Google will later this year start rolling out the latest version of Android. The new version of Android demoed last evening at Google I/O is not yet officially announced but all its features were demonstrated on stage to developers at I/O and there is a preview (images for Nexus devices) going live in a few hours so that developers can start preparing for the greatest Android redesign since Ice Cream Sandwich back in 2011.
Android L, as it is known for the tine being, is notable first and foremost for the long list of extended devices that it will start supporting as soon as the preview phase is over. Other than the traditional smartphone and tablet, the operating system will be key to other Android-centric devices like Android TV and Android Wear. It will also power Google’s Android in the car, Android Auto.
Android L will feature a total redesign of the Android interface as we know it. From nifty animations to navigation buttons to that iconic Roboto font to even the logo, everything is getting an overhaul. Even the stock keyboard. The new interface based on what Google calls Material Design is something we had seen earlier in leaks as Project Hera and brings on board a simplified flat design with cards taking centre stage. The design cuts across and has seen a reworked dialler app and a pleasant new way of prioritizing and displaying notifications on the lockscreen. Have you seen the way the redesigned recent apps menu utilizes cards? Jaw-dropping!
There’s also heads up notification, a feature that allows an urgent notification like say an incoming call to still show up on whatever you’re doing on your display.
Worth noting is the change in the runtime. Dalvik, the Java VM that has been there since the launch of Android is being phased away to pave way for ART (Android Runtime). ART first showed up when Android 4.4 KitKat was announced but it was optional in order to let ART get tested extensively and also let developers update their applications accordingly. However as per the keynote at I/O, ART is ready to go and developers won’t need to sweat a lot to get their applications up and ready. That is taken care of. ART will work on all the major platforms ARM, x86, and MIPS without any issues. It is also 64-bit compatible. Actually, thanks to ART, Android now fully supports 64-bit architecture with the L release.
To address the always nagging battery issues, Google has been working on optimizing the operating system for better power consumption under Project Volta. This will be possible by bringing controls to both the users and the developers. Developers will now be able to tweak their applications so that they don’t drain your juice when you are left with little. They will also have access to data on how battery is being drained so that they can identify which tasks or functions of their apps are draining the battery fast and take the necessary action. The user will have access to a Battery Saver mode which will dumb down things when a particular threshold is reached. This is pretty much like the Power Saving Mode and Ultra-Power Saving Mode available at the moment in Samsung, LG and other OEMs’ devices.
Android L is contextually aware so. You can control it via voice almost universally.
Bluetooth 4.1, USB Audio, OpenGL ES 3.1 and native burst mode for taking photos using the camera app are worth noting.
We’ll have to wait to see Android L available officially later in the year. Also, that “L” codename is still coming. Of course there is no doubt at this moment that this is going to be that 5.0 release we’ve all been waiting for. HTC is the first of OEMs to come out and state clearly that all One Mx devices will be getting the update within 90 days of it being available.
I watched the 2 hours 40 minutes keynote from start to end and there’s so much about Android L than I could briefly highlight here. I’ve just focused on what I feel are the main items. Feel free to ask about any features or areas that are not explicitly highlighted for further details.