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Google releases Android 14’s first beta

Google’s Android development cycle runs on a rather predictable cadence these days. Today, after two developer previews, the company launched the first of four planned public beta releases of Android 14. As with previous versions, the first beta is also the first release that anyone can install over-the-air, assuming they have a supported Pixel device, going back to the Pixel 4a 5G (but not the Pixel 4).

There’s no official support for non-Google phones yet. As always, keep in mind that these are betas for a reason and still mostly meant for developers who want to test their apps against this new version and early adopters who just can’t wait for the stable release. Things can — and will — break.

For the most part, there aren’t many new features in this beta version, though there are two user-facing UI updates worth calling out. The first is a new back arrow, which is now the most exciting thing in mobile OS history. Google says gesture navigation now “includes a more prominent back arrow while interacting with an app to help improve back gesture understanding and usefulness.” This arrow will match your wallpaper or device theme. Exciting stuff.

Developers will now also be able to add custom actions to the system sharesheet, and the sharesheet will now be smarter about how it ranks your sharing targets.

Otherwise, there isn’t all that much new here. New Google privacy settings and per-app language settings are here.

I expect we’ll hear a bit more about what’s new in Android 14 — and see more user-facing features — at Google I/O next month. For now, though, this appears to be another evolutionary release.

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