Now that Android 13 is out, we’re thinking about the next best thing
Now that Google has released Android 13 to the Pixel lineup (with many other great phones also in on the action by now), we have our eyes set on the next big OS release: Android 14. Google is probably hard at work preparing the launch of the upcoming Android version, and as such, we have a wishlist of things we would love to see.
We’ll focus on Google’s first-party approach to Android. A few of these options and features may be part of Android on some manufacturers’ devices. Since Google makes many features available to manufacturers (making some mandatory), features first coming to Google phones bring benefits to the whole Android market.Galaxy S10 Plus revisit: 1.5 years later
1. Bring back lock screen widgets
Apple revealed its new iPhone lock screen earlier this year at WWDC, and as we found out in our iOS 16 vs. Android 13 comparison, it’s awesome. The Cupertino company introduced the option to add widgets to the lock screen, complete with fancy personalization options.
We’ll focus on the former because Android also supported lock screen widgets once upon a time. Up until version 4.4 (KitKat), it was possible to add widgets to the lock screen. You could either replace the clock at the top of the screen or add a widget on its own panel. It was just a swipe to the right.
The system has always been gimmicky, though, with not many useful applications. In any case, Samsung stuck with this functionality and still offers lock screen widgets on its Android skin One UI.
Left: iOS 16 lock screen widgets. Right: Old Android 4.2 lock screen widgets.
While you might wonder why Google would bring back a feature that it gave up on, this isn’t the first time Apple breathed new life into an Android feature that was left languishing. The same happened when iOS introduced support for widgets, with Google suddenly becoming interested in the concept again. Following Apple’s footsteps, Google revamped how widgets worked on Android 12 and introduced redesigned widgets of its apps.
2. Give us stacked widgets
Speaking of widgets, Google may have found a new interest in the concept thanks to Apple. Plus, it may have introduced some needed enhancements to the underlying mechanics. Still, there’s more we wish for. Apple introduced the neat concept of stacked widgets, which allows you to add multiple widgets to the same place on your home screen. To access them all, simply swipe through them.
We wish Google would implement this on Android, though the matter is a tad more complicated on the platform. Apple widgets aren’t scrollable or very interactive, so it’s easier to reserve a scroll gesture for a system feature like this.
However, it’s frustrating that Google almost created a system like this. Its At a Glance widget gives you information about upcoming events, connected devices, weather alerts, and more. It also lets you horizontally scroll through multiple entries whenever there is more than one. Google has been spotted working on its own version of stacked widgets in Android 12, so there might be hope for Android 14.
3. Bring back dedicated Wi-Fi and mobile network toggles
In Android 12, Google decided it was time to spring clean the quick settings toggles. The company merged the Wi-Fi and mobile data options into a single Internet toggle. The toggle is confusing to use, and it makes simple processes, such as disconnecting and reconnecting to your Wi-Fi network, an ordeal. This is something many of us do on a daily basis as internet connections can sometimes be fickle.
Depending on how poor your mobile connection is when you’re inside, it’s a good idea to turn off the mobile radio to save battery life. This is another thing the Internet toggle makes less intuitive.
4. Make third-party launchers smooth again
Ever since Google introduced gesture navigation to Android 10, third-party launchers have been left languishing. That’s because the default pre-installed launcher ties into the system deeper to provide smooth transitions between the homescreen, the Recents overview, and apps.
Third-party launchers don’t have the same privileges as the pre-installed one, and this leaves you with two choices: Either stick with the one that shipped with your phone and that may lack some features you would like, or deal with inconsistent animations in exchange for more advanced customizability.
The Lawnchair launcher
Ideally, Android 14 would give third-party launchers the option to hook into the system more deeply when they’re set as the standard option. It’s understandable that Google might be wary due to security concerns. There are also technical challenges to overcome since Android manufacturers have different animations and methods to achieve them. So it’s possible that custom launchers would have to be coded for specific phones only.
5. Help developers make gesture navigation prettier in apps
Apple’s iPhones and iPads are pretty great at making gesture navigation feel natural and like a part deeply embedded in the system and in apps. However, on Android, gesture navigation still clashes with many apps. Particularly the way the navigation bar displays.
Android apps often don’t draw content behind the navigation bar, leaving a block around the navigation bar. On iOS, this isn’t much of an issue. Most apps draw content in the area behind the navigation bar, and it makes for a more immersive experience.
While iOS developers have a handful of screen sizes and processors to support, Google could probably offer more help to developers for edge-to-edge navigation. Android app developer Pavlo Rekun told us in an interview that in a worst-case scenario, Android app developers have to adjust every view in their app to make the navigation bar transparent.
It’s understandable that large studios with tons of individual pages and views within their apps don’t have time for a small cosmetic decision, especially since not all Android users use gesture navigation. However, it would be nice to see more consistency and attention to detail on Android. To do that, Google will have to either force developers or make things easier to implement.
6. Bring back custom icon shapes and fonts to the Pixel
Android 11 officially added the option to change icon shapes, fonts, and some colors in the notification shade and settings on Pixel phones. This was removed once Android 12 rolled around with its Material You themes, based on your wallpaper.
It makes sense to strip some options as they clash with this wallpaper-based theming. Still, Google went above and beyond itself to strip away all customization options, particularly icon shapes and fonts, while it was at it.
With Material You now maturing and becoming more flexible and customizable (Android 13 added more color extraction combos), it would make sense for Google to reintroduce some of the customization options it removed in preparation for Material You. After all, it’s not clear how different icon shapes and fonts would clash with Material You’s colorful themes.
7. Add proper privacy controls for apps
Apple introduced privacy controls to iOS 14.5, which forces apps to ask users for approval to track them across other apps to create more accurate advertising models. Most people tend to decline a request like this when asked from the get-go. Thus, advertising companies lost access to the data they previously relied on.
As much as we would love a feature like this on Android, it’s unlikely that Google will add something as powerful as Apple, and Google has made as much clear already. The company is currently working on the Privacy Sandbox, which promises to offer the best of both worlds for users and advertisers. The system is supposed to allow for personalized ads that utilize a new system feature rather than doing the tracking by themselves.
Google is an advertising company at its core, so a drastic solution like Apple’s would conflict with its own interests. And even if it introduced an advanced option like this, competitors could be quick to point out that Google is creating an unfair advantage for itself on its platform, leading to all sorts of legal issues. Still, one can dream, and we would love to have serious privacy controls on the platform.
8. Give us some Dynamic Island eye candy
Apple surprised everyone when it released its Dynamic Island for the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max. In contrast to Android manufacturers who make punch-hole selfie cameras as unobtrusive and hidden as possible (with some implementing stealthy under-display cameras, like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and its predecessor), Apple fully embraced its pill-shaped display cutout.
It dynamically expands and shrinks to display background activities like timers, audio playback or recordings, fitness tracking, and more. Once third-party developers will be allowed to hook into the system, the possibilities are endless.
A design mockup of what Google could do with notifications
Google could go two different ways to counter Apple. The company could either turn notification card backgrounds all black and make them feel like a part of the punch-hole camera on Pixel phones, or it could advance display and camera technologies and push the industry to under-display cameras.
Given that it will likely take some time for these under-display cameras to produce pretty images, Google would probably opt for something more Dynamic Island-like.
Android 13 and Android 12 before it sort of hides the camera cutout in some circumstances
Google offers something like the Dynamic Island with Android 12 and then 13, albeit not as elaborate. When you pull down the notification shade, the top part with the quick toggle settings retains a fully black background, no matter if you’re using a dark theme or not. This does its part to hide the camera cutout at the top. Google only has to think this concept a little further to make the camera cutout less visible and more a part of the interface.
Hurry up and wait
Google may release new Android versions towards the end of the year, but the company will give us a glimpse at Android 14 much sooner. If Android 13’s developer preview and beta program are any indicator, we will see first leaks and details in early 2023.
If you don’t think your current phone will get the bump to Android 13 or 14, take a look at our selection of the best Android phones. All of our top choices will almost certainly get an Android 14 bump