Upcoming Android 14 Update Bricking Google Pixel Phones
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Upcoming Android 14 Update Bricking Google Pixel Phones

The next big Google release is only in beta, but it’s causing issues for some. If you download general release software only, your Pixel is safe. but the second beta of what’s called the Quarterly Platform Release is where the problem lies. These releases deliver new features and bug fixes to Google Pixel phones. The latest version due to reach general release is QPR2, and is out next week (Monday, March 11 in the United States), but that is stable and you can install it with confidence.

However, the next update, QPR3, which will become the June Pixel Feature Drop in due course, has already reached beta 2 and is causing big problems, so proceed with care.

Google Android’s latest beta is causing problems.

LightRocket via Getty Images

March 12 update below. This post was first published on March 9, 2024.

The problem is that it can brick your Pixel phone if it’s installed in a particular way: by sideloading it. According to 9to5Google, which has sideloaded the beta on three different Pixel phones, including a Pixel 8 Pro and a Pixel Fold. Each one seemed to proceed normally but when it came to restarting them, each got stuck on the Pixel logo. The website was able to sideload the new software on to a Pixel 8.

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Well, that’s all a bit annoying, though the site found a way round the problem by putting the Pixel into Recovery mode and sideloading the Beta 1 OTA version. There are links to each of these betas in the article.

There’s good news as well, though. You can install this update successfully providing you don’t sideload. Of course, this can take longer to download than sideloading a file, which is one of the reasons side load at all.

Instead, if you’re eager to try the beta at this stage, go to Settings, then System, then Software Updates and choose System Update. Using this route, it should install smoothly enough.

It seems that if you are determined to sideload, you should enable OEM Unlock before you do. Personally, I’d choose OTA instead.

The software, which is for Pixels from the Pixel 5a and later, is almost exclusively about correcting mistakes, squishing bugs and preventing device crashes, issues that had arisen in the previous beta, which was released in February. These include fixing an issue causing the device to crash, display a blank, black screen and other issues that impact system stability. You don’t want any of those.

If you want to sign up for the beta on your Pixel, you have to enroll in the Android Beta Program: details of how to do that are here. Once in, you’ll find an Android Beta Feedback app where you can submit problems.

Remember, these issues are for a beta version of the software that will reach general release in June. And for an incisive take on this issue, check out Davey Winder’s analysis, here on Forbes.

March 10 update. The issues with the Android 14 QPR3 Beta 2 are not gone, though again, the sane approach from Forbes’ Davey Winder puts things in clear perspective. More details have emerged. Some users think that having the right software tools on board, called SDK Platform Tools, can alleviate the situation, or at least that their absence may make your phone more susceptible to being bricked.

Similarly, although the sideloading issue is real, it’s not (yet) widespread and there are other users who have installed by sideloading with no problems.

As Android Central points out, “It’s a good reminder of why you shouldn’t install beta updates on your primary devices.” The site also advises against sideloading the update now, which I’d agree with. Over The Air may take longer but given that it seems it’s happening smoothly and with no reported issues, it’ll save time compared to sideloading and undoing the damage.

It’s worth remembering that this is not the only time there have been beta problems for Pixel—and other phones, that’s the purpose of beta releases, right?—as the first Android 15 Developer Preview, released in February this year, also caused significant issues and bricked phones when sideloaded.

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March 12 update. If all this seems like déjà vu, that’s because it pretty much is. Last October, when lots of Pixel users were updating to Android 14, something similar occurred. There was no sideloading involved, and it seemed to mostly affect those with multiple profiles set up on their phones. But it resulted in what was called a soft brick, locking users out of their apps and media.

This was restricted to Pixel 6 and later models. Similarly, this problem doesn’t seem to affect every Pixel phone it’s sideloaded on. And the biggest difference is last year’s pickle was not beta software, so it had the potential to reach many more users on their main devices. With betas, you know that things are less certain. Not that that’s much consolation if you’re caught in the problem.

Above, I’ve mentioned a workaround if your Pixel is bricked: choosing Recovery Mode and sideloading the Beta 1 OTA version. For those who have never been through this process, you need to do the following: 1 turn off the phone completely by holding down the power button. 2 press volume down and the power button at the same time. This will take you to the bootloader. 3 From here choose Recovery Mode, press power and then volume up. Then you can install the Android QPR2 Beta 1 OTA. Make sure you use the version that’s right for your particular Pixel. The links can be found here.