Look, I will be sincere: After I first obtained my grubby gorilla paws on Google’s newest and nice Android model — the hot-off-the-griddle first beta of this yr’s Android 14 replace — two terse phrases saved ringing in my head:
That is it?
Additionally: Mmm, pancakes. However that is simply due to the griddle reference I would already cooked up in my deeply demented man-brain.
All flapjackery apart, there isn’t any manner round it: On the floor, the inaugural beta of Android 14 is not precisely thrilling. The truth is, in most day-to-day use in the meanwhile, you would be hard-pressed to note a lot distinction between it and the Android 13 replace that got here earlier than it.
So whereas the intuition to label Android 14 as a ho-hum underachiever is comprehensible, framing this as a second during which Google is not doing a lot to maneuver the Android expertise ahead misses one main level — a degree that is essential to ponder if you happen to care in any respect about understanding this platform and the way it really suits into this broad, wild mobile-tech ecosystem of ours.
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It is a level that folk on the Apple aspect of the divide like to gloss over. However doing so paints a deceptive and woefully inaccurate image of what really occurs right here within the land o’ Android.
The simply ignored Android 14 asterisks
We’ll get to that main level in a second, however earlier than we do, we have to speed-skate our manner via two different Android-14-related asterisks we might be remiss to not point out as part of this dialog.
First, it is at all times value emphasizing: What we’re seeing within the early beta of a brand new Android model isn’t the total story. Notably with Google’s present growth cycle, El Googenschplort’s virtually at all times obtained one thing nonetheless up its sleeve and saved for a splashy debut at or round its grand Google I/O showcase in Might.
If nothing else, we all know Android 14 would be the basis for a wholly new sort of tech-type product by way of the upcoming Pixel Pill. So, y’know: Keep tuned…and all of that.
Asterisk two is that oftentimes, it is the under-the-hood stuff in a brand new Android model that is in the end probably the most consequential — even when it is not probably the most instantly electrifying piece of the puzzle. That is the place the essential enhancements in areas like privateness, safety, and efficiency seem, and whereas these are typically far much less tangible than the flowery front-facing stuff, you’d higher imagine they matter.
In actuality, in actual fact, these parts are typically extra essential than the surface-level adjustments and convenience-boosting characteristic additions — significantly with regards to skilled use.
However these asterisks apart, here is what you actually have to recollect: We have reached a degree the place the smaller updates to system-like elements throughout Android are sometimes way more fascinating and significant than the large honkin’ OS updates, at the least from a purely experience-based perspective.
And that leads us to the true ignored realization with all of this: On Android, these types of system-like updates present up on a regular basis — yr spherical — by means of particular person app updates within the Play Retailer.
That is the place Android is decidedly completely different from that different cell working system and the place all of the comparisons and new model assessments at all times fall flat.
Android 14 and the total Android improve actuality
Contemplate simply a number of the following system-app-centric enhancements we have seen on Android prior to now few months — for the reason that begin of the yr. Take a deep breath:
The inventory Android Messages app gained end-to-end encryption for group chats involving as much as 100 individuals
Messages additionally acquired the flexibility to react to any message with any emoji — not simply the small handful of decisions you are initially proven by default
Google Maintain, the default notes app for Android, obtained a snazzy new single-note widget together with the flexibility to show a number of notes aspect by aspect on tablets and folding gadgets
Gmail began having the ability to present you particular bundle monitoring data associated to an e-mail proper in your predominant inbox view
Gmail additionally gained a brand new two-pane view for extra environment friendly use on tablets and foldables
The default Chrome browser obtained upgraded with a change to guard your personal incognito tabs and require biometric authentication earlier than returning to ’em
Chrome additionally simply obtained an under-the-hood replace that supposedly makes it 30% sooner on sure Android gadgets
Google launched an replace to its Android Close by Share system that permits you to wirelessly beam information backwards and forwards between an Android system and any Home windows pc
The Google One service noticed a hefty replace that introduced a built-in VPN and darkish net privateness breach monitoring service to anybody with any paid storage plan
Pictures’ incredible Magic Eraser characteristic for simply eradicating parts from pictures expanded to all Pixel telephones in addition to all Google One customers
Google Drive gained the flexibility to allow you to mark up any PDF filewith drawing and highlighting proper out of your telephone
The inventory Gboard keyboard obtained a hefty interface replace that features simpler and extra succesful customization together with new devoted emoji keyboard and language switching shortcuts
An replace to the default Android Clock app began empowering you to file your individual customized alarm sounds
YouTube quietly gained an possibility to begin a collaborative livestream with another person, utilizing two completely different telephones collectively
Google Meet gained 360-degree digital backgrounds for cell video calls
The Google House app obtained a useful TV management panel for appropriate linked televisions
Google Contacts obtained new widgets together with a characteristic that highlights upcoming birthdays amongst your favourite human people-persons
Numerous updates to YouTube Music launched real-time lyrics, clever recommendations for covers and remixes of your favourite songs, a nifty new customized radio creation system, and a system that mechanically downloads just lately performed tracks for easy offline entry
A brand new cross-platform Well being Join system began to roll out for simple sharing of well being and health knowledge between several types of apps and gadgets
Cross-device timer monitoring got here to all Pixel merchandise
Google’s Direct My Name system, which helps you to skip via annoying in-call menus, expanded to the midrange Pixel 4a and Pixel 5a telephones
Newer Pixels noticed an improved model of the already-excellent Evening Sight photo-taking system
And on the platform degree, an under-the-hood replace to a Play-Retailer-based service launched a space-saving auto-archiving system that may collapse apps you are not actively utilizing whereas preserving ’em available for future use
WHEW! And holy moly: If this had been iOS, all that stuff could be bundled right into a once-yearly main working system replace and getting all types of consideration. Right here on Android, we hardly even discover it or take into consideration how unimaginable of a set it provides as much as create. (And bear in mind, too, that is solely a tiny sliver of the stuff that is rolled out over the previous few months — not even going all the best way again to the final main Android model replace.)
For context, Google’s been pulling what had been as soon as core working system parts out of the working system correct and treating ’em as standalone apps for nicely over a decade now. Meaning these parts get up to date quite a few occasions a month, all all year long, in a manner that reaches each single Android system roughly instantly.
However it additionally means these updates are likely to get misplaced within the shuffle and seen as scattered little scraps as an alternative of as half of a bigger, linked story. And but, a fraction of those similar updates would make up a complete Apple iOS launch and be touted as an enormous leap ahead.
The OS replace itself is barely half the story
No exaggeration: In case you have a look at the listing of options in Apple’s newest iOS replace, the overwhelming majority of the objects there revolve round these exact same kinds of updates — updates to core system elements for images, messages, e-mail, on-screen typing, well being and health, residence management, and notes. It is the identical actual kind of stuff, solely as an alternative of exhibiting up scattered all year long in an simply ignored a la carte method, Apple bundles all of it collectively right into a closely hyped annual bundle.
Google’s method really presents a reasonably important sensible benefit, for the reason that updates to all these items usually land a number of occasions a month as an alternative of being collected into annual clusters — however with the best way larger OS updates command probably the most consideration, it additionally presents a really actual downside round notion. Plain and easy, Google does not do a lot to emphasise the truth that we get these types of updates continuously on Android whereas iPhone homeowners get ’em solely a few times a yr. Once you cease and give it some thought, it is actually no shock that so few individuals see the forest for the bushes and understand the way it all provides up.
So the subsequent time you end up pondering that Android 14 or some other incoming Android replace appears underwhelming, do not forget that the OS replace itself is barely half the story — extra just like the foundational groundwork than the total building. And do not forget that essentially, all of us on Android get the equal of a number of iOS updates a number of occasions a yr.
That will not create as cohesive or as highly effective of a advertising message as what Apple delivers — one thing Google might completely stand to work on — however with regards to real-world expertise, it is arguably a a lot smarter, extra smart, and extra advantageous method. It is simply as much as us to place the items collectively and contemplate the entire they create.
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