16 ways that Android 14 will subtly improve your phone

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It’s been in beta — but at Google I/O 2023, we’re learning what Android 14 is all about.

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It wouldn’t be Google I/O if the company didn’t have a new version of its smartphone and tablet operating system waiting in the wings — and while Android 14 got totally upstaged by AI and the company’s first folding phone, we’ve since learned more from the company’s developer sessions.

Don’t get too excited: these changes are subtle! But here are a few ways Google’s “Upside Down Cake” might make your life slightly sweeter when it arrives this fall.

Every Android version has a dessert codename — Android 14’s is “Upside Down Cake,” and Android 13’s was “Tiramisu.” The codenames were public until 2019.

Every Android version has a dessert codename — Android 14’s is “Upside Down Cake,” and Android 13’s was “Tiramisu.” The codenames were public until 2019.

Passkeys are already here — but not evenly distributed. In Android 14, third-party apps will be able to use your Android phone and your fingerprint alone to sign you up and let you in.

There’s a new Credential Manager in Android 14 to walk you through those steps, and it can save multiple passkeys and passwords per app:

Realistically, it’ll take a while for apps to adopt passkeys, but many password managers and sign-on services will add them more quickly. Google says 1Password, Dashlane, Keeper, and Okta “will be available when Android 14 launches.”

Ever had a perfectly good app turn around and sell your data to advertisers, data brokers, or worse? You might have never known — but in Android 14, your phone will send you a monthly notification warning you when apps have changed their data-sharing practices. Assuming Google finds out, anyhow.

It’s part of a new data safety initiative, and you can see what it might look like in the images below:

Also, you’ll get a specific warning when apps ask you for permission to share your location: a button labeled “this app stated it may share location data with third parties” that you can tap for more information.

Google has decided that full-screen, “extremely high-priority” notifications are probably not something that just any rando developer should be able to do. Starting with Android 14, they’re just for incoming calls and alarms. Good!

If you’re the kind of person who goes seriously head down, this might get your attention — you’ll be able to flash your phone’s camera flash or your entire screen when you get an incoming notification.

Android 14 will also warn you when you’ve been listening to loud music for a long time with a nice big notification.

“Material You” isn’t going away in Android 14 — customization is here to stay:

Google’s also got some AI-generated wallpaper coming to Pixels ahead of Android 14.

The Spotify app shows a little sliding preview of its previous podcast screen when you swipe back from an individual audio playback page.

The Spotify app shows a little sliding preview of its previous podcast screen when you swipe back from an individual audio playback page.

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Predictive Back was actually an Android 13 feature, but Android 14 amps it up with animations. Basically, you can see what you’ll get when you swipe to go back a page, before you actually finish swiping.

Above (or on the left, if you’re on a desktop monitor) you can see what it looks like in Spotify — a little sliding preview of the previous screen when you swipe back from an audio playback page.

You might have heard Google launched a new Health Connect app to replace Google Fit — letting your health apps share data with your phone and vice versa — and that it might even come preinstalled on phones. The reality: Android 14 makes it an integrated part of the entire platform.

“Starting with Android 14, Health Connect is part of the platform and receives updates via Google Play system updates without requiring a separate download,” writes Google. Hey, app developers: the company is only promising to maintain the legacy Google Fit APIs through 2024.

Hearing devices won’t just be another dumb Bluetooth bud in Android 14 — you can pick which sounds should go to your phone’s speaker and which should go to the listening device and swipe from your homescreen for dedicated controls.

With Android 14, Google is recognizing there are long-running foreground processes that should get special treatment — like media playback, audio recording, and navigation. As part of that, it’s built a new API for backing things up to (and from) your phone.

Google says if a user starts a data transfer with this API, it should keep running until it succeeds, rescheduling and automatically pausing if you lose your connection, and resuming when that connection is restored.

Two hundred percent font scaling, but non-linear so things don’t look ridiculous. Hooray for accessibility!

Celsius or Fahrenheit? Do your weeks begin on Monday or Sunday or perhaps even Thursday? What set of numbers do you use? Is your country’s language gendered? Android 14 will let you set the first three preferences and provide a Grammatical Inflection API so translated / localized apps can address people without potentially insulting them.

You could maybe already do this — but when you did, Android had to hand over audio control to your USB headphones and lost the ability to ring and alarm you properly. In Android 14, there are standard APIs for lossless and high-res playback without all the hurdles.

I don’t have a lot of detail but I overheard this during one developer session: “Android 14 adds automatic layout configuration for keyboards, improved touchpad gesture detection, advanced stylus motion prediction, and more.” Mishaal Rahman at XDA Developers spotted some of this in a beta, too.

When you’re snapping HDR photos on your Pixel or Samsung, you might be doing so in a format that’s tough for older phones to load properly.

Click for the full-res image so you can actually read it.

Click for the full-res image so you can actually read it.

Android 14 adds a new kind of JPEG image that’s actually two pictures in a single file: a normal SDR picture that can play on traditional screens and a “gain map” that captures the extreme brightness that only HDR displays can let you enjoy. Plus, metadata to combine them.

Your grandpa’s old phone just reads it as a normal JPEG, but newer devices with nice bright screens get the full 10-bit HDR image. I don’t get why Google and Qualcomm are marketing this as “Ultra HDR,” but it sounds like a good addition!

The ML Kit document scanner.

The ML Kit document scanner.

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With In-sensor zoom, Google will let camera apps “leverage advanced sensor capabilities to give a cropped RAW stream the same pixels as the full field of view.”

With Camera Extensions, Google will let apps “handle longer processing times, enabling improved images using compute-intensive algorithms like low-light photography on supported devices.” Night Sight in Instagram?

With a Document Scanner API for ML Kit, coming in Q4, apps should be able to scan physical receipts and other text documents into digital ones.

While those are all the notable features I saw confirmed during Google I/O, there are also more than a few intriguing additions to Android spotted in betas or other code. Here are a few you might see in the final release:

August or September, probably. That’s what this Google image below suggests anyhow.

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