Google I/O is by far the biggest tech event for all things Google every year. It is home to new Android released, new Chrome OS releases and generally about everything Google has been doing in the past 12 months. This year the search giant was expected to release an all new version of Android, unlike some of the point releases we have been seeing for the past few years. And this is what Google announced. It’s called Android L release. We’re not sure if this is some sort of code name, since it’s just for developers only for the moment, or whether this is what it will be called for the consumer release. For now though let’s look at some of the major new features of Android L.
One of the obvious changes to Android L is the all new design. The last time Google revamped the interface of Android was way back in the 4.0 release. In Android L the company has made tons of subtle as well as less subtle changes. There’s a lot more colour in the UI, from the icons to the default apps such as the dialler and the Gmail app. They all look a lot more cheerful, playful and bolder. Google has sprinkled the entire UI with animations. From button presses to opening up a menu or ticking a check box, all are accompanied by some kind of animation. Google has also added a new depth element to the interface. Buttons seem to float over the app UI, menus can hide underneath another menu that floats above. Developers have access to new APIs for all these new design features. Google calls the new UI on Android L ‘Material Design’.
Notifications is another aspect of Android that has received a lot of work. Google has taken a few cues from iOS regarding new notifications. For example users will now be able to access interactive notifications right on the home screen, like iOS. It’s extremely useful and we’re glad Google went this way. Apps will also be able to display heads up notifications if a fullscreen app is opened. An incoming call is an example of this. It won’t take over the entire screen like it does at the moment.
Rather than going through the time consuming process of entering pins or remembering patterns, Android L will be able to keep the phone unlocked if a trusted Bluetooth device is nearby. For example if you’re wearing an Android Wear watch and holding your phone, you won’t need to enter your pin code or pattern.
Android L will focus heavily on improving performance of the whole OS, from the core UI to third party apps. Animations will occur at full 60FPS. The new ART compiler, which was previewed on Android 4.4 will be native on Android L. ART is fully 64-bit compatible, better at garbage collection and better at managing RAM. Google claims it is twice as fast as the old Dalvik runtime. Developers won’t need to make any big changes to work with ART.
Google is serious about improving gaming on Android L. The new Android Extension Pack will give developers access to a whole lot of new graphical features. These include tessellation, geometry shaders, computer shaders and ASTC texture compression.
Android L will enhance the battery performance of all phones running it. Google will release a new API called JobScheduler, which via a host of new capabilities will allow apps to use battery more efficiently. Android L will also include a new battery saver mode which as you’d expect would reduce CPU speed, background syncing and other obvious changes to churn more life out of the battery.
Google will release the SDK for Android L tomorrow. Owners of Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 will be able to download system images tomorrow as well.