As expected, Google today previewed the next iteration of Android, currently only known as Android L, at the I/O. While the company stopped short of revealing the name of the Android update, it is widely believed to be ‘Lollipop’. Google gave a glimpse at quite a few features that will be arriving with the update and here’s a list of them.
The first thing that you are bound to notice is the design, which has undergone a big change and the language will be unified across platforms. This is consistent with what we had earlier reported about Google’s Quantum Paper project. The UI will be smoother and more responsive and will boast rich animated touch feedback. Google gave a glimpse at the new Gmail app as well as the phone dialer, which is quite different from what we see on Kitkat. The animations on the phone dialer for example included a ripple touch effect and the whole experience looked quite snappy. Apps will be able to get UI elements based on colors in a photograph.
This new feature essentially proves how contextually aware your phone is. So essentially, if you are in what Google calls a “Trusted Environment”, the phone won’t ask you for the pattern or PIN code to unlock the device. Another example includes interacting with a wearable. So if you are wearing a smartwatch, the phone will recognize the device and the fact that you are using it and again won’t ask you for an authentication.
Notifications on lockscreen have been given a greater degree of interactivity and the new design is quite similar to Google Now’s cards. More interactivity means, you will be able to double tap a notification to open the app, swipe to dismiss it or swipe across the screen to unlock the device. In our opinion, it has a very iOS-like feel to it. Another thing Android L brings is heads up notifications that will be served when you are working on an app. This will allow you to interact with the notification without leaving the app.
Google Chrome has been given a major update too with many new features introduced. For starters, Google has added the Material Design to the browser, so you will see card like interface and also a much smoother performance.
In the multitasking window, all the tabs are laid out as a stack of cards and the animation of swiping through the cards is quite smooth. There is a greater level of interaction between Chrome and third-party apps too, so if you were to click on a link, Chrome would immediately switch to the relevant app. A demo on stage showed how searching for a particular landmark, will give you an option to see it on Google Maps or Google Earth.
Performance and Project Volta
Google has developed a new runtime called ART for developers, which promises a 2x boost in performance. It is compatible with ARM, x86 and MIPS architectures. Google claims that end users will be able to see a considerable improvement in performance and battery efficiency. It is also promising PC-level graphics in future devices running on Android L. It demoed a clip running on Unreal Engine 4, and the results were quite impressive.
Speaking of battery efficiency, Google also announced Project Volta. This essentially offers a tool for developers called ‘Battery Historian’, which will give developers detailed information on how the battery is being used. For users, there is a new app called Battery Saver, which will shut down everything but the most essential apps and services. The Battery Saver app running on a Nexus 5 can squeeze out an extra 90 minutes of juice.
Google wants to encourage the bring-your-own-device culture and introduces a set of APIs for developers with Android L. These apps or services will ensure your personal and work data remain separate and safe, thereby nullifying the need to carry two phones.
More than just the mobile devices, Google also wants Android to seamlessly function on a variety of devices. These include wearable devices powered by Android Wear, automobiles by Android Auto and TVs with Android TV. So for example if you are playing a game on a phone, you will be able to continue from where you left off when switching on your TV. Notifications appear at the same time on a phone and a smartwatch, and the seamless connectivity means, if you reply to a text message on the phone that notification automatically disappears from the smartwatch as well. If you are a Chromebook user, you will get incoming calls and text message notifications on your Chromebook as well. If your smartphone’s battery is low, you will get a notification on your Chromebook.
Android L will be available for developers starting today. Google however hasn’t mentioned when it will be widely released for the consumers apart from saying it will be available sometime this fall.