Android “L” is coming later this year, and on-stage at Gogole I/O, we got a preview of what the newest version was bringing us. Though it’s far from finished, the sneak-peak is meant to give Developers an idea of what they will be able to do with the release. The new release is not a massive upgrade, but here are some key points to take away from the sneak preview.
Android “L” has no name. It may never have a name, either. It’s entirely possible that Google either hasn’t decided on a moniker, or will simply call it “L”. There is also the handshake KitKat deal to think of, where no money exchanged hands, but a cross-promotional deal was reached. Google may just be honoring whatever terms that agreement had.
It’s getting a facelift
Not a massive one, but the “L” release will tighten up the interface just a touch. A new color palette will lighten things up, and Google is encouraging Developers to make smart choies about what they use for an overall scheme. This all falls into Google’s material design, a youthful and exciting take on what an android device should look like. They’ve also streamlined the guidelines, so apps will have a bit more of a generic feel, but improve much more as a result.
Perhaps the most important part of the “L” release is notifications, which are getting a lot better. They’ve been improved to a card-based layout, and will be much more interactive. From the lock screen, you can swipe them away or double-tap to get into the app itself. When you’re in an app, a pop-up will show you what’s going on, and give you choices about how to interact (a call would let you answer or dismiss, for instance).
”L” might mean “Locked”
Or unlocked, as the case were. Android “L” will have a really neat way of unlocking, should you have another device with you. Let’s say you’ve got a Moto 360 on, and a pin code set on your HTC One. Android “L” will recognize that your smartwatch is nearby, and relax that passcode lock. It also works with other handhelds like a tablet.
If you use a Chromebook, Android “L” will be nice for you. Not only will your Chromebook get notifications on calls and texts you receive, it will also keep tabs on your battery, so you know when to charge your phone in. If that weren’t enough, there is one more major feature that is being teased and worked on at Google.
We will soon be able to run Android apps on our Chromebooks, natively. The on-stage demo showed Evernote for Android running natively in Chrome OS, acting exactly the same as the mobile version. It’s an early concept, but a really neat one.
The “L” release for Android is getting a lot better about enterprise, too. Like we’ve seen with various third-party OEMs, Android “L” will natively support multiple profiles — one for personal, and another for business. It effectively creates a partition, so your two profiles don’t access information from one another.
ART, the runtime we first saw with release of Android KitKat, is now going to be standard. Google says nothing has to be done from a Developer perspective, either. ART is also touted as being snappier than the previous Dalvik runtime, so the lag we experience from time to time should diminish.
As we pointed out at the beginning, this is simply a new iteration of Android, not a massive overhaul. The time for big, sweeping changes is gone. This version of Android makes things simpler for Developers, but also increases the value we see as consumers. Overall, we like what we’re hearing, and look forward to see what Developers can do with some of the new APIs Google is rolling out with this release.