Android L is an upcoming release of the Android mobile operating system developed by Google. Unveiled on 25 June 2014, the Google I/O and released in a v preview the next day for selected Google Nexus devices.
Alongside L, there was a focus on several new Android-oriented platforms and technologies, including Android TV, the in-car platform Android Auto, the wearable computing platform Android Wear, and the health-tracking platform Google Fit. It does not yet have a formal version number or codename. Earlier many leaks suggested that the version would be named ‘Lollipop’ but there had been no confirmation from Google’s end till now.
Android L is dedicated to a new cross-platform design language referred to as “material design“. Expanding upon the “card” motifs first seen in Google Now, it is a cleaner design with increased use of grid-based layouts, responsive animations and transitions, padding, and depth effects such as lighting and shadows. Designer ‘Matías Duarte’ explained, “Unlike real paper, our digital material can expand and reform intelligently. Material has physical surfaces and edges”. The material design language will not only be used on Android but across Google’s suite of web software as well, providing a consistent experience across all platforms.
Android L introduces a refreshed notification system. Individual notifications are now displayed on cards to adhere to the material design language, and batches of notifications can be grouped by the app that produced them. Notifications are now displayed on the lock screen as cards, and “heads up” notifications can also be displayed as large banners across the top of the screen, along with their respective action buttons. A do-not-disturb feature is also added for notifications. The recent apps menu was redesigned to use a three-dimensional stack of cards to represent open apps. Individual apps can also display multiple cards in the recent menu, rather than only one entry per app; for example, a web browser can show all of its open tabs as individual cards. The calling interface in L just got a full turnover and that’s worth a mention. Well done Google!
Android L also contains major new platform features for developers; over 5,000 new APIs were added for use by apps and the Dalvik virtual machine was officially replaced by Android Runtime (ART), a new environment introduced as a technology preview in KitKat. ART is a cross-platform runtime, which supports the x86, ARM, and MIPS architectures in both 32-bit and 64-bit environments. Unlike Dalvik, which uses just-in-time compilation (JIT), ART compiles apps upon installation, which are then run exclusively from the compiled version from then on. This technique removes the processing overhead associated with the JIT process, improving system performance.
Android L also aims to improve battery consumption through a series of optimizations known as “Project Volta“. Among its changes are a new battery saver mode, job scheduling APIs, which can restrict certain tasks to only occur over Wi-Fi, and batching of tasks to reduce the overall amount of time that internal radios are active. The new developer tool called “Battery Historian” can be used for tracking battery consumption by apps while in use. The Android Extension Pack APIs also provide graphics functions such as new shaders, aiming to provide PC-level graphics for 3D games on Android devices.
Several system-level, enterprise-oriented features were also introduced under the banner “Android for Work”. Samsung contributed its Knox security framework for segregating personal and work-oriented data from each other on a device, along with accompanying APIs for managing the environment, and bulk app purchases for Google Play Store. Devices can also be configured so that users can bypass the need to enter an unlock PIN or pattern if it is within a certain geographical location or in proximity to the user’s Android Wear device.
The next day after the I/O the developer preview and the new API were released online for the developers to start building apps. As of now, we have already seen an update of PlayStore being rolled out which has the new ‘Material Design’ embedded and the new app looks a lot refreshed. The Google Chrome Beta build 37 is also in the works, which is mainly focusing the card stack view and the material design. We believe that Google will roll out other app updates sooner. The official version of Android L will be available this fall.