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In a nutshell: Alongside the new Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro smartphones, Google has fully unveiled and released Android 14. The new OS' headline features focus on customization, security, and accessibility. Some of the new functionality employs AI to offer increased intelligence and flexibility.
Owners of Google Pixel phones (going as far back as Pixel 4a, Pixel 5, and later models) should begin receiving update notifications for Android 14 this week. The new OS will arrive later this year to the rest of Android phones from the likes of Samsung, Nothing, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Sharp, Sony, Tecno, Vivo, and Xiaomi.
Android 14 significantly expands customization options for the lock screen and home screen. Users can set app shortcuts on the lock screen to ensure quick access to their favorite features like the calculator or QR code reader. A selection of pre-set templates for shortcuts and widgets is also available.
The new customization features also enable users to change wallpapers more easily. Moreover, the new Pixel 8 phones introduce the ability to create new wallpapers through text-to-image generative AI. The feature will eventually arrive to other models, but Google hasn't said which or when. AI can also automatically reorganize the screen in numerous ways to suit different situations, like making a weather widget easier to reach during a storm.
Regarding security, the new OS delivers more control over what information apps share. Users receive clear notifications when apps ask for things like location data and when they share that information with third parties. Moreover, Google made PINs more secure and easier to use by mandating a minimum of six digits and no longer requiring users to hit enter after correctly entering the PIN.
Android 14's new accessibility features focus on assisting hearing and visually impaired users. They can select which part of the screen to magnify and tell the magnifier to remain engaged across multiple apps. Changing font sizes is also quicker and smoother. Furthermore, Google reorganized the accessibility settings to facilitate connecting a device to hearing aids. New flashing notifications are available for users who can't hear traditional notification sounds.
A previous beta test revealed the company's answer to Apple's Continuity Camera, allowing Android phones to become webcams for Windows, Mac, or ChromeOS PCs through a USB connection. While this isn't publicly available yet, Google promises it's coming soon. To improve webcam use and video calls, a new auto-frame function adjusts the camera to maintain focus on participants.
Android 14 is available now, and the latest Google Pixel phones ship on October 12. Pre-orders are up for the Pixel 8 at $699 and the Pixel 8 Pro at $999.