The next version of Google’s Android operating system might let you install multiple instances of the same app thanks to a new “app cloning” feature.
First spotted by Mishaal Rahman, the feature is baked into Android 14 Developer Preview 1, which was released this week.
In a nutshell, this feature lets you install an Android app on your device… then “clone” that app to install a second copy. Then you can login to each instance of the app using a different user account, allowing you to keep your personal and work profiles separate or allow your kid or another family member to access their data on your phone or tablet.
You could already sort of do this by setting up Android for Work, but this way you don’t have to set up an entirely new work profile on your device. You can just clone the app or apps you want to use multiple accounts with.
App cloning isn’t entirely new – some phone makers have built the feature into their versions of Android, and there are some third-party apps that offer similar functionality. But now it looks like Google is at least considering bringing the feature to Android 14.
It’s not a done deal yet though. Rahman notes that the feature is disabled by default in Android 14 DP1 and needs to be enabled by toggling a developer flag to its on position. That could mean it’s not yet ready for prime time… and may never be. We won’t know for certain whether Google plans to make app cloning available to everyone until Android 14 stable is released this fall.
At this point there’s also at least one major user interface issue with the way app cloning is implemented in Android 14 DP1: cloned apps look exactly the same as their original counterparts in home screen and app drawer.
With no easy way to differentiate the icon for your personal or work profiles, I imagine it might be a little too easy to accidentally send a personal message on your work account or vice versa. If Google does plan to make app cloning more widely available, hopefully the company will come up with a solution for that issue first.
Another interesting tidbit? Not all Android apps can be cloned at this point. Rahman says that the “list of cloneable apps that can appear… is currently hardcoded.”