Android 14 Review: So far, so good
Android 14, the latest chapter in Google's long-standing line of software updates, is technically not out yet. While we expected it to arrive in late August or early September, like previous versions of Android, Google delayed the software, and it's now logical to expect that it will be launched alongside the Google Pixel 8 series on October 4.
However, despite it's unofficial status, Android 14 hasn't been exactly a secret. In fact, adventurous Android users––and especially those with Pixel phones––have been able to download and enjoy the latest piece of software for nearly half a year now.
Available as a beta for a handful of devices, Android 14 has been technically out for those who don't mind some bugs and imperfections here and there (par for the course with Pixel users, to be honest).
Android 14 is already live, available to all eligible Pixels and coming to a flagship near you in the coming months.So,
- Android 13 review: The Boring Update
- Android 12 review: Sweet Material You
- iOS 17: All you need to know
Android 14: FAQ
Which phones are going to be updated to Android 14?
Android 14 will eventually arrive to most devices in circulation right now, though it will take manufacturers some time before they can update their respective custom skins up to speed to Android 14. Historically, it has taken most Android makers between several weeks to a couple of months to update their latest flagship phones to the latest Android flavor, so sit tight and wait for the respective update to arrive.
What's more, Android 14 is surely positioning itself as the default Android version to expect from any new phone releases from now on. Be it a Samsung, OnePlus, or any other manufacturer's flagship from now on, expect Android 14 out of the box.
How does Android 14 differ from Android 13?
There aren't that many exclusive new features on Android 14 in comparison with Android 13. Aside from the customizable new lock screen, the rest of the changes are mostly under-the-hood ones that aim to improve the overall experience.
What are the standout features of Android 14?
Android 14 isn't that loaded with new features, and it wouldn't be wrong to say that every 9 out of 10 new features are mostly under-the-hood ones that app developers will be able to benefit from. Here's an official list of what's coming with Google's latest Android flavor:
- Lock screen customization - Color, type, and size customization for the lock screen;
- Improved home screen customization - Better theming for the built-in Android customization;
- Improved accessibility - Non-linear font scaling, gendered grammatical inflection API, per-app language preferences, regional preferences, custom sharing actions for apps;
- HDR video capture - The Camera2 API now supports the capture of stunning HDR video;
- Custom back gesture with animations - Android 14 has a predictive back gesture that will show you where you'll end up;
- Better third-party app stores - Android embraces custom app stores by providing an API that allows these to provide a better user experience;
- Privacy-preserving screenshot detection API - Android 14 will detect when the user takes a screenshot.
Are there any known issues or bugs with the Android 14?
I've been using Android 14 on and off for a couple of months now, and aside from some occasional stutters and bugs, the beta has been surprisingly usable for me, even as a daily driver. Sure, there have been noticeable bugs and whatnot, but we are talking about a beta here, so par for the course.
Android 14: Personal impressions
While Android 14 is an incremental yearly software update, it does have a few notable new features that I loved.
Chief among those is the much richer lock screen customization, which was surely an answer to iOS 16's lock screen customization that was also fine-tuned with iOS 17, which recently landed to hundreds of millions of iPhones. Customizing an Android lock screen comes off as a natural functionality of the operating system, and it's actually kind of awkward to realize that this feature hasn't been introduced earlier with stock Android.
There are a few available clock styles, as well as around a dozen color options, and while not endless, the customization options are more than enough in terms of quality and quantity to satisfy even the most addicted users.
Another major improvement that comes with Android 14 (and will likely end up in a future version of iOS) is the ability to customize the left and right lock screen shortcuts. Finally! No longer are you constrained by the undoubtedly useful flashlight and camera shortcuts! Currently available are shortcuts for flashlight, camera, device controls, Do Not Disturb, Mute, QR code scanner, video recording, and Wallet. Custom shortcuts are unsupported as of now, I'd have loved a bit more flexibility in terms of what you can set.
Another thing that definitely made an impression was the much better battery life I got out on the Pixel 6 Pro, which for all intents and purposes is still a great value ex-flagship you might consider even in late 2023.
I used the Pixel 6 Pro for about two or three weeks back in the fall of 2021, and the battery life back then was mostly okay, but definitely not something I remember as being awe-inspiring. That was a dark age for Pixels, with tons of quality control issues and bugs plaguing many early-adopters of the softly rebooted Pixel 6 series. I, too, assumed that the specific combination between the custom Google Tensor chip and Android 12 simply couldn't deliver outstanding battery life with actual, real-life usage.
Turns out it was mostly Android 12's problem. With Android 14, the Pixel 6 Pro turns into a long-lasting and reliable everyday companion that routinely surprised me with its longevity. The Pixel 6 Pro served me surprisingly well during a short weekend trip in the backcountry; it didn't fail on me despite the lacking cellular signal and the intensive device use. I wouldn't pinpoint the noticeable battery life increase to the Android 14 beta, but it most likely helped curtail some of the more taxing processes.
Android 14: Have we hit a feature plateau?
Ah, the age-old question that raises from the dead around the release of a new Android or iOS version. And there's always reasons to consider that, why, yes, we've actually hit a plateau and are never getting any exciting new features. Don't fret, that's not the case. Then again, there are likely tons upon tons of features and functionalities envisioned for the future of Android––and iOS, for that matter, the latter even more so.
While Android 13 and Android 14 both go lighter on the amount of major redesigns and new features, we shouldn't forget that the previous version, Android 12, was the one that introduced the major "Material You" redesign.
It's logical to assume that the next couple of updates will iron out the kinks and fix all the shortcomings and bugs introduced by this redesign, so it's natural for Android 13 and Android 14 to be a bit less exciting in comparison.
Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint.