You no longer have to be a developer to see the benefit of an Android 14 preview. Google has released the first Android 14 beta, and there are a few slight but meaningful improvements for early adopters. Apps can now add custom actions and shortcuts to Android’s share sheets. In other words, cross-app functionality should be considerably more powerful once enough software takes advantage of the feature.
You’ll also see a “more prominent” back arrow in the gesture-based navigation interface. The arrow also complements your device theme or wallpaper. It’s a minor touch, but it theoretically helps users understand how gestures work.
Additional upgrades are behind the scenes. Apps can now limit accessibility services’ ability to see sensitive data. This prevents malicious services from peeking at information, and reduces the chances of performing critical actions by mistake. Android 14 Beta 1 also supports new vector-based visual effects in apps, such as interpolation and morphing.
Earlier Android 14 previews improved accessibility, battery life and security. There’s also stronger support for foldable phones and tablets as well as regional personalization on a per-app basis.
You’ll still need either Android Studio’s emulator or a recent-enough Pixel device (the Pixel 4a and newer) to try the Android 14 beta. It’s easier to install, however, as you now just have to enroll your Pixel in the Android Beta Program to download this and future updates. We still wouldn’t use the beta on a mission-critical phone, but it’s now reliable enough that you might want to try it on a secondary handset where glitches are tolerable.
Google may not have revealed everything there is to know about Android 14. It typically waits until its I/O conference in the spring to share the major feature sets for upcoming Android launches, and you won’t see the first release candidates until June. The completed OS is likely to arrive late in the summer. Think of this as Google slowly drawing a curtain open — it’s not quite ready for the full reveal.
Author: Jon Fingas