The world’s most popular mobile operating system has another version upgrade in the works—Android 14—which promises enhancements to privacy, security, and performance. Google, the company that manages the OS, has also made it a point to improve the experience for larger screens, like tablets and folding smartphones. Android 14 is still in beta, but the final version will likely land on your phone at the end of the summer. Here, we break down the features that have caught our eye, and we’ll add more as the company shares additional features over the coming months.
If you’re wondering, Google officially dropped the alphabetical Android dessert names with Android 10, but the versions are still codenamed internally with the same system. Last year’s Android 13 was Tiramisu, so this year’s “U” letter dessert is called Upside Down Cake. Let’s dig in.
Updated April 13, 2023: The first Android 14 beta is here, and we’ve added details.
How to Download and Install Android 14
After launching two developer previews of Android 14, Google has released the first official beta version. The previews were aimed at developers, but the Android 14 beta is for Google Pixel owners who want to test-drive the latest features. We don’t recommend installing the Android 14 beta on your main phone, because bugs and issues are inevitable.
If you are determined to try it, you will need to have a Google Pixel smartphone (Pixel 4A 5G or later) and you must enroll in the Android Beta for Pixel program. If you visit that link and are signed in to your Google account, your eligible devices will be listed and you can simply click Opt in. Make sure to back up your Android phone first. There will be regular beta releases that should be reasonably stable, but be aware that you will have to wipe your phone if you want to opt out of the program and return to the latest stable public Android version.
Top Android 14 Features
We are highlighting our favorite features and improvements so far, but there is speculation about what will make the final cut. You can learn more at Google’s developer site. From what we’ve seen, Android 14 is largely looking like a small upgrade over its predecessor, with no major advancements.
Improved Battery Life
There is no headline feature here, but Google has put some serious effort into improving Android’s efficiency to reduce power drain. Changes to how the operating system handles background tasks, downloads, and uploads, alongside a few other tweaks, should enable Android owners to squeeze a little more life from their phone batteries. It also looks as though the option to check “screen time since last full charge” in the battery settings menu (removed in Android 12) is back.
Larger Fonts and Smarter Scaling
Switching to a larger font in Android 13 was limited to 130 percent on Google’s Pixel phones, but Android 14 allows you to scale fonts up to 200 percent. To prevent wonky layouts, the system uses nonlinear scaling, which means any words that are already scaled up (such as headings) won’t grow larger, making the text more readable for folks with vision impairment.
Android 14 enables you to turn on camera flashes and screen flashes for incoming notifications. This has been available on other Android smartphones (like Samsung devices) and iPhones for years, but it hasn’t been baked into the operating system itself. You can turn on one or the other, or both, and choose the color your display will flash. Primarily designed to help people with hearing loss, it can come in handy for anyone who doesn’t want their phone to make a noise or buzz with every incoming notification.
Better Support for Large Screens
The first thing Google announced in the initial developer preview was help for developers trying to build apps that adapt gracefully to different screen sizes. With more tools and design advice available for developers, we can expect apps that work well across smartphones, folding phones, and tablets. This would mirror what Apple has done to make its app ecosystem transition seamlessly from iPhone to iPad to MacBook.
Restricting Photo and Video Access
If you are uncomfortable with the all-or-nothing nature of granting an app access to your photos and videos, you will be pleased to learn that Android 14 adds an option to select the specific photos and videos it is allowed to access. Apple introduced a similar feature in iOS 14.
Since malware tends to target older versions of Android to avoid security enhancements in newer versions, Android 14 won’t let you install older apps from Android 5.1 and earlier. There are a few other behind-the-scenes tweaks to improve security, but perhaps most notable is improved support for authentication with passkeys enabling biometric login instead of using passwords for more apps.
Whether you prefer the temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit, Monday or Sunday as the start of your week, or specific calendars or numerals, you can set these systemwide in Android 14 and they will persist through backup and restore. There is also improved support for gendered languages like French, and better language customization based on region.
There has been some buzz about satellite connectivity for phones for a while now, especially since Apple debuted Emergency SOS via Satellite with the iPhone 14 last year. Support for such connectivity in Android 14 was confirmed by this tweet from Google’s senior vice president for Android, Hiroshi Lockheimer. Precisely what this will mean is still unclear, but it could bring better connectivity to remote areas that currently lack cell service.
Predictive Back Gestures
Google has added a prominent back arrow that matches your wallpaper or theme for clearer gesture navigation. Coupled with predictive back gestures, which afford you a glimpse of the screen that a swipe-back gesture will take you to, it should be easier for folks to understand how to navigate and where they will land. It is not currently obvious where a back swipe will take you in Android; sometimes it is the home screen, sometimes a previous screen, or an app.
Folks with two accounts in the same app will appreciate this one. A second instance of an app enables you to use two accounts simultaneously. Some smartphone manufacturers offer ways to do this with select apps, and there are workarounds, but an official Android option in the settings menu will likely work better. This is something Google is only testing right now, and it may not make the final Android 14 release.
You might use one app for your smart scales, another for running, and yet another to track your sleep. Google’s Health Connect app offers a way to centralize your health and fitness data and share it across different apps and services, though it is still in beta. There’s speculation that the app may come preinstalled on all Android 14 devices.
Improved Share Options
The share menu in Android has long been inconsistent across different Android devices and apps. Google is now allowing apps to add custom actions to system sharesheets, and more app data is being used to determine the ranking of your potential share targets. This should allow for a more consistent and useful sharing menu that features the apps and contacts you actually want to share with.
The Android 14 Timeline
Android 14 is currently in beta. We’ll likely hear a great deal more about new features during Google I/O, the company’s developer conference that takes place on May 10. Expect several months of beta releases until Google unveils the final version in late August or early September. Google Pixel phones are usually the first to get the update; you’ll have to check your device’s software policy to see whether and when you’ll get it.