Android 14: First developer preview for Pixel smartphones released

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The first developer preview of Android 14 can now be tested by developers and users on Pixel smartphones from Pixel 4a (5G). Six releases are planned before the final release in the summer. Google promises improvements in performance, privacy, security and customization.

Pixel 4 is no longer supported

Android 14 can be tried out on the Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 7, Pixel 6a, Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 6, Pixel 5a 5G, Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a (5G) by flashing the appropriate factory images. After the Pixel 4, Pixel 4 XL and Pixel 4a were supplied with Android 13 last year, these smartphones will fall through the cracks with the next version. Pure 64-bit images of the operating system, which can be found on the same page, can also be tried out via the Android emulator in Android Studio. These images are also available for the Pixel 4a (5G), Pixel 5, Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, but not yet for the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 6a and Pixel 5a 5G.

Normal users better wait for the beta

The first developer preview requires manual flashing with the associated loss of data and thus a previous backup. You can revert to a public build at any time, but without a backup, you will lose data. The installation of Android 14 should only be associated with less risk with the public beta program that Google has scheduled for April, after a second developer preview is to follow in March. Four beta releases of Android 14 and thus a total of six pre-releases are planned until the operating system is finally completed and distributed in late summer. An overview page for developers provides all information about Android 14.

Timeline for Android 14 (Image: Google)

Further optimizations for tablets and new form-factors

On the developer blog, Google goes into a number of changes in Android 14. In the post, the company explains, among other things, that Android 14 builds on the customizations in Android 12L and Android 13 specifically for tablets and devices with new form factors. For example, in Jetpack Compose there are new window width classes, an adaptive sliding-pane layout for lists depending on device format, activity embedding to optimize apps for larger screens with comparatively little effort, and the BoxWithConstraints function to contain content automatically adjust to the available space. Google's article also links several times to help with the development of apps for tablets and foldable devices, and there are also examples of the design and layout of such apps.

Google wants to save battery

The first developer preview of Android 14 is reluctant to make changes that are directly visible to the user, instead there are primarily adjustments for developers. By changing existing APIs, Google wants to achieve a stricter division into foreground and background activities in order to conserve the hardware resources of the end device and extend battery life. An app for Android 14 must now explicitly specify one of the foreground services defined by Google. A new API is used specifically for data transmission in the background, which must be explicitly initialized by the user.

The internal broadcast system has also been modified so that apps in the cached state only receive the broadcast when they leave this state again. The corresponding broadcasts can be queued until this condition occurs. Certain recurring broadcasts, such as about the battery, can also be combined into a final broadcast and only transmitted in one go when the app is ready. With these measures, Google wants to improve the responsiveness of the operating system and the battery life. The request for the use of exact alarms via a special release from the user should also have a positive influence on the battery. Apps such as clocks and calendars are excluded from this, for all other apps that use or carry out timed events, Google recommends more flexible alternatives.

Font size with scaling to 200 percent

With the adjustments to the operating system that can be carried out by the user, fonts in Android 14 are revised to an optional scaling of up to 200 percent, after the maximum was previously 130 percent. To avoid situations in which text is too large to be displayed, Android 14 uses non-linear scaling, which already takes very large fonts into account and does not enlarge them to the same extent as small text in other areas. Developers should review their apps to see how they behave when the font size is maximized.

New option for font sizes with 200 percent (Image: Google)

Developers can also define their own selection of languages ​​for their apps in Android 14 from the list of all languages ​​available under Android in the settings. For example, the developer should be able to create lists defined for the region of the smartphone or carry out A/B tests. The new Grammatical Inflection API in Android 14 aims to make it easier for developers to reach users of languages ​​with grammatical genders such as French with masculine, feminine and neuter spellings.

Android 14 blocks installation of ancient apps

In the run-up to today's release, it had already been expected that Google would probably simply block the installation of certain apps in the next Android version for the sake of security. To prevent malware and other malicious programs, applications designed for an SDK version lower than 23 (Android 6.0) will no longer be able to be installed on Android 14. Malware is often deliberately designed for older API levels to bypass security measures in newer versions of Android. However, devices that have been updated to Android 14 will retain corresponding apps that were previously installed. In many ways, this is a homegrown problem, as new Android features are often optional rather than mandatory.

Many of the aforementioned innovations for Android 14 are also just beginning to take hold then if the developer adapts them specifically for Android 13+ (SDK 33+). Google deliberately designed most of the app-related changes in Android 14 as an opt-in to enable smooth and fast updates to the new operating system.