Monday, May 20, 2024
Smart Phones

Android 14 Preview: So far, so good

Android 14, the latest chapter in Google’s long-standing line of software updates, is technically not out yet. While we expected it to arrive in late August or early September, like previous versions of Android, Google delayed the software, and it’s now logical to expect that it will be launched alongside the Google Pixel 8 series on october 4. 

However, despite it’s unofficial status, Android 14 hasn’t been exactly a secret. In fact, adventurous Android users––and especially those with Pixel phones––have been able to download and enjoy the latest piece of software for nearly half a year now. Available as a beta for a handful of devices, Android 14 has been technically out for those who don’t mind some bugs and imperfections here and there (par for the course with Pixel users, to be honest).  
So, Android 14 is out there already, with most of the new features and functionalities available in the beta version. Chances are slim that Google would drop a surprisingly awesome and totally great new feature in the last moment, so for all intents and purposes, we might consider the latest flavor of the software as largely complete. Sure, there are some features that Android might still borrow from iOS (and vice versa), but these will likely take their sweet time, if ever. 

This preliminary preview is indeed based on the beta version of the software and will be promptly updated once Android 14 goes officially official. 

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Android 14: The new features at a glance

Android 14 isn’t that loaded with new features, and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that every 9 out of 10 new features are mostly under-the-hood ones that app developers will be able to benefit from. Here’s an official list of what’s coming with Google’s latest Android flavor:

  • Lock screen customization – Color, type, and size customization for the lock screen;
  • Improved home screen customization – Better theming for the built-in Android customization;
  • Improved accessibility – Non-linear font scaling, gendered grammatical inflection API, per-app language preferences, regional preferences, custom sharing actions for apps; 
  • HDR video capture – The Camera2 API now supports the capture of stunning HDR video;
  • Custom back gesture with animations – Android 14 has a predictive back gesture that will show you where you’ll end up;
  • Better third-party app stores – Android embraces custom app stores by providing an API that allows these to provide a better user experience;
  • Privacy-preserving screenshot detection API – Android 14 will detect when the user takes a screenshot. 

Android 14: Personal impressions

While Android 14 is an incremental yearly software update, it does have a few notable new features that I loved. 

Chief among those is the much richer lock screen customization, which was surely an answer to iOS 16’s lock screen customization that was also fine-tuned with iOS 17, which recently landed to hundreds of millions of iPhones. Customizing an Android lock screen comes off as a natural functionality of the operating system, and it’s actually kind of awkward to realize that this feature hasn’t been introduced earlier with stock Android. 

There are a few available clock styles, as well as around a dozen color options, and while not endless, the customization options are more than enough in terms of quality and quantity to satisfy even the most addicted users. 

Another major improvement that comes with Android 14 (and will likely end up in a future version of iOS) is the ability to customize the left and right lock screen shortcuts. Finally! No longer are you constrained by the undoubtedly useful flashlight and camera shortcuts! Currently available are shortcuts for flashlight, camera, device controls, Do Not Disturb, Mute, QR code scanner, video recording, and Wallet. Custom shortcuts are unsupported as of now, I’d have loved a bit more flexibility in terms of what you can set. 

Another thing that definitely made an impression was the much better battery life I got out on the Pixel 6 Pro, which for all intents and purposes is still a great value ex-flagship you might consider even in late 2023.
I used the Pixel 6 Pro for about two or three weeks back in the fall of 2021, and the battery life back then was mostly okay, but definitely not something I remember as being awe-inspiring. That was a dark age for Pixels, with tons of quality control issues and bugs plaguing many early-adopters of the softly rebooted Pixel 6 series. I, too, assumed that the specific combination between the custom Google Tensor chip and Android 12 simply couldn’t deliver outstanding battery life with actual, real-life usage.
Turns out it was mostly Android 12’s problem. With Android 14, the Pixel 6 Pro turns into a long-lasting and reliable everyday companion that routinely surprised me with its longevity. The Pixel 6 Pro served me surprisingly well during a short weekend trip in the backcountry; it didn’t fail on me despite the lacking cellular signal and the intensive device use. I wouldn’t pinpoint the noticeable battery life increase to the Android 14 beta, but it most likely helped curtail some of the more taxing processes. 

Android 14: Have we hit a feature plateau?

Ah, the age-old question that raises from the dead around the release of a new Android or iOS version. And there’s always reasons to consider that, why, yes, we’ve actually hit a plateau and are never getting any exciting new features. Don’t fret, that’s not the case. Then again, there are likely tons upon tons of features and functionalities envisioned for the future of Android––and iOS, for that matter, the latter even more so. 

While Android 13 and Android 14 both go lighter on the amount of major redesigns and new features, we shouldn’t forget that the previous version, Android 12, was the one that introduced the major “Material You” redesign. 

It’s logical to assume that the next couple of updates will iron out the kinks and fix all the shortcomings and bugs introduced by this redesign, so it’s natural for Android 13 and Android 14 to be a bit less exciting in comparison. 

Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. 


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