Android 14 Beta 1 hands-on: Top new features [Video]

After a series of early developer-facing previews, the public-facing Android 14 Beta 1 update is now available for a small group of eligible Google Pixel phones.

There were an impressive number of changes in the developer previews mentioned above, which we highly recommend you go and check before diving straight into beta 1. Many of the tweaks bring additions and quality of life improvements to Android 13. Though that means if you’re expecting big changes, You may be a bit disappointed after seeing what Google has changed.

However, we sure didn’t expect Google to tweak the suite after so many substantial tweaks and UI fixes in previous Android versions. Materials that are slowly maturing and becoming more cohesive and integrated into the user interface. You might notice some rolled back changes from the Developer Preview phase, but with that said, here’s everything you need to know.

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Transparent navigation bar

The long-awaited feature that finally arrived with Android 14 Beta 1 is the ability to turn the gesture navigation bar transparent. For years, this didn’t always work perfectly in certain apps, and you’d often get a black border around the gesture pill or on-screen buttons.

This function is not available by default. Instead, you’ll need to dive into the Developer Options section and find the “Transparent Navigation Bar” toggle. Enable this, and even apps that don’t “officially” support transparent or translucent sections for on-screen gestures and buttons should be fully visible. Aesthetically, this is a great new option for Pixel phones.

Mirrored app shortcuts

Android 14 beta 1

Pulled directly from the recent Android 13 QPR3 Beta 2 build, you may notice after a long press on an app icon that the Pause and App Info shortcut icons have flipped or swapped. This is very simple, but it may destroy your muscle memory when using the gesture in Android 14 Beta 1.

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Enhanced PIN privacy

Another function added in Android 13 QPR3 Beta 2 is the “Enhanced PIN Privacy” function. This is another layer of security for the PIN entry screen. Instead of showing animations when you press keys or buttons while entering a PIN, these remain static so that prying eyes can’t easily see what you’re entering.

Set share sheet

Android 14 beta 1

We’re waiting for more customization in the default Android share sheet, but until then, there’s an extra tweak. Nearby Sharing is now back as one of the default actions when doing things like sharing screenshots, screen recordings, or files on the device. We’re not sure yet, but it might help make more use of the AirDrop-like functionality when Android 14 officially arrives.

Android 14 beta 1

The codec in Android 14 is getting some nice quality of life tweaks. The update here makes it easier to see which color is selected for the pen and highlighters by default. It works just like a colored pencil cap in real life, you don’t need to dive into the tool to see what color your edits will apply.

It appears to be set to blue by default. Even after changing the color of the pen and highlighters, they go back to blue when editing a photo or other screenshot. This will probably change in future updates, and while it’s minor, it’s a nice UI touch that helps improve your day-to-day experience when touching or changing photos and screenshots.

Confirm system language

When changing the default system language in Android 14 Beta 1, Google added a nifty step to help reduce accidental changes, where a dialog pops up to confirm your choice. It will briefly explain that the device settings and any associated regional preferences will change.

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April 2023 security patch

This wouldn’t be the latest Android update without the latest monthly security patch. Android 14 Beta 1 includes the April 2023 security patch so that it is ready for daily use by the savvy Pixel user. What’s more, the June 2023 Google Play system update is also included, so security is assured if you’re happy to test run this beta program on your Pixel.

Developer Preview Retreat

There are a few things that were added in Android 14 Developer Preview 1 and Developer Preview 2 that were changed or brought back to default in Beta 1. It might not make much difference, but it’s noticeable nonetheless.

Lock screen at a glance

The Glance widget you’ve likely spotted on the lock screen has been restored to the normal two-line style that’s been used since Android 12. That’s not to say we won’t see more changes, but it’s nice to see consistency across the lock screen. And the main screen again.

While this has been reverted, there is a new toggle in Display > Lock Screen that will let you disable the display of current weather conditions in the At a Glance widget. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work yet, but it could be useful if you’d rather unlock or unlock your phone to check the current conditions in your area.

backgrounds and style

A couple of things have been removed here, including the Clock Settings functionality and the monochrome option in the Primary Colors section. We expect these to return in a future update as Google improves ahead of the stable release.

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Accessibility contrast slider

Android Developer Preview 2 added a new “Contrast Level” slider under Color and Motion settings to improve accessibility. It’s not clear why but that was rolled back in Android 14 beta 1. We think it will come back in some form, but it’s gone for now.

Android 14 Beta 1: What’s your favorite new feature?

Android 14 beta 1

That’s all that’s new in Android 14 Beta 1. When combined with the developer previews, there are plenty of new features to unpack. However, this shortlist includes all the user-facing features we’ve found so far. Naturally, we expect to see more little things that may have slipped through the cracks over the coming days and weeks. We’ll likely get a deeper dive into everything that’s been added, including some features that take a little bit of work to fully function in the full overview, very soon.

What are your favorite new features? Tell us in the comments section below!

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