The world’s most popular mobile operating system has another new 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 development and is currently only available as a developer preview, but the final version will likely land on your phone in the fall. Here, we break down the features that have caught our eye so far, and we’ll be adding more as the company shares additional new 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.
How to Download and Install Android 14
Google has launched two developer previews of Android 14 so far. These previews enable developers to test the forthcoming version of the mobile operating system, learn about any new features, and prepare their apps or games to work with it properly. We don’t recommend installing Android 14 yet because it is still buggy and unstable and you have to jump through a few hoops. It won’t be long before Google releases the official beta, and we recommend waiting for that instead.
If you are determined to try the preview, you will need to have a Google Pixel smartphone (Pixel 4A 5G or later) and will have to unlock the bootloader, which will wipe it, erasing everything. If you have a spare phone you want to try that with, here are the official Android Developers’ instructions. Make sure to back up your Android phone first.
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 the efficiency of Android 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 not officially announced this, but the latest developer preview includes predictive back gestures, which afford you a glimpse of the screen a swipe-back gesture will take you to. 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. This will hopefully clear things up.
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. Android 14 doesn’t guarantee an improvement, but there’s a chance Google may standardize and improve on the current mix of share sheets that pop up when you try to share anything. It’s on our wish list.
The Android 14 Timeline
Android 14 is currently in developer preview. 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 an official beta to land soon after (if not the same day) and months of beta releases until Google unveils the final version in late August or early September. Pixel phones are usually first to get the update; you’ll have to check your device’s software policy to see whether and when you’ll get it.