In what was a huge day for Android news, the biggest announcement at Google I/O was probably the new version of Android, Android L, that is coming out later this summer. We’re not exactly sure what the “L” stands for currently, but we do know that it features a completely redesigned UI, improved security, performance, battery management and a whole host of other features.
Below, we look at some of the more prominent features of Android’s latest iteration. Please note that this is in no way an “all encompassing” list as we’re sure that more and more features will be noticed once developers have had a chance to play with it once it is available later today.
Material Design – Androids New Design Language
Taking inspiration from paper and ink, Android L features a flatter, multi-layered and more colorful UI – (dare I say more iOS-like). This new UI takes Kit Kat to the next level and is accompanied by new transition animations that have a “layered” feel (much like iOS’s parallax-depth). Although it has to be said, the new transitions look buttery smooth on the demos that Google ran during the presentation.
The Material Design language is not limited to just Android, in an effort to build a more cohesive ecosystem, Material Design it is going to be seen across Chrome OS and Google’s web properties to give all its devices and OS’s a unified feel.
Integration with Chromebooks
As with the new UI on Android L and across Chrome OS, Google is also bringing in tighter and more functional integration between and Android and Chrome OS. In much the same way as OSX Yosemite’s new “Continuity” feature introduced at WWDC back in May, Android L now communicates with your Chromebook and can log you in, mirror your notifications, calls and text messages onto the laptop. Chrome OS is also now able to run native Android apps.
Security Enhancements and a Kill Switch
This one has been a no brainer for a long time. Passcodes and lock screens are great when you are out and about, or with friends who like to change your facebook statuses and/or settings. You don’t necessarily need to have to unlock your phone every single time when you are at home watching TV, or working at your desk.
There are various third party apps that do this, but Android L addresses this issue natively with a new feature called Personal Unlocking. This new feature allows users to set specific locations in which the is safe and does not require a passcode or lock security to unlock the phone. Users can also use this feature to unlock their device automatically when its connected to a specific Bluetooth device.
Another much needed feature that Android L brings is Factory Reset Projection – the long rumored “kill-switch” for stolen devices.
Project Volta – Increase Your Battery Life
Smartphones have come a long way and have evolved into something we could have never imagined 5 years ago. The one thing that has taken a drastic backward step is battery life. Despite all the advances in smartphone technology, most flagship devices cannot last more than 24-hrs without requiring a recharge. In contrast, my old Nokia 1100 could run all week on a single charge.
Introducing Project Volta, Google’s attempt at helping you get the most out of your device’s battery. This feature allows developers to optimize power consumption by apps to they become less of a drain on the battery.
Android L will also run the ART runtime out of the box. ART runtime is faster than the old Davlik runtime because it compiles the app code ahead of time, instead of just-in-time compilation seen with Davlik. This should lead to faster app switching times since the code is already complied before you switch apps. ART is also 64-bit compatible, which means it will be able to take advantage of the 64-bit processors that are sure to start coming out later this year (since the iPhone 5S already has it – other flagships will surely want to keep up).
You can try all of the above today!
For the first time, Google is making available a developer preview build of Android L for Nexus 5 and 7 devices today (June 26th). Please be advised that developer previews are NOT STABLE and are intended for DEVELOPMENT purposes only. It WILL break some stuff, so please DO NOT install it on your daily device expecting it to work without any glitches.
So, unless you are a developer or don’t mind potential crashes and apps not working, we would recommend waiting for a more stable release (maybe a few updates so they can work out any major kinks before you wipe your device).
For everyone else, it is expected that Android L will start hitting devices later in the year as a finalized update, BUT, the actual release/update time-frame will most likely vary depending on your manufacturer and carrier.
In the meantime, let us know your thoughts on Android L and its new features in the comments section below!