The latest iteration of Android, Android 14, has begun its rollout, starting with the Pixel 4a 5G and onwards, commencing today. This update heralds a new era of customization, mastery, and accessibility features. For those who haven’t had the chance to experience the beta version, Google’s official blog post provides a glimpse of the highlights. However, I’ve taken the liberty of expanding upon their insights, infusing my own perspective into the mix.
What’s new in Android 14?
Google reveals that several of the grand-scale features originally earmarked for Android 14 have been made available as updates to Android 13. Notably, this includes the introduction of the new transient taskbar and enhanced letterboxing support. The reason behind this adjustment lies in the fact that the Pixel Tablet and Pixel Fold were launched with Android 13 QPR3, necessitating the readiness of these features for their debut.
Turning our attention to the Pixel Fold, an exciting development is on the horizon: Google Translate is set to introduce a Dual Screen Interpreter Mode. This innovative feature will display your words on one screen and the translated version on the other, providing a seamless communication experience.
Android 14’s overhaul of the wallpaper and style app brings forth a refreshing UI redesign. Users can now customize lock screen shortcuts and choose from a plethora of new lock screen clock styles. An intriguing addition is the introduction of a monochromatic theme, lending a grayscale aesthetic to apps that support Material You.
For owners of Pixel 8 devices running Android 14, Google’s generative AI wallpaper app opens up new creative avenues. Employing AI-generated text-to-image diffusion models, this app allows users to craft entirely original wallpapers. Simply select from preset themes and color palettes, and watch as it generates multiple versions of the wallpaper.
One notable enhancement in Android 14 is the support for Ultra HDR, which embeds HDR gainmap metadata into JPEGs, enabling their display on both SDR and HDR screens. Google Photos is gearing up to support the viewing of Ultra HDR images, although the timeline for Google Camera’s capture capabilities remains uncertain.
Health Connect now finds its home within Android 14 as an integral component of the Project Mainline module. While the Play Store version of this app was preinstalled on Pixel devices, Android 14 ensures a seamless migration of Health Connect data to the system version.
A noteworthy addition to Android 14 is the “data sharing updates” feature. It empowers users to stay informed when an app requesting location access intends to share their location data with third parties. Android will convey this crucial information directly within the permission dialog, sourcing it from the app’s data safety section on Google Play.
In a bid to enhance user convenience, Android 14 introduces the option to auto-confirm a correct PIN, provided it consists of six digits or more. This means that after entering the correct PIN, users will no longer need to press the ‘enter’ button to unlock their device. Furthermore, enhanced PIN privacy can be enabled to conceal the numbers while entering the PIN.
The magnifier function in Android 14 has undergone improvements, now allowing users to pinch to zoom in and out from 100%. Customization options are available in a new Magnifier Settings panel, enabling users to adjust the magnifier’s size and maintain its visibility when switching between apps.
Introducing the new font size tile, Android 14 facilitates quick adjustments to text size. What sets it apart is its support for nonlinear font scaling of up to 200%, ensuring that text remains legible without encountering issues such as cutoffs, text wrapping, or page layout disruptions.
Android 14 caters to those with hearing impairments by providing a dedicated hearing-aid setup flow within the Accessibility settings. Users can effortlessly route audio to different outputs and access hearing aids controls through a convenient shortcut.
A novel addition to Android 14 is the “flash notifications” feature, enabling users to receive visual alerts in the form of light flashes from their phone’s LED flash when notifications arrive.
While today’s release technically falls under the category of a Pixel Feature Drop, it’s worth noting that the original plan was for it to debut last month. In fact, the draft blog post for the “Android 14 is live in AOSP” article initially contained a link to another blog post with the URL: feature-drop-september-2023.
Looking ahead, the next Pixel Feature Drop is slated for December, unless Google opts for a strict quarterly schedule, in which case it would arrive in January 2024. Regardless, it promises a host of exciting features for Pixel users.
Features of Android 14
Now, let’s delve into some of the lesser-known features of Android 14 that Google chose not to highlight in their blog post:
- As I reported in February, there exists a concealed app cloning feature, though it remains inactive for users.
- Android 14 introduces a division of the ring and notification volume slider into distinct “ring volume” and “notification volume” controls.
- Enhanced physical keyboard support is a notable inclusion, featuring modifier key remapping, touchpad gestures, new keyboard shortcuts, and a myriad of other refinements.
- Android 14 introduces a developer option that mandates transparent navigation bars for apps. In the forthcoming release, Google plans to enforce this transparency for apps targeting Android 15.
- A future update of Android 14 aims to deliver location-based suggestions for loyalty cards, likely within an upcoming QPR release.
- Users will soon have the ability to “pin” the taskbar, reverting to the familiar persistent taskbar.
- Android 14 incorporates a “headphone loud sound alert” feature, which notifies users when they have been listening to music at high volumes over a wired headset. A similar feature will be available for the Pixel Buds Pro.
- Improved stylus support is on the horizon, accompanied by a new notetaking shortcut.
- Screenshots taken of work profile apps will now be stored within the work profile, rather than the personal profile.
- Android 14 introduces new battery health APIs, allowing users to access information such as the battery’s cycle count, estimated percentage of original capacity, and date of manufacture. Android 14 QPR1 provides visibility into cycle count and manufacture date within the settings, although individual experiences may vary.
Furthermore, the battery usage page has undergone refinements, now displaying screen time since the last full charge beneath the battery graph. Android 14 is also preparing to introduce the ability to capture partial screen recordings that exclude UI elements such as the status bar, notifications, and navigation bar during screen recording.
For non-Pixel users, Android 14 extends support for third-party apps to embed custom activities within their Device Controls interface. An example of this is the Google Home app’s new “home panel” feature, which now seamlessly functions on Samsung devices running One UI 6.
In conclusion, Android 14 is a testament to the relentless innovation and commitment to user-centric enhancements. Its diverse array of features, from UI revamps to accessibility improvements, ensures a tailored experience for users across the spectrum. As we await the next Pixel Feature Drop, brimming with promises of even more exciting features, Android enthusiasts have much to look forward to in the ever-evolving Android ecosystem.”