Android 14, the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system, arrived on October 4. Since then, it has slowly started rolling out to some newer phones, tablets and foldables. Android 14’s user-facing enhancements broadly fall into four categories: accessibility, customization, privacy and security. Below, is a list of all of the update’s biggest features, along with instructions on how to access and enable them.
To compile this how-to, I used a Pixel 8, so what follows reflects how things are done on stock Android. On some phones and tablets, certain options may be located in other parts of the operating system or require a slightly different process to turn on. Even if that’s the case, the instructions here should help you find your way around.
And if you want to find out when (or if) Android 14 will arrive on your device, check out our dedicated guide. In short, many manufacturers, including OnePlus and Nothing, are still finalizing their first stable Android 14 builds, and they may need more time to complete bug and quality assurance testing.
At the bottom of this how-to, you will also find information about Google’s ongoing QPR betas, which include bug fixes and enhancements the company is testing ahead of its first Android 14 Pixel Feature Drop.
New to Android 14 are flash notifications, a feature that allows the OS to trigger your phone’s camera flash or brighten the screen when notifications arrive or an alarm goes off. This is particularly helpful to people who may be hard of hearing. Previously, support for flash notifications was spotty on Android, with some manufacturers – most notably Samsung – offering it while others did not.
Users can enable flash notifications from their device’s Settings menu. Swipe down from the top of your phone’s screen to access the Notification Shade, then swipe down again to expand the Quick Settings. Tap the cog icon on the bottom of right of the screen to access the main Settings menu. From there, tap “Notifications,” then “Flash notifications.”
Two toggles allow you to enable camera and screen flashes independently of one another, and, if you tap “Screen flash,” you can also tweak the color of the flash, with Pixel phones offering 12 different options.
Improved support for hearing aids
Flash notifications aren’t the only new Android 14 feature for those who may be hard of hearing. In Android 13 and prior, Google grouped hearing aids in with other Bluetooth devices. Now, the former have their own dedicated page within Android 14’s settings.
To access the page, open the Settings app, scroll down and tap “Accessibility,” then scroll down and tap “Hearing devices.” Here you will find an option for pairing new hearing aids with your phone, and a toggle that allows you to add dedicated shortcuts for said device. On Pixel devices, users can both add an accessibility button that lives on the side of their phone’s screen, and configure the volume buttons so that when you hold down both, your phone will take you directly to the hearing devices menu. There’s also a toggle that Google notes should improve compatibility with telecoils and reduce unwanted noise.
For visually impaired users, Google has added support for larger fonts and smarter scaling. On Pixel devices, Android can now make text up to 200 percent larger where before the maximum was 130 percent. The new system is built around non-linear scaling, so text that is already big – such as titles and headings – won’t increase in size as much as other, smaller elements.
To increase the size of text and interface elements on your phone, open the Settings menu, then tap “Display,” followed by “Display size and text.” In addition to two sliding scales that allow you to change the size of fonts and everything on screen, this page features two toggles that you can turn on to bold all text and enable high contrast fonts.
The first time you tweak your phone’s font size settings, Android 14 will automatically add a font size settings option to the final page of the quick settings menu. You can access this menu by swiping down from the top of your phone’s screen to bring down the notification shade. Swipe down again to see the full quick settings menu. To edit the order in which menu items appear, tap the pencil icon that appears when the full quick settings menu is on screen, and then hold and drag the tiles you wish to move.
Better pinch to zoom functionality
In addition to more robust font scaling, Android 14 features a redesigned magnifier tool that allows users to quickly customize how much of the screen they’d like to see enlarged. The panel offers four different magnifier sizes and the option to enable diagonal scrolling. It also includes a scale you can use to increase or decrease the zoom level. To enable the panel, open the Settings menu, tap “Accessibility” followed by “Magnification. As with flash notifications, you can bind the magnifier tool to an on screen accessibility button or both volume buttons.
More wallpaper and lock screen customization
Although technically not new to Android 14, it’s more than likely that the two wallpaper features Google previewed at I/O 2023 will arrive on most non-Pixel handsets alongside Android 14. The new features allow users to create custom wallpapers with up to 14 of their favorite emoji or with the help of a built-in AI image generator.
The new customization settings are accessible directly from the homescreen. Long press the home screen and tap the top option, “Wallpaper & style” to open the relevant menu. From there, you can find the new AI and Emoji wallpaper options by tapping “More wallpapers.” Both options are situated at the top of the interface.
The AI option has a few limitations worth keeping in mind. To start, you must select a theme. As of this article, there are 12 on offer. Additionally, Google doesn’t currently allow you to write a prompt from scratch. Instead, each theme comes with a few parameters that the user can define, and here again the options are limited to the ones Google gives you.
The new lock screen customization options are accessible from the top of the “Wallpaper & style” screen. Tap “Lock screen,” and then drag your finger or thumb either left or right to scroll through the different options. To tweak the color and size of the clock, tap “Clock color & size.” For additional tweaks, including the new option to add up to two shortcuts to your phone’s lock screen, scroll down the interface.
If you’re an American who lives abroad (or a foreigner who finds themselves frequently visiting the US), Android 14 allows users to set system-wide preferences for whether apps should display temperatures in Celsius or Fahrenheit or treat Sunday or Monday as the start of the week. Additionally, once you set those preferences, Android 14 knows to carry them over between backups. Separately, the OS offers more robust support for gendered languages like French and German.
To set your regional preferences, open the Settings menu, tap “System,” then “Languages,” followed by “Regional preferences.” When I sat down to write this story, searching for “Regional preferences” using the Settings app’s built-in search feature did not point me in the right direction. If you run into a similar issue, follow the menu flow described above.
Privacy and security
Android 14 makes it easier to see how advertisers and other third parties are using your data – and thereby decide if you want to restrict your app permissions – with a new monthly notification that details any data sharing changes the apps on your phone may have made in the past 30 days. You don’t need to enroll in these to start seeing them, though a footnote on Google’s website notes this feature is only available for certain apps.
End of support for older apps
Android 14 doesn’t allow users to install apps that make use of application programming interfaces (APIs) that date back to and before Android 5.1. Google’s reasoning for this is that a lot of malware programs target vulnerabilities found in older and outdated APIs. In practice, this is mostly likely to affect older games that haven’t been updated in more than a few years. That said, if you have a Lollipop era app or game installed on your phone when you go to download Android 14, it will continue to work even after your phone starts running the new OS.
More nuanced photo and video sharing
Borrowing a page from iOS, Android 14 adds more nuanced sharing options for photos and videos. Now, when an app requests access to your media files, you can choose to give it access to all, none or only some of your photos and videos. Previously, this was an all or nothing proposition. You should see a new prompt reflecting the redesigned permissions the first time an app asks for access to your photos and videos.
If at any point you change your mind, you can review all of your app permissions from the Settings app. After opening the menu, tap “Apps,” then tap the name of the program you want to review (you may need to tap “See all apps” to find the specific one you’re looking for), followed by “Permissions” and then “Photos and videos.” If you plan to change the permissions for more than one app, there’s a helpful “See all apps with this permission” option that will appear toward the bottom.
Separately, Google has also tweaked Android’s Share Sheet. With Android 14, developers can add custom share targets to the interface, and the OS can pull in more app data to better inform the priority of actions. In theory, this should make the Share Sheet more consistently useful.
With Android 14, the humble pin has received a pair of enhancements. First, there’s a new option that allows you to disable the animation that plays on the lock screen when you input your PIN. In theory, this should make it harder for onlookers to spy your code. Second, there’s a new auto-confirm option that makes it so you don’t need to tap “Ok” after tying out your PIN, thereby reducing the time it takes to open your phone. For security reasons, this is only available with six-digit PINs.
Both options are found in the “Enhanced PIN privacy” section of the “Security” settings menu. The auto-confirm unlock is enabled by default when you set a six-digit PIN.
Android 14 doesn’t include any tentpole battery-related features like Marshmallow did with Doze. Nonetheless, Google claims the OS should be less of a power hog, thanks to refinements the company made to how the software handles background tasks, downloads and uploads.
Health Connect integration
In late 2022, Google released Health Connect, a platform it jointly developed with Samsung to enable health and fitness apps to more easily share data between one another without compromising on user privacy. With Android 14, Health Connect is integrated directly within the operating system’s Settings. It’s accessible from the “Privacy” page of the dashboard.
Lastly, Android 14 includes built-in support for Google’s new Ultra HDR picture format. The format embeds a high dynamic range tone map directly within the metadata of an image. On devices with HDR-compatible displays, Google says Ultra HDR will produce images with more vibrant colors and contrast. The nifty thing about the format is that it’s fully backward compatible with most devices. thanks to the fact it makes use of the .jpg extension. On devices with SDR displays, the viewer will see a regular SDR image.
What about the next two Pixel Feature Drops?
As mentioned above, Google is currently conducting two quarterly platform release (QPR) betas. For the uninitiated, these see the company testing tweaks that will eventually arrive as part of future Pixel Feature Drops. Google is expected to release the first one before the end of the year and the one after that in March. You can take part in the QPR1 and QPR2 betas by enrolling in the Android Beta for Pixel program.
Once the first Android 14 Pixel Feature Drop arrives, I’ll update this article to detail what’s new – since the release timing of specific features can change. In the meantime, what follows is a non-exhaustive list of the changes Google has been testing. Credit for spotting many of these goes to former XDA Developers reporter Mishaal Rahman.
The highlight of the first beta is a redesigned “Software updates” page that is easier to find and brings together system, app and Play Store updates in one place. Considering the amount of taps it currently takes to manually check for updates, this is a welcome change.
Another notable enhancement sees Google tweaking the Pixel’s built-in Clock app to add weather information to the world clock page. This change is carried over to the app’s optional widgets.
As for the second beta, the highlight here is a per-app screen recording option. This is a change Google has been teasing for a while, and it looks like it’s finally on its way early next year. Elsewhere, QPR2 adds an outline to the volume slider, making it easier to see just how loud your phone is at any given moment. Some people have also reported that QPR2 reduces the amount of time it takes to install software updates anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/android-14-googles-release-dates-new-features-and-everything-else-you-need-to-know-150057490.html?src=rss