Android 14 Preview 1 came out yesterday, and while Google is doing its best to hide the interesting consumer-facing features from this early release (either because they’re not finished, or for a big I/O reveal), that’s not stopping the Internet from finding interesting features. ‘App Cloning’ is a new feature apparently hidden in the shipping Preview 1 build, and Mishaal Rahman, writing for XDA, managed to enable it.
The feature leverages Android’s multi-user system to have two copies of the same app but with different data, allowing you to log in to each with different accounts. Some apps support multiple accounts and some don’t, but this feature would bring multiple account support to everything. It would also bring a great deal of consistency to having multiple accounts—every app could deal with multiple accounts in the same way, with one icon for account number one and a second icon for account number two. Under the hood, the whole feature sounds a lot like Android for Work but without the complicated Work Profile setup process and with the ability to pick which apps you want to duplicate.
You might have seen this feature in some Android skins and third-party apps, so this is making it into Android proper as part of the normal upstreaming process. As Android System UI lead Dan Sandler once explained at Google I/O, the System UI team’s feature loop is often “we see a paradigm in the wild, we take it, we learn about it, we make it safer, and then we contribute it back to the framework for everyone to use in Android.”
There is a lot about this feature that isn’t finished right now. There’s no clear way to make a cloned app other than going through the obscure process of finding the right settings screen. Once you do that, Android’s launcher cannot differentiate between the cloned and original apps—the icons will have the same name and icons. Android for Work gives the duplicate work icons a little briefcase badge, but there’s nothing like that here.
The one big downside to this feature is that Android OEMs can control which apps use the cloning feature, which will hopefully not be abused without a reason. Cloned apps have been getting Android development work for some time, with the Android 13 Compatibility Definition Document mentioning a “cloned apps profile” (that sounds like you’d only be able to create one extra cloned app) as a mandatory feature. There’s no telling if the feature will be ready for Android 14’s release in the second half of the year, but it’s actively being worked on.