The launch of Android L, the successor of Kitkat, was easily the standout point of Google I/O 2014. Developers’ preview of the new OS is already out (for Nexus devices). The following provides a brief rundown of the latest edition of Android from Google.
All the guesswork about what Google will name the next version of Android (after Kitkat) can take a breather now. At the recently concluded Google I/O annual conference, the latest Android version was unveiled – and for the time being, it has been named just ‘L’ (Lollipop and Lime Pie are the strongest contenders of being its final name, when Google makes it commercially available). We will here take readers through some of the chief noteworthy features of Android L:
- Holistic digital support – The new Android version is not about mobile devices only. ‘L’ would support Android TV, smartwatches and other wearable devices (via Android Wear). and even provide car OS support. Of course, all the latest Android smartphones and tablets would be powered by it.
- Revamped notifications management – Android has always stayed a step ahead of its main rival – iOS – when it came to managing notifications on mobile devices. Continuing with the good work, Android L now comes with even more seamless options. Users can view notifications without having to unlock their handsets. The lock screen and the shade of notification will be of identical color, and notifications can be checked from either place. In order to read the notification though, you will have to provide your PIN/do the pattern-unlock.
- Better element transition and animation – This feature of Android L has received a big thumbs-up from mobile app companies and software specialists all over. In the new Android OS, there will be a specific ‘elevation level’ for each application. On the side panels, shadows and seam display effects have been added. Cool new animations are triggered as soon as any app icon is tapped upon – thanks to the innovative ‘nested scrolling’ option.
- Material design – Since the days of Ice Cream Sandwich, Android has not witnessed any significant overhaul in its user interface (UI). The equation has changed with Android L, which boasts of the all-new ‘Material Design’ concept. The 3-D rendering feature is probably the biggest highlight, and the overall flatter layout is also likely to garner appreciation among Android fans. KitKat already had a nicely streamlined interface, and ‘L’ has made things colorful and a whole lot livelier!
- Personalized and remote unlocking – On an Android L device, you might even completely bypass the PIN-protected lock screen. The OS picks up your (and your device’s) location – and allows voice unlocking. At Google I/O, the way in which a handset could be unlocked via Bluetooth was also demonstrated. As you use the device, ‘L’ starts ‘learning’ about the way in which you use it and the mobile apps that are regularly launched on it. As a result, user-authentication is nearly fool-proof.
- Improvements in multitasking – Although multitasking has been an important feature in all Android 3.0 (and higher) platforms – the rather convoluted nature was irksome. Android L does away with all such problems, by introducing the simplistic card-stacking feature. For instance, if you wish to flip from one app to another – the card corresponding to the one you opened earlier will be displayed behind the one you are using at present. A single Android app will be able to generate several such multitasking cards.
- Higher battery backup – If the Project Volta that was unveiled at Google I/O is anything to go by, Android L is set to lay down a new marker in the domain of battery life of smartphones. It has been claimed that the OS would give handsets a backup period of at least 90 minutes more than that available on standard Nexus 5 phones. To find out the apps and other software that are causing maximum drainage, users would also be able to avail the ‘Battery Historian’ feature.
- Cleaner graphics and enhanced device speed – Google has gone with the breakthrough ART runtime feature for Android L, ditching the previous one, Dalvik. The former is expected to double the speed of the mobile devices with the new OS. At 60 frames-per-second (FPS), the animations would look just that bit clearer and brighter. There also have been collaborations with Qualcomm and Nvidia – to ensure that the underlying processor of ‘L’ is absolutely glitch-free.
- Smooth integration with Chromebook – Experts from cross-platform mobile app development companies had predicted this – but the sheer quality and range of Android L-Chrome OS interactive support has been impressive. As showcased at the conference, apps like Vine, Evernote and Flipboard can easily be integrated from Android L devices to Google Chromebooks. The latter will also be able to auto-detect whenever a handset is in the vicinity. That, in turn, will make remote login much easier.
- Heads-Up – Getting distracted by repeated unnecessary notifications while playing your favorite mobile game? On ‘L’-powered devices, this will no longer be an issue. The Heads-Up notification option would enable you to view/swipe away notifications – without interrupting gameplay (yes, even in full-screen mode). As the name itself suggests, these real-time notifications will be visible in the top panel.
- Android For Work system – Android L will, finally, let users separate their work-related mobile applications from the home apps they regularly use. Separate profiles (for ‘Home’ and ‘Work’) can be set up – and more than one instance of the same app can be stored in a device. Most features of Android For Work would be compatible with older versions of the OS. Clearly, Google is keen on really enhancing user-friendliness.
- Card-based web searchability – Taking a cue from Google Now, Android L will incorporate the card-based mobile web search feature. All results will be shown in the high-clarity rich text format, and there will be picture carousels to pull out the best-matching visual results. The header tabs would shrink gradually, ensuring that the display screen does not get cluttered.
- Stronger security and anti-theft features – The Knox workplace security (from Samsung) has received mostly positive feedback from worldwide users – and Google has implemented it in Android L. As already mentioned, users will be able to unlock devices running on this OS in ‘trusted environments’ automatically. There will also be a ‘kill switch’ with Factory Reset Projection functionality. In case your device gets stolen, you can remotely activate it – and prevent unauthorized access of data.
- Presence of Chrome tabs – This is yet another important overhaul in the list of ‘Recent Apps’ displayed in Android’s newest version. The multitasking menu would appear smarter with shadow effects and rolodex-like navigation, with Chrome tabs present in the list as well. No longer will you have to note down every web page you visit on your mobile – the list will store all such details for you!
The developers’ preview for Android L has been made available only for the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 devices – a slight dampener for those who wanted a first-hand feel of it on other handsets. The final build should be completed before the year runs out. There has been no official statement yet on whether ‘L’ would also be known as ‘Android 4.5’ or ‘Android 5.0’ though. Android Kitkat had great features but is still struggling with a relatively low (well below 20%) adoption rate – and it will be interesting to see whether the popularity of Android L reaches, or manages to surpass that of Jellybean.
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