Google has released Beta 4 of Android 14, the second beta release with stable APIs, indicating that the OS is close to final. Developers are asked to “finish compatibility testing and publish any necessary updates” to their apps.
The company has not given an exact date for general availability but Dave Burke, VP of Engineering, did say “later this year” in his post about the new beta. August or September are likely months for the release, unless unforeseen issues emerge. Testing for behavior changes or other compatibility issues can be done using Pixel devices from 4a upwards, or on the Android Emulator. Applications with a target SDKVersion lower than 23 cannot be installed at all on Android 14, for security reasons.
One of the new features which might cause problems for applications is support for font scaling up to 200 percent, an accessibility feature. Large font sizes can be tricky for applications to manage especially on small screens.
Android 14 is “aligned” with OpenJDK 17, a LTS (Long Term Support) release, and while this is welcome it does mean that any compatibility issues with upgrading to this version of the Java Development Kit will need to be attended to.
New in Android 14 is “predictive back gestures”, a solution to the problem that it is not always obvious what “back” means for the user. It might be another page of the application, or it might return to the Android home screen. The idea of the predictive back gesture is that users see an animated preview of the destination before completing the navigation, so they can change their mind if it is not what was expected. Predictive back gestures require use of new API functions. The feature was introduced as a developer preview in Android 13 but is completed in Android 14. It is opt-in though, so will not be a compatibility issue other than that users may be disappointed by applications that do not support it.
Some permissions have been tightened up in this release. Non-dismissable foreground notifications should no longer be possible. Users can now grant partial access to photos and videos, as they can in iOS, rather than all or nothing.
There is also a new grammatical inflection API which supports languages that have grammatical gender. The idea is that it will be easier to personalise the language in an application for male or female, according to configuration or context. English makes it relatively easy to have gender-neutral language, but many other languages are less flexible in this respect.
A list of all the new features is here – though in general the changes are more about fit and finish than major new capabilities. That may be no bad thing; fine-tuning the user experience is sure to be appreciated.