It's been less than eight months since the last major Android version was announced
, under the inconspicuous name KitKat, and the for the first time then Google partnered with a confectionary giant, of all things, for the marketing purposes. Today marked the arrival of the Android 4.4 KitKat's successor, dubbed Android... L. That's right, regardless of the blank associations that come to mind when one hears the new naming scheme, L might be considered as one of the most visibly significant updates in Android's history.
We got a thoroughly revamped interface with the fashionable "flat", but colorful demeanor that many Android manufacturers, like Samsung and LG, adopted for their respective TouchWiz and Optimus overlays. In addition, Google finally overhauled the aging notification system, which looked pale and barren in stock Android, when compared to Samsung's, LG's, or third party efforts you can find in the Play Store. The multitasking options also got a boost with a Google Now-style card system, and there are plenty of other changes to Android under the hood, like the 64-bit compiler and the Project Volta battery life enhancer, so let's dig in, and round up all the novelties for you. The Nexus 5
and Nexus 7
Android L SDK is rolling out tomorrow, when we'll know more about the subtle changes that weren't mentioned, and update accordingly.
Android L - all the new features
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Android L - all the new features
1. New "Material" design
Android's new visual language is inspired by nature, physics, and the bold, graphic look of print-based design. Or in other words, a design based on the qualities of paper. When experiencing Material Design, look for material metaphors - "use of familiar tactile attributes" and "realistic lighting" to provide a "rationalized space" and a "system of motion".
The second foundation is motion. Google is being very specific about how Android has to move on your device's display - "All action takes place in a single environment. Objects are presented to the user without breaking the continuity of experience even as they transform and reorganize. Feedback is subtle yet clear. Transitions are efﬁcient yet coherent."
2. Android on all screens
On your phone, tablet, laptop, TV, car, watch, and home electronics - Google's new Android on all screens concept reminds of Microsoft's beleaguered approach to unify it all under the Windows umbrella.
3. Brand new notifications design
Google's Android 'L' release is getting a brand new style of notifications. The enhanced notifications system now shows the most important ones and hides ones that are not top-priority. Slide down, just like you'd slide a deck of cards, and you reveal the other notifications.
Another cool new feature of Android notifications is the way they would now pop up on top of what you are seeing, allowing you to see them without them getting in the way. Not just that, though - you'd be able to dismiss them or act on them right away. Imagine playing a game while receiving an invitation for a group video call. Now, you don't have to slide down the notification center - you can just accept or decline the invitation right away.
All the notification enhancements can be summed up in three categories:
Heads up notifications
4. 64-bit ART compiler
It's not only the visual changes brought on by the Material Design paradigm that the new "L" Android release will bring to the table, there are revolutionary changes under the Android hood, too. For starters, we are moving from the current aging Dalvik compiler to the efficient ART, which will make Android L truly cross-platform on ARM, x86 and MIPS, i.e. everywhere.
The ART compiler will significantly optimize memory work and app loading times, too, so Google is promising up to two times faster performance at times. In addition, ART is entirely 64-bit, so it can take advantage of new apps written from the groundup for 64-bit processing architecture, like the new ARM Cortex-A57 processors.
It will also allow much larger RAM memory quantities to be addressed, so seeing Android devices with more than 3 GB of RAM is not out of the question. All of these improvements are coming for free, of course, as soon as the new Android L hits your handset.
5. Project Volta battery life improvements
Project Volta is adding new tools to allow developers to more easily figure out how and why an app is affecting battery life, and tools to make sure certain tasks don't trigger when battery life is running down. The first part of that is called Battery Historian, which does exactly what the name implies. It gives a detailed history of when the battery was drained and what exactly caused the usage to help devs identify features that affect battery life too much. Next is the Job Scheduler API, which makes it easier for devs to choose when tasks are performed, meaning battery intensive tasks could be done while the device is charging, or the device will avoid updating apps when the battery is now.
On the user side of things, there is now going to be a built-in Battery Saver mode, similar to what you would find on a new Samsung or HTC device. Google's built-in version will scale down display brightness, throttle your CPU, and limit background updates.
6. New recent apps menu
Apart from sporting a different design, the new recents tab will now decouple existing Chrome tabs into separate, clickable, entities. What's more, Google is again opening up this API to developers, so if that kind of functionality makes sense for a particular app, devs will be able to take advantage of it.
7. Context-aware unlocking
Personal unlocking is an intelligent concept that can take into account the Bluetooth devices that the a phone or tablet is connected to, the user's current location, even their unique voice print. We were given a demo on video where a pattern lock screen was bypassed when an Android smartphone was near a smartwatch. The two were paired, we suppose, so the phone was well aware that the smartwatch, hence the user, was near. Moving the smartwatch away caused the pattern to appear. In other words, the system detected when the user wasn't near and asked for a pattern to prevent unauthorized access.
8. Separating work and play
Google announced that Android L will offer new features to make it easier for people to use one device for both work and personal life. This includes keeping data separate, and getting help from a surprising source.
We've been seeing increased cooperation between Google and Samsung recently, but this is a big deal. Samsung has contributed part of its Knox security software to run as a core part of Android. It will keep work and personal data separate, and be standard in Android L. It will also allow Samsung Knox Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and developers to reach a wider audience outside of Samsung branded devices. Injong Rhee, Senior Vice President of KNOX Business Group at Samsung Electronics, said on the partnership.
9. Improved contextual search
Google has put an emphasis on 'rediscovery', meaning that Google Search will now be better aware of what you were doing before. One primer Google demo'd is Search's knowledge of a user's previous Google Earth search for a location.
This query, which was performed in an app separate from Search, is then incorporated in the results you get for the same or similar search queries, and you'll be able to jump right into a given app and start right where you left off.
10. New APIs support - Bluetooth 4.1, USB audio and Burst Photo mode
The Android L SDK will contain support for thousands of new APIs, with Google throwing in a few majors in the presentation, like Bluetooth 4.1, USB audio, and burst photo mode for third party apps.