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Instead of the stable release of Android 14 for Pixel phones, as well as the Fold and Tablet, we got a series of Google app updates and updated branding this morning. While unexpected, this isn’t Google’s latest OS release just yet.
With Beta 5 at the start of last month, Android 14 looked on track for a stable launch as soon as mid-August, which would have mirrored Android 13’s August 15th rollout. At the time, Google said the “official release” was “only weeks away.” Beta 5 was followed by 5.1 and 5.2, with no other release this cycle seeing a second patch. While Beta 5 was the “last scheduled update in our Android 14 beta program,” Google doesn’t consider patches to be scheduled, so there’s nothing unexpected about those bug fixers.
With no launch in August, the next window shifted to September 5th (since the first Monday of the month is a holiday in the US). Considering that window has now also passed, let’s look at the recent history of Android launches:
The latest launch in recent memory is Android 12, which had an AOSP release in early October followed by an October 19 Pixel launch tied to the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro announcement. However, in the case of Android 12, the last beta milestone (5) came a month before (in September). Before that, Google has launched in August or September since 2016.
The fact we don’t have a stable yet is complicated by the fact that Android 14 does not seem to be a major release from a visual or new features perceptive. Given the Material You redesign, it made sense why Android 12 took so long.
Android 14’s stage presence during the I/O 2023 keynote in May was unusually limited. We’ve been beta testing lockscreen clock and customization shortcuts for some time now, while generative AI wallpapers hardly seem like a showstopper (and are something I’d expect to debut first on the Pixel 8 anyway before coming to older phones with the December 2023 Feature Drop).
Speaking of Pixel Feature Drops, there clearly wasn’t one today. There also wasn’t one in September of 2021 or 2022, with Google waiting until December both years.
For those waiting, Android 14 Beta 5.2 is quite stable on the Pixel 7 series, Tablet, and Fold. I’ve been using it as my daily driver for several weeks now without issues, thus adding to the intrigue of why it isn’t out yet.
It will be interesting to see whether there will be Android 13 or Android 14 Beta 5.3 with the September security patch at this point. Depending on how many bugs are addressed in the latter, that could signal how far away we are from a stable launch.
Google updates the Android brand with new logo and 3D robot
Following our previous report, Google is officially unveiling a new 3D logo for Android. The broad goal of this updated branding is to “help connect Android to Google,” and it follows the previous modernization in 2019.
Each time we overhaul our branding, we evaluate not only changing needs, but also future goals. We know people today want more choice and autonomy, and we want our brand to be reflective of Android: something that gives people the freedom to create on their terms. As an open platform, it’s important that both our technology and brand are an invitation for people to create, connect and do more with Google on Android devices.
Google says it drew “inspiration from Material design to complement the Google brand palette, as well as be adaptable.”
It starts by moving away from Android’s “longstanding lowercase stylization” to help elevate the logo and add “more weight to its appearance when placed next to Google’s logo” (as seen above in the top-left corner).
While we’ve added more curves and personality unique to Android, the new Android stylization more closely mirrors Google’s logo and creates balance between the two. We hope these small but significant updates to the Android typeface will better communicate the relationship between Android devices and the Google apps and services people already know.
The other big aspect is the Android robot, which, since 2019, has appeared alongside the wordmark. In going 3D, Google gave the bugdroid “more dimension, and a lot more character.” It can be depicted with different materials, colors, and even accessories.
As a visual signifier of our brand, we wanted the bugdroid to appear as dynamic as Android itself.
Google has also updated the full-body appearance to “ensure it can easily transition between digital and real-life environments, making it a versatile and reliable companion across channels, platforms and contexts.” The body is now a domed capsule instead of having a flat bottom and legs protruding from it. With the last branding update, it seemed that Google was moving away from this version.
The updated logo, 3D bugdroid, and brand identity will “appear on Android devices and in more places starting this year.”
Redesigned Assistant At a Glance widget rolling out to all Android phones
Android is rolling out its quarterly drop of new features today, with a redesign of the Assistant At a Glance widget being the highlight.
The current widget available on all Android phones was never updated when the fixed Pixel Launcher version was updated with Android 12. Now, it features a Material You redesign in which the weather is prominently shown in an M3 shape at the right, while text appears at the left. Two lines of text are supported, while a three-dot overflow menu provides additional options, as we previously enabled.
This At a Glance redesign is available for all Android 9+ devices and is rolling out starting today.
In terms of new app features, Google is rolling out the ability to ask questions – by voice or typing – about images with Lookout. Announced back in May, this uses a visual language model to describe images that do not have alt text. Lookout is also adding support for 11 new languages (including Japanese, Korean, and Chinese) for a total of 34.
Google Wallet is also rolling out the previously announced ability to import/upload passes with QR codes or barcodes. This could be used with some library or gym cards, parking passes, and tickets.
You can add what time you slept and how many hours (from Google Fit or Fitbit) to your Google Assistant “Good morning” Routine.
Rounding out the app front are Android Auto apps from Zoom and Webex that will let users join conference calls (by audio) and browse meeting schedules. Google says all “active calls are managed through Android Auto,” with the ability to mute your microphone as needed.