Android 14 could bring back the old Android taskbar — here’s how

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The Android taskbar is nothing new, having been originally launched with the release of Android 12L, but it has gone through a few changes recently — notably shifting to a “transient” taskbar rather than a fixed version. 

This is the taskbar that you’ll find if you pick up a Pixel Tablet or Pixel Fold, but it may not be that way for long.

As Mishaal Rahman from Android Police notes, the presence of the transient taskbar hasn’t wiped the fixed version from Android’s code. That option is still hiding under the surface, there’s just no way to switch between them. That might change with the release of Android 14, if the code from the latest beta release is anything to go by.

Rahman spotted a new launcher flag while digging through the code of Android 14 beta 3, labeled “ENABLE_TASKBAR_PINNING. The key difference between the old and new Android taskbars are that the old version is fixed to the bottom of your screen, much like a default Windows taskbar, while the transient model has to be summoned by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.

According to Rahman this new toggle allows users to switch between the two options, and can be accessed by long-pressing an empty spot on the taskbar itself. Users then get toggles with the options “always show taskbar” and “change navigation mode” — both which are fairly self explanatory.

There are benefits to both kinds of taskbar, and preference will depend on the user. A hidden taskbar offers a little bit more screen space, and keeps the thing out of the way if you don't want to see it all the time. A fixed taskbar has the obvious advantage of always being immediately available and doesn't need a specific gesture to summon.

There are benefits to both kinds of taskbar, and preference will depend on the user.

This flag isn’t enabled by default, according to Rahman, which means Android 14 beta users don’t get to make that decision right now. But here’s hoping that the flag will be activated later on this year, with the public launch of Android 14. 

Of course there’s always the chance this flag gets ignored, or even removed altogether. Beta software isn't the final product, and there are a bunch of reasons why stuff gets pulled from the stable release. We’re just going to have to wait and see how this plays out, and whether the upcoming Android 14 beta 4 and 5 can offer any more insight in what’s to come.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.