Earlier this week at Google I/O, many of the new features of the next major release of Android were unveiled. Google is keeping the name of this version, whether it be Android 4.5 or 5.0 close to its chest, simply dubbing it Android L. In every respect Android L looks to be a major update – we have highlighted some of the key features below.
Aside from Android for smartphones, Google spent much time focusing on the extension of Android to other devices such as the TV (Android TV), car (Android Auto) and wearables (Android Wear).
For the first time ever, Google launched a development version of an upcoming Android release. The Android L Developer Preview was released on Thursday and soon after we saw the system dump being leaked. Since then we’ve seen a number of assets ported including the keyboard, wallpaper and more. So even though we might have to wait until the end of the year before this new Android version is formally released, we are likely to experience a number of features before then.
Android L key features
New UI – Material Design
Google’s new material design has been created from the ground up to provide a consistent cross-device experience. The design language spans mobile, web and beyond – a true Google-wide standard. The new Material theme allows developers to infuse a new colour palette into their apps , offering new system widgets, screen transitions and animated touch feedback. The video below helps to visualise what the new material design is all about.
Google is introducing a number of changes to notifications in Android L. As well as the visual changes to notifications as part of the material design, notifications will now be available on the lock screen including the ability to hide sensitive information. Ironically, this is a feature that Sony Xperia devices used to have on the Android 4.0.4 ICS firmware, before it was dropped.
Notifications will now be cloud-synced so that if you clear a notification on your tablet, you will see it disappear to your phone too. Other new notification features include a new Heads-up format for receiving high priority notifications and the ability to bridge notifications to Android Wear devices.
New Default Runtime
ART (Android Runtime) will replace Dalvik as the default runtime in Android L. ART was an optional runtime introduced in Android 4.4 KitKat, however some OEMs like Sony did not allow users to enable ART in their stock ROMs. New features introduce with ART include Ahead-of-Time (AOT) compilation, improved garbage collection (GC) and improved debugging support.
Improved battery life – Project Volta
Google has introduced Project Volta to make Android more energy efficient and give users control over resource usage. Battery life can be optimised by allowing certain apps to function at a later time or under specified conditions (such as when the device is charging). This sounds similar to Sony’s STAMINA mode.
In addition, the battery saver mode can be used to lower the clock speed of the processor, limit the screen refresh rate and reduce background data. Another new battery related feature is that it will predict how long it will take to recharge your phone, whilst charging. It will tell you this via the lockscreen.
Recents screen allows concurrent activities for documents
The recent apps screen at the moment only shows if a particular app is open. Now Google will allow users to switch between individual activities and documents from the Recents screen. Examples include opening tabs in a web browser app, documents in a productivity app, concurrent matches in a game, or chats in a messaging app.
Android L takes Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) platform support one step further by allowing Android devices to act as a Bluetooth LE peripheral device. Examples of this include a pedometer or health monitor and communicate its data with another BLE device.
New camera API and RAW-style support
A new camera API means that on supported devices apps can capture uncompressed YUV capture at full 8 megapixel resolution at 30 FPS. It also allows the capture of raw sensor data and control parameters such as exposure time, ISO sensitivity, and frame duration, on a per-frame basis. The camera API also supports Digital Negative (DNG) image capture, bringing RAW-style support.
Android L adds support for 64-bit application binary interfaces. Apps written in Java can immediately run on 64-bit architectures with no modifications required.
Apps can work with the system to dynamically scan for available networks with specific capabilities and then automatically connect. This is useful when you want to manage handoffs or connect to a specialized network, such as a carrier-billing network.
Support for OpenGL ES 3.1
Good news for game developers, OpenGL ES 3.1 support will give devs capabilities such as the ability to compute shaders, stencil textures and texture gather for games.
Android Kill Switch
A new “Factory Reset Protection” option in Android L will prevent thieves from trying to reset a stolen phone.
Do Not Disturb mode
As the name suggests you can now silence notifications for a set period of time. The settings give you the options to allow favourite contacts to get through. You can also set a period of time (i.e. night time) when Do Not Disturb is automatically turned on.
Google will allow you to set a specific ‘safe’ location, like your home where you can unlock your phone without a pin.