Developer Preview, and presented a rudimentary app with support for it. As you can see in the video below, this adds peeking animations to the back gesture, allowing you to see where you will navigate to next.
The biggest caveat right now is that app developers will have to build support for this feature, so it won't necessarily be enabled for all apps on Android 14 by default.
You can already give this a try on your Pixel phone: When you activate the predictive back navigation flag in the developer options on Android 13, you will see that some apps like Google Phone and Google News support predictive back gestures when your next navigation takes you to the home screen. Android 14 is the next step for this experimental feature.
Interface changes: Fast pair and Guest mode
Google hasn't talked about every single change yet, and there is a ton more to uncover in Android 14 Developer Preview 1. One of these is the addition of a toggle that allows you to turn on or off fast pair. If you're not familiar, fast pair is Google's relatively new option that helps you quickly connect new Bluetooth accessories to your phone. However, if you live in a dense apartment block or work in an electronics store, you might get way too many erroneous prompts to set up nearby devices. The new toggle then allows you to turn off fast pair, helping you get rid of the annoying interruptions.
There is also a minor tweak to the Multiple users settings screen. Here, the Allow guest to use phone option has been moved to the top-level menu, making it easier for you to enable phone calls for anyone using your smartphone. Previously, this option was sitting behind the Guest account itself, which was not the most intuitive place for it.
Android 14 is getting smart about dual SIM setups and the big shift to eSIM
People who live with two SIM cards in one phone know the hassle. Once they reach an area where one of their carriers doesn't perform good enough, they need to switch to their other SIM to get their secondary network up and running. This might become an automated process with Android 14, which offers a toggle to Switch mobile data automatically. The attached description makes matters pretty clear: "Temporarily use this network when it has better availability for calls and internet."
In a similar vein, there is also further evidence in Android 14 that Google will make it possible to turn physical SIMs into eSIMs right on the device. Carriers would have to support this feature, though. In addition to that, Google appears to be working on an option to transfer an eSIM to another device, but it's still unclear if this works with Pixels only or with any Android phone. Google was spotted working on both these features in Android 13 QPR2 already.
App cloning could come to Pixel phones
Some manufacturers allow you to clone your apps, and there are also third-party services on the Play Store that offer this functionality. Many people who want to use an app with multiple accounts rely on it, and it looks like Google is considering adding this option to its version of Android. Evidence has surfaced in the form of a hidden Cloned Apps section in settings that suggests we might look at this option becoming a reality with Android 14.
Fitness tracking apps could work better together
Health Connect, Google's optional app that serves as an interface between different fitness tracking apps to share their data, might become a pre-installed app in Android 14. There was already some evidence that this could happen, and in the first developer preview, we're seeing more of it.
The Android release is shipping with a new Health Connect APEX file, which is a strong indication that Google is preparing to bundle the app with the system. This would give all Android devices a central place to store and exchange your fitness data across various apps.
DualSense Edge support could be coming
Have you dropped some dough on the PlayStation 5's high-end DualSense Edge controller and would like to use it wherever it's possible? You might soon add Android 14 to the list of supported devices. The new operating system has added layout files for the Sony controller, which makes it likely that Android 14 will support it.
Android 14 could help you spot bloatware and uninstall it
Nobody loves unnecessary bloatware on their phones, and Google is looking into singling out those extra apps you don't need to keep on your phone. Mishaal Rahman spotted that there is a new option in a hidden system settings section that lists "Apps installed in the background." The description in this section then explains that you will find apps here that your system may have installed in the background thanks to your carrier or other manufacturer partners. The list will make it possible to get rid of all of these fast.
Android 14 is decoupling root certificates from system updates
Android 14 is decoupling TrustCor root certificates from system updates. Once phones running Android 14 become old and outdated, this could prevent them from losing internet access as they age and their certificates become outdated. Certificates can also become untrusted and might need replacing sooner than their scheduled date, so it's good to be able to push out these updates without full system releases.
Everything else we know about Android 14 so far
Other than the details Google shared about the developer preview above, we've learned a few more things about the upcoming Android release. That's because Android is an open source project at its core, and Google needs to tweak some of the underlying code to make future features happen. The company also announced a few features ahead of time in other circumstances. In addition to that, there are also some leaks from various sources. With this out of the way, here is what we've learned so far.
Android 14's internal code name is the only U dessert anyone could think of
All Android versions have fun codenames attached to them, following an alphabetical order. Google may not use them publicly for marketing anymore like it did in the past, but internally, these codes are still in use. With Android 13, known as Tiramisu, we all know that U is the next letter in the alphabet. As such, Google is going with the only obvious choice and calls its new baby "Android 14 Upside Down Cake." It feels a bit like cheating, but here we are.
Android 14 will have a satellite connectivity option that’s similar to the iPhone 14
Apple has released a bunch of iPhones with emergency satellite connectivity. Google's Hiroshi Lockheimer has confirmed that Android will offer the same technology, saying he is excited to be "enabling all of this in the next version of Android!" Qualcomm modems will likely be first in line to offer support for this, as the Snapdragon manufacturer announced satellite support for its chips during its IFA 2022 keynote.
Bluetooth could learn to measure distances
Bluetooth is a versatile standard that revolutionized how we use wireless accessories like some of the best earbuds. In Android 14, the connectivity protocol might become even more useful. As spotted in the AOSP, Google is working on a new Bluetooth Distance Measurement API that would make it easier to find misplaced accessories. While it's not as accurate as ultra wide-band (UWB), it could tell you if you're moving closer or further away from a given connected Bluetooth device.
It's possible that this API could also power Google's upcoming Watch Unlock mechanism, which would keep your phone unlocked as long as your favorite smartwatch is close by.
The share menu could become independent of system updates
Android 14 might decouple the share menu from the system and turn it into an independently-updated Project Mainline module. This would allow the company to push new versions of the component without a full system update. In the long term, this would mean that changes to the share sheet would arrive on all Android phones running Android 14 and higher. The change might be bitterly needed as the share sheet has become one of Android's weak spots with much room for improvement.
In Android 14 Developer Preview 1, a new, decoupled share sheet is already present, as discovered by Mishaal Rahman. It looks exactly like the one you know right now, and it isn't activated by default just yet, but it's clear that Google is working on it.
Some devices might go 64-bit only
The Google Pixel Tablet is already rumored to offer a 64-bit only build of Android 13, and the same might be the case for many phones and tablets launching with Android 14. Based on documentation in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), devices that come with ARM v9 processor cores will have to go 64-bit only on the upcoming version of Android. With 2021's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 switching to the v9 architecture, we expect all upcoming flagship phones and tablets to become 64-bit only sooner rather than later.
Other changes we may see on Android 14
Some more features were spotted ahead of the Android 14 release:
- Android 14 will likely introduce support for NTFS, the proprietary file format developed by Microsoft. It's used on many external hard drives that are formatted for Windows, and Android could benefit greatly from supporting it.
- The efficient AV1 video codec could become mandatory on Android 14. It allows devices to save bandwidth without losing image and audio quality. The format is used by YouTube in certain circumstances, so having all devices support it in the long term is great news for your data plan.
Our Android 14 wishlist
While we now know which developer-focused changes will come to Android 14, a lot is left in the dark. That's why we compiled a short wishlist of eight things we would love to see in Android 14. We focus on Google's first-party software here, meaning we're looking at how Android looks and behaves on Pixel devices.
A few of these options and features may be part of Android on some manufacturers' devices already, but they may not have made the jump to AOSP or the Pixel software. Since Google makes many features it pioneers available to Android manufacturers, features first coming to Google phones often bring benefits to the whole Android market.
1. Bring back lock screen widgets
Apple revealed its new iPhone lock screen earlier this year at WWDC, and as we found out in our iOS 16 vs. Android 13 comparison, it's awesome. The Cupertino company introduced the option to add widgets to the lock screen, complete with fancy personalization options.
We focus on the former because Android also supported lock screen widgets once upon a time. Up until version 4.4 (KitKat), it was possible to add widgets to the lock screen. You could either replace the clock at the top of the screen or add a widget on its panel. It was just a swipe to the right.
The system has always been gimmicky, though, with only a few useful applications. In any case, Samsung stuck with this functionality and still offers lock screen widgets on its Android skin One UI.
Left: iOS 16 lock screen widgets. Right: Old Android 4.2 lock screen widgets.
While you might wonder why Google would bring back a feature that it gave up on, this isn't the first time Apple breathed new life into an Android feature that was languishing. The same happened when iOS introduced support for widgets, with Google suddenly becoming interested in the concept again. Following Apple's footsteps, Google revamped how widgets worked on Android 12 and introduced redesigned widgets of its apps.
2. Give us stacked widgets
Speaking of widgets, Google may have found a new interest in the concept thanks to Apple. Plus, it may have introduced some needed enhancements to the underlying mechanics. Still, there's more we wish for. Apple introduced the neat concept of stacked widgets, which allows you to add multiple widgets to the same place on your homescreen. To access them all, swipe through them.
We wish Google would implement this on Android, though the matter is a tad more complicated on the platform. Apple widgets aren't scrollable or very interactive, so it's easier to reserve a scroll gesture for a system feature like this.
However, it's frustrating that Google almost created a system like this. Its At a Glance widget gives you information about upcoming events, connected devices, weather alerts, and more. It also lets you scroll horizontally through multiple entries when there is more than one. Google has been spotted working on its version of stacked widgets in Android 12, so there might be hope for Android 14.
3. Bring back dedicated Wi-Fi and mobile network toggles
In Android 12, Google decided it was time to spring clean the quick settings toggles. The company merged the Wi-Fi and mobile data options into a single Internet toggle. The toggle is confusing to use, making simple processes, such as disconnecting and reconnecting to your Wi-Fi network, an ordeal. Many of us do this daily, as internet connections can sometimes be fickle.
Depending on how poor your mobile connection is when you're inside, it's a good idea to turn off the mobile radio to save battery life. This is another thing the Internet toggle makes less intuitive.
4. Make third-party launchers smooth again
Since Google introduced gesture navigation to Android 10, third-party launchers have been left languishing. That's because the default preinstalled launcher ties into the system deeper to provide smooth transitions between the homescreen, the Recents overview, and apps.
Third-party launchers don't have the same privileges as the preinstalled one, leaving you with two choices: Either stick with the one that shipped with your phone and that may lack some features you would like, or deal with inconsistent animations in exchange for more advanced customizability.
The Lawnchair launcher
Ideally, Android 14 would give third-party launchers the option to hook into the system more deeply when they're set as the standard option. It's understandable that Google might be wary due to security concerns. There are also technical challenges to overcome since Android manufacturers have different animations and methods to achieve them. So it's possible that custom launchers would have to be coded for specific phones.
5. Help developers make gesture navigation prettier in apps
Apple's iPhones and iPads are pretty great at making gesture navigation feel natural and like a part deeply embedded in the system and in apps. However, on Android, gesture navigation still clashes with many apps.
Android apps often don't draw content behind the navigation bar, leaving a block around the navigation bar. On iOS, this isn't much of an issue. Most apps draw content in the area behind the navigation bar, and it makes for a more immersive experience.
While iOS developers have a handful of screen sizes and processors to support, Google could offer more help to developers for edge-to-edge navigation. Android app developer Pavlo Rekun told us in an interview that in a worst-case scenario, Android app developers have to adjust every view in their app to make the navigation bar transparent.
It's understandable that large studios with tons of individual pages and views within their apps don't have time for a small cosmetic decision, especially since not all Android users use gesture navigation. However, seeing more consistency and attention to detail on Android would be nice. To do that, Google will have to force developers or make things easier to implement.
While it's possible that Google will not fulfill this wish, it's great to see the company working on an even bigger project: Predictive back gesture navigation, which will show you which page you're about to navigate to when you're using the back gesture.
6. Bring back custom icon shapes and fonts to the Pixel
Android 11 officially added the option to change icon shapes, fonts, and some colors in the notification shade and settings on Pixel phones. This was removed once Android 12 rolled around with its Material You themes based on your wallpaper.
It makes sense to strip some options as they clash with this wallpaper-based theming. Still, while it was at it, Google went above and beyond to strip away all customization options, particularly icon shapes and fonts.
With Material You maturing and becoming more flexible and customizable (Android 13 added more color extraction combos), it would make sense for Google to reintroduce some of the customization options it removed in preparation for Material You. After all, it's not clear how different icon shapes and fonts would clash with Material You's colorful themes.
7. Add proper privacy controls for apps
Apple introduced privacy controls to iOS 14.5, which forces apps to ask users for approval to track them across other apps to create more accurate advertising models. Most people decline a request like this when asked from the get-go. Thus, advertising companies lost access to the data they previously relied on.
As much as we would love a feature like this on Android, it's unlikely that Google will add something as powerful as Apple, and Google has made as much clear already. The company is currently working on the Privacy Sandbox, which promises to offer the best of both worlds for users and advertisers. The system is supposed to allow for personalized ads that utilize a new system feature rather than doing the tracking by themselves.
Google is an advertising company at its core, so a drastic solution like Apple's would conflict with its interests. And even if it introduced an advanced option like this, competitors could quickly point out that Google is creating an unfair advantage for itself on its platform, leading to all sorts of legal issues. Still, one can dream, and we would love to have serious privacy controls on the platform.
8. Give us some Dynamic Island eye candy
Apple surprised everyone when it released its Dynamic Island for the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max. In contrast to Android manufacturers who make punch-hole selfie cameras as unobtrusive and hidden as possible (with some implementing stealthy under-display cameras, like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and its predecessor), Apple fully embraced its pill-shaped display cutout.
It dynamically expands and shrinks to display background activities like timers, audio playback or recordings, fitness tracking, and more. Once third-party developers are allowed to hook into the system, the possibilities are endless.
A design mockup of what Google could do with notifications
Google could go two ways to counter Apple. The company could turn notification card backgrounds all black and make them feel like a part of the punch-hole camera on Pixel phones. Or, it might advance display and camera technologies and push the industry to under-display cameras.
Given that it will likely take some time for these under-display cameras to produce pretty images, Google would probably opt for something more Dynamic Island-like.
Android 13 and Android 12 before it hides the camera cutout in some circumstances
Google offers something like Dynamic Island with Android 12 and then 13, albeit not as elaborate. When you pull down the notification shade, the top part with the quick toggle settings retains a black background, regardless of whether you're using a dark theme. This does its part to hide the camera cutout at the top. Google only has to think this concept a little further to make the camera cutout less visible and more a part of the interface.
Get the Android 14 Beta right now
Android 14 is available for download for everyone. You can simply opt into beta testing via the Android Beta Program, and you'll get a normal system update like you know from normal Android releases. Of course, you can still learn how to manually install the Android 14 Beta on your Pixel phone, if that's your jam.
Keep in mind that the software isn't as stable as a finalized release, so you should only install it when you have a spare phone or when you're okay with not being able to use your phone due to bugs.