At the I/O conference today, Google has previewed the new version of Android, currently referred to as “L.” This version comes with an UI overhaul called Material Design, which brings in a flatter look, with rounded elements and softer edges that is not just limited to tablets and phones but extend to Chrome OS and various other Google’s web services. It has simple shapes and you can also see smooth transition animations across the UI. The animations are not restricted to just inside apps but also between apps, like you can view an image in the photo gallery, and then open it in a third-party editor, instead of closing the gallery and then opening the editor. The image seems to be floating above the apps and effortlessly shifting into the second app, which is already open to the editing pane. Developers can also add the illusion of depth by adding “elevation” which automatically stacks visual elements appropriately and adds drop shadows.
Other new features that found a space in the newer version is improved notification. Here you interact with the notifications, right from your lock screen and that can include quickly swiping them away or double-tapping on the notification to land directly into the relevant app. The notifications are listed by relevance and importance, which is determined by a number of details, like the source app, etc. There is also heads-up notification for extremely important events and this will pop interactive notifications over your current task, like an incoming call pops at the top of the screen while you play a game. No you can ignore the pop up completely, or accept or dismiss the call.
Apart from a secure lock screen, Google also introduces Trusted Environments, which allow you to access the phone without the hassle of pattern or PIN codes. The authentication in this environment can be in many forms, like it could be connected to your fancy new Android Wear watch. When the phone is within a foot of your G Watch or 360, it would function normally.
The new L version also bring in deeper integration with the web and Chrome. The new recents interface will show not just recently launched apps, but also recently opened tabs on your desktop. The developers can make links go to apps instead a web page, which means that if you search for a restaurant on your laptop, the recent menu won’t simply open up a web page, but could launch directly into the Yelp reviews.
Another feature that we would like to talk about is ART runtime. It is a software library that can make your apps run and launch much faster. It is also said to increase battery life because Android will be wasting less processing power decompressing apps. ART is also built to support 64-bit mobile processors, and this combo can bring additional performance enhancements and power savings. If you still crave for battery life, there’s a new battery saver mode than can extend standby time by up to 90 minutes by turning off unessential services.
With L, Google is also entering into enterprise space. There will be new APIs specifically designed to allow personal and work data to live side by side with minimum inconvenience. Google is also planning to package these features as standalone apps; so that users even on KitKat will be able to take its advantage, in a few months. The security and enterprise tools are built on Samsung’s Knox technology, which is officially part of the Android OS now.
Google’s Android L is the OS that can be everywhere, means wearables, cars and TVs, where you could want access to Android’s applications and voice controls. The L version will be available to developers soon, but there’s no word on when it will come to the end users.