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Forward-looking: Android 13 has been out for barely half a year, and Android 12's market share still hasn't leveled off, but Google is already laying the foundations for Android 14. Google's statement announcing the first preview of its next mobile operating system indicates an increased focus on multiple form factors and noteworthy changes regarding legacy software.
Android developers can start testing Android 14 now, as Google released its first preview this week. Phone testers can get started by flashing a system image to a Google Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 7, Pixel 6a, Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 6, Pixel 5a 5G, Pixel 5, or Pixel 4a (5G). For testing other devices like tablets and foldables, the company suggests the Android Emulator.
Google is making a big push toward improving tablet and foldable support with Android 14. The company has published multiple guides to help developers optimize their apps around various screen sizes, including larger screens and displays that change orientation.
Part of that effort involves multitasking. Google advises developers to make their app windows resizable, supporting features like split-screen and multi-window. Google has been improving how its in-house apps work on larger screens since at least last year.
One important change users and developers should observe is that Android 14 won't install apps that don't at least support Android 6.0. Apps that haven't been updated since before that OS's 2015 introduction won't install at all.
The measure likely won't impact most casual users, as Google has already made older apps less visible. Starting last year, new Android users can't discover and download apps from the Google Play Store that haven't received patches in two years. Support for relatively ancient software likely only matters to those who sideload apps.
Google says the new restriction should stop malware, which often targets older SDK versions to circumvent the company's latest security protocols. Google picked Android 6.0 for the cutoff because that's when the OS introduced runtime permissions.
Interestingly, XDA Developers discovered a hidden feature that might help users uninstall carrier-mandated bloatware from phones running Android 14. Flipping two developer flags – one hidden – reveals a special version of the settings menu containing a section called "Apps Installed in the Background." There, users can view and uninstall the software from their device's manufacturer.
Phone carriers and other vendors often force apps onto buyers' devices they don't need and usually can't delete, wasting storage space. Samsung's Galaxy S23 series phones notoriously come with 60GB operating systems – the size of three fresh Windows 11 installs or four stock Android 13s. Hopefully, Android 14 lets users claw back some space, especially those who choose cheaper, lower-capacity models.