The First Android 14 Preview Has Plenty of Room to Grow

The Android 14 logo on a Pixel 7 Pro smartphone

Available today, the first Android 14 Developer Preview shows that Google is still focusing on foldable support, app security, and power efficiency. But this Preview doesn’t introduce too many new features—it appears that Google is holding things back in anticipation of the I/O 2023 conference.

From a user’s standpoint, there are three important announcements here. The first is Google’s development timeline for Android 14; this OS upgrade will launch in August, though Beta Releases roll out in April. (Unlike Developer Previews, Beta Releases are geared toward a more general audience.)

The second big announcement is a new 200% font size option. This accessibility improvement is enabled by two things—larger smartphone screens and a new “non-linear font scaling curve,” which prevents text from being magnified if it’s already big.

And finally, Android 14 blocks the installation of apps that use a targetSdkVersion of 22 or lower. That’s a very fancy way of saying that apps cannot pretend they’re from 2014. It’s not uncommon for malware to utilize a low targetSdkVersion, as this can help apps skirt around modern security and permissions models.

The rest of this Preview is very developer-focused. For example, Google is adjusting its Foreground Services and JobScheduler APIs to improve large file downloads over Wi-Fi. This change should also reduce the impact of low-priority tasks, improving battery life and responsiveness.

Similarly, Android 14 forces new apps to request EXACT_ALARM permissions if they want to set precise, time-based tasks or events (which require a decent amount of computational resources). Clocks and calendars don’t need to ask for this permission, understandably.

And Google is continuing to press developers toward large-screen device support. The company has updated its developer materials for large-screen and foldable app development, and it’s encouraging developers to use the new Cross-Device SDK preview when building new apps.

This is a pretty boring preview. But Google will spend the next few months revealing new Android 14 features. Also, there are always a few secrets hiding in these Developer Previews, so we should learn some exciting stuff in a week or two.

If you want to test Android 14, we suggest waiting for the Beta Release, which arrives in April and should provide a smoother experience than the Developer Preview. Those who insist on testing this Preview need a Pixel phone and the know-how to flash a system image.

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