Android L is here, and it’s brought a raft of new changes, with Sundar Pichai, head of Android, proclaiming it to be one of the biggest upgrades to Android yet.
It’s going to have a radical new design, 5000 new APIs, will be available for developer previews soon, and it’s going beyond the mobile form factor. Android L will be contextually aware of its surrounding, plus voice is going to me a major input source.
The experience will also be seamless, so Android L devices communicate properly, although Pichai was at pains to point out the mobile phone will always be the priority.
The big news for Android L is the change to the way it looks – and it’s going well beyond the mobile phone to the tablet, TV screen, watch and even the car.
The new Material Design is strange in that it bucks a trend at the moment – yes, it’s flat, but it’s heavily based on making every animation, every ripple, every shadow look real, which is something that most brands are shying away from.
Google tells us that this feels more intuitive, which means that there will be shadow gradients, 3D tiles that slide over one another and most importantly: access for developers to use this for themselves on their apps. The idea of obvious: remove the fragmented way Android looks and bring consistency to the app world not matter what device you’re on.
Roboto font has been updated too, so everything from watch to TV to mobile looks the same. Every animation on screen will be allowed to connect to one another – so there’s no ‘teleportation between apps’. The home, back and multi-tasking window buttons on Android have been refined too, and overall, this is a massive step forward for a cleaner, more intuitive-looking version of Google’s mobile platform.
Notifications and lock screen
Notifications on Android L are getting an overhaul, so only the more relevant information about your apps is being presented. The notification panel is being merged with the lockscreen so you can see what’s going on as you pick up the phone, and a simple swipe up takes you into the phone.
Imagine that the lockscreen is similar to the notifications panel now, and you’re pretty much there. Android L will also learn from you, working out what you look at and interact with more often to prioritise that notification.
Another big change is that notifications will flow over the screen at the top – get a call when you’re playing a game and it will pop up at the top, asking if you want to take it. This will likely be the same with messages etc too, meaning less intrusion at the wrong times. The lockscreen is getting smarter too – if you’ve got a specific location set up, or are wearing a Bluetooth device, the phone will recognise you and unlock without a PIN. Move away or take your watch off and you’ll need to tap or swipe in a code when you unlock – or you can even use your voice.
Google wants your apps to be able to talk to one another – it used the example of searching for a place, only to have it served up in Google Earth, which is where it originally was being looked at.
The idea goes much deeper than that though – Chrome browsing has an API that other apps can take advantage of, so if you click a link to book a table in the browser you’ll be taken to something like OpenTable directly, rather than the mobile site.
This feature depends a lot on app developers taking advantage of the new tools, but all the onboard Google apps will be much more dependent on one another.
Android L is Faster, better looking and more efficient
Whilst Android comes with some nifty new features that make an immediate visual impact, Google has put a lot of work in behind the scenes to ensure that Android L is the fastest yet.
If you’re interested, here are the finer details: ART, an optional runtime in Android KitKat, has now been made the standard for Android L and works with ARM, x86 and MIPS platforms and runs twice as fast as the Dalvik runtime that is found on previous Android iterations.