Google recently introduced Android 14 Beta 2 after its annual I/O developer conference. Alongside this release, Google expanded the beta and developer preview program to include smartphones beyond its Pixel lineup. However, it’s worth noting that Beta 1, even on Google’s own phones, was one of the buggiest releases in years. Fortunately, things have improved with Android 14 Beta 2. With this expansion to other manufacturers’ hardware, let’s take a closer look at how Android 14 Beta performs on non-Pixel phones.
Installing the Android 14 Beta or Developer Preview on non-Pixel phones requires a slightly more involved process. Pixel phones make it simple by providing a dedicated website where users can opt into the beta. However, for phones like the Nothing Phone 1, Vivo X90 Pro, and Xiaomi 13 Pro, users need to download update files and manually install them.
Among the three phones, Nothing’s installation guide is the most user-friendly, clearly indicating which features work and which do not. The company provides an Android 14 OTA download file on its website, enabling users to upgrade from the latest stable release, Nothing OS 1.5.4. The setup involves placing the file in a specific directory on the Phone 1 and using a hidden manual OTA installation tool accessible through a combination of numbers and symbols in the phone app. Although it may seem intricate, it eliminates the need to activate developer options or tinker with ADB (Android Debug Bridge).
Vivo’s installation guide is equally straightforward, with shorter instructions and no explicit breakdown of functional and non-functional features. Users only need to place the update file in a designated directory on the phone and use the regular system update process in system settings to begin the installation—no secret menus activation required.
Unfortunately, I encountered difficulties testing Android 14 on the Xiaomi 13 Pro during the early stages of this investigation. Xiaomi is the only manufacturer that necessitates connecting the phone to a Windows PC for installation, as specified in its installation guide. Since I primarily use Mac and ChromeOS, this roadblock was challenging to overcome.
For all three phones, it’s important to note that upgrading to Android 14 Beta will result in data loss. Therefore, ensure that you have backup copies of important files or consider avoiding the beta program if you heavily rely on your phone.
The Android 14 Beta Experience on Non-Pixel Phones
While the Android 14 Beta may have faced stability issues on Pixel phones, Google’s handsets still offer a superior experience for users who enjoy being on the cutting edge without actively testing and preparing apps. On the Nothing Phone 1 and Vivo X90 Pro, the Android 14 preview program is primarily targeted at developers.
Nothing Phone 1:
As mentioned during the installation process, Nothing acknowledges the limitations of its current Android 14 build. It clearly labels it as a developer preview program rather than a publicly targeted beta. Notably, features such as fingerprint enrollment, face unlock, Glyph lights, battery sharing, Nothing Weather app, and Nothing X are unavailable. Additionally, screencasting and screen recording functionalities are non-functional.
When using the phone after installing the beta, the rough state becomes apparent. Most unique customizations, including the dotted clock and the Nothing Launcher, are unavailable. The camera app is replaced with a generic one, giving the device a vanilla Android feel. It’s evident that the Android 14 preview is an early version, less refined than the Android 13 beta released by Nothing earlier this year.
Despite the limitations, the Nothing Phone 1 is mostly usable when disregarding the broken features. It is responsive and rarely crashes, allowing users to install their preferred apps (excluding security-focused apps that don’t function on pre production builds). It even includes Android 14’s new back gesture, which provides a preview of the app section you’re navigating to next. However, I wouldn’t recommend using the phone in this stage, as it requires reinstalling everything, and you can’t rely on Nothing’s usual launcher and camera app. Nevertheless, if you’re eager to experience the bleeding edge, it’s workable.
Vivo X90 Pro:
If you thought the Nothing Phone was in a rough state, the Vivo X90 Pro takes it to another level. Many of the same challenges encountered with the Nothing Phone 1 apply to this Vivo flagship, such as the non-functional fingerprint scanner and limited software customizations. Moreover, the Vivo handset presents a laggy interface that responds slowly to touch, accompanied by distracting flashing screens. The gesture navigation is also broken, leaving users stuck with button navigation.
However, Vivo has made some advancements compared to Nothing. The Android 14 build includes several custom apps, including some pre-installed apps like LinkedIn, Spotify, and Facebook. Vivo’s FunTouch OS launcher is functional, allowing users to enjoy basic features like web browsing and app installation. The camera app and system function smoothly, albeit with the annoying default watermark added to photos. Nonetheless, due to the stuttering interface, I found it less enjoyable to use compared to the Nothing Phone.
A Long Road to Stable Android 14
It’s essential to remember that these phones are running the very first Android 14 build. Typically, most manufacturers require an additional month or two to prepare their devices for a stable Android release after Pixel phones receive it. Considering this, the fragile state of the current beta program is expected. Nevertheless, it’s commendable that these companies have managed to release their beta versions, providing developers without access to Pixel phones an early glimpse of what Android 14 has in store.
If you’re keen to explore the forthcoming features of Google’s Android versions, your best option remains choosing a phone from Google’s excellent lineup, particularly if it will serve as your primary device.
In conclusion, the Android 14 Beta on non-Pixel phones showcases a mixed experience. While it brings exciting possibilities, it also reveals the challenges that arise when adapting the beta to different hardware and software environments. As manufacturers continue refining their implementations and Google addresses the reported issues, the stable Android 14 release promises to deliver a more polished and seamless experience.