Google faces a two-fold challenge regarding its new mobile OS – Android 5.0 (or, as the developer preview has been named, Android L). For starters, it has to make sure that the version remains much more attractive than Tizen – Samsung’s home-grown operating system. Android 5.0 needs to be at par with Apple’s iOS 8 – also set to make its commercial debut soon – as well. Here are a few features that should ideally be present on the new OS from Google.
Will it be ‘Lollipop’? Will it be ‘Key Lime Pie’? Well, the successor to Android KitKat (unveiled on the 25th of June) is yet to get a final name – although it is practically certain that the selection would be between these two options. For the time being, it is simply being referred to as Android L, and its developer previews have won appreciation from mobile software analysts and testers worldwide. Before Android 5.0 becomes commercially available in a few months’ time, here is a list of features we wish to see in it:
- A smarter Google Now: Make no mistake – when it comes to internet-related searches, Android’s Google Now mobile digital assistant is still streets ahead of its iOS rival, Siri. However, the latter trumps Google Now, when it comes to more intuitive tasks and queries. In the soon-to-release edition of the Android platform, it would be great to see Google Now having the capability of understanding and completing native tasks, just as Siri does.
- A new Google Notes application: App development experts feel that the popularity of Android would get a huge fillip among users – if Lollipop/Key Lime Pie comes with a dedicated notes app. It should be something on the lines of Evernote. The developers at Google should make it compatible with the Calendar application. If someone has multiple Gmail accounts, all of them have to be brought under the same hood.
- A card-based interface: Initial previews indicate that flat designs are going to be among the chief highlights of the upcoming version of Android. Let’s just hope that the Google developers persist with it when the platform finally hits the markets. With iOS 8 also reportedly going for a flatter user-interface, Android cannot afford to lose out on the design game!
- Lockscreen with third-party widget compatibility: Lockscreen widgets made their debut on Android JellyBean (4.2), and it’s high time they got an upgrade. In particular, mobile users would be highly convenienced if the default lockscreen of Android 5.0 was compatible with third party widgets and external mobile apps. Of course, native apps like Gmail, Photos, Sound Search and other native applications of Google should continue to be supported.
- More efficient contact lookups: No one likes to browse through scores of names, to find and call a person. If a smart dialer is present on the new Android version, finding a specific contact number would become a matter of a few taps. In addition, mobile software development experts feel that Google should consider including a T9 dialer in the upcoming Android platform.
- Personalized themes: Tweaking root-level codes/files is required to provide customized themes – and that’s not likely to happen in Android 5.0. But hey, this is a wishlist, so we’ll just cram in this one as well. Customized themes, if and when they come along, would allow people to add their own widgets, sounds, colors and other personalized elements to their smartphones. Are the technicians at Google listening?
- More standardized hardware across devices: This probably is another pipe dream, but it is something Google should look into pretty soon. General Android fans as well as mobile application developers have often highlighted the discrepancies in the display properties of apps on standard smartphones and phablets. Google should provide original equipment manufacturers (OEM) a standard set of hardware and resolution levels to work with. More uniformity across devices would surely help.
- Handsfree recognition: Google acquired Viewadle way back in October 2012. This gives it a fair chance to be able to include touch-free gesture recognition features for pictures and videos in the new Android version. In addition, users would love it if new Android devices can be unlocked without actually handling them. Since Google has already experimented with Blink and similar recognition software, handsfree features might be integrated for mobile games as well.
- Video chatting during calls: To make Key Lime Pie/Lollipop a success, Google can very well take a few cues from its biggest rival, Apple Inc. For instance, the latest version of the Android platform should have a video chatting facility (via Google Hangouts) which can be used during a voice call. iOS app developers highlight that such integration is one of the best points about iPhones – and there is no earthly reason why Android cannot replicate it.
- Improved photo effects and editing: There’s very little to complain about the 16MP camera of Samsung Galaxy S5 phones – but the same cannot be said about the Google Nexus handsets. With Samsung going the Tizen way for its next series of phones (Samsung Z has already been formally announced), the onus is on the Android developers to shore up the camera features on the platform. Jelly Bean and KitKat do offer select photo editing options, but there is a lot of scope for bolstering these features.
- Continued focus on better battery performance: Android 4.1 introduced us to Project Butter, the 4.3 update came with sensor features and seamless wi-fi scanning – and people would definitely like to see more such battery-saving software add-ons in Android 5.0. There has to be a way in which people can install as many mobile apps as they want, without causing excessive battery drain. Time for the Google experts to figure out the ‘smartphone battery’ puzzle!
- A better Swype keyboard: Yet another feature that is already present on existing Android versions, but is crying out for improvement. For instance, it is not possible to edit words from earlier sentences – without having to rewrite those words completely. The touch features are okay on the Swype keyboard, but it can certainly do with a dash of more user-friendliness.
- Option to control automatic updates: Many Android fans love the automatic updates feature – but there are plenty of people who prefer having more control. It would be nice on the part of Google to make sure that users get the option to pick which updates they would like to receive on their phones. That way, the phones would remain faster too.
- Looking beyond Google Plus: Well, it would be naive to expect Google not promoting Plus on the soon-to-release version of Android. However, the platform should offer enhanced compatibility with Twitter and Facebook (both the mobile site and the messenger) as well. Smartphone-users almost invariably look for a rich social media experience, and a myopic concentration on Google Plus is not going to be enough.
Android L won’t be, in all likelihood, released before the launch of Samsung Z – since the Google technicians would definitely like to check out the features of the much-hyped Tizen OS first. The device penetration shares of KitKat have not been as impressive as that of Jelly Bean – another issue that needs to be looked into. Android 5.0 will probably be debuting (with a finalized name!) sometime in the fourth quarter of 2014. We would love to see as many of the above features in it as possible.
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