Yeah, yeah, there’s all that hubbub surrounding Google’s new hardware like the Pixel 8 the company is finally showing off at its Made by Google event Wednesday. But for those who don’t plan on making the switch to the latest Google phone or Pixel Watch 2, the most exciting thing coming from Google is the next Android update rolling out today to all supported devices.
For those who have been paying attention to early OS builds released over the past year, there’s not much here that will surprise you. Otherwise, the big, eye-catching additions this year all have to do with the Android lock screen. Android 14 adds a template-based custom lock screen picker that makes swapping out a selection of new fonts, backgrounds, and colours a fair bit faster.
That’s not to say the lock screen is any less customizable. Google will let users create a wallpaper through an AI image generator with a simple prompt. However, users won’t have full control over the prompts, and they can only select between pre-set nouns and colours. These restrictions seem like an effort to restrict users from creating some potentially iffy or derivative artworks, but then again, there are plenty of other AI art generators out there for creating easy wallpaper images.
That feature is also eventually coming to the recently-announced Chromebook Plus models. If you’re not looking for anything so crazy, there’s also a monochromatic theme that will use minimal colours across the entire Android ecosystem, from the lock screen to the humble calculator app.
There are a few new custom lock screen shortcuts that can take users to their most-used apps like the QR reader or Google Home app. Who needs an iPhone 15 Pro action button, anyway? Google added that the phone will now use AI to detect what should be most important at a glance, such as a turn in the weather. In that case, Android 14 will adjust the size of the weather widget to be more prominent on the lock screen.
Other than customization options, Google said it’s going to be a lot better about asking for permission before accessing your data. Now, Android will include notifications if an app wants to use data like your location. The new permissions system is rather akin to iOS, as Apple has been a lot better at giving users control over who has access to their data. Android is also promoting a new way to store users’ health data on their devices. This is through a new Health Connect feature that should be interoperable through fitness and health apps like Whoop or Peloton. This should encrypt your data to the device, where Google says nobody but the user should have access to it.
There’s a new updated camera UI with an added button to easily switch between camera and video modes, and Android now allows Ultra High Dynamic Range for images as well as HDR in videos.
There are also a few new accessibility options for those who are hard of vision or hearing. Users can customize how zoomed in the magnifier goes through settings, and now users can keep the magnifier on when switching from one app to the next. Users can also change font size a bit easier through the Quick Settings. Users can also set up “Flash notifications” if they don’t usually hear the sound notifications, plus Google said it’s added a new way to easily connect hearing aids.
The Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet are also getting some love in this latest update. Google’s first foldable is finally getting the promised dual-screen Live Interpreter mode that lets users speak type through one side of the screen to show a translated version on the other side. The Pixel Tablet will receive a new, streamlined navigation bar that should make it easier for younger children to swipe through if you really need to distract the younglings in your life. The tablet will also allow Google Assistant to play podcasts and news while docked in Hub Mode.
As far as Android updates go, 14 is rather mundane. We’ll have to dig in to see if there are any surprises in store, especially any signs we can use an Android phone as a webcam when connected to a laptop or desktop as code in an earlier 14 build suggested.
At its Made By Google event, Google announced the Pixel 8, Pixel 8 Pro, Pixel Watch 2, and two new colour options for the Pixel Buds. While you’re here, why not check out our daily tech deals, our guide to the best value for money NBN plans, and info on the latest phones from Apple and Samsung. Head to our dedicated Mobile tab for more. Stay tuned for our review of the new Google Pixel Watch 2.
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