It’s been a little more than a month since Google let the cat out of the bag and gave out the developer preview of Android L for developers to test and curious but daring onlookers to try. While the preview wasn’t made for end users to enjoy, it does bare a few markings of what awaits us in the next Android release. So what have we liked so far and what do we hope Google will get to fix before that expected day?
5 Things We Loved
1. Battery Life. The improvements that Project Volta brought is nothing to belittle. On a dosage of mobile data, browsing, and multimedia, the battery lasted longer than a day on the same amount of use when using KitKat. Crossing our fingers that Google has already been working on even making it better by the time Android L rolls out.
2. Do Not Disturb. A much needed feature that adds a bit of smartness to our notifications, now finally built into Android itself. It’s quite basic but for majority of the cases, basic is more than enough. No more need to be jealous of similar OEM features or custom ROMs.
3. Search in Settings. Yet another OEM idea that has thankfully made its way to the core Android experience. Granted, a vanilla Android on the Nexus doesn’t have much settings to wade through, but it’s still a lifesaver if you don’t know the exact path to a particular seldom tweaked option. The one caveat, it currently doesn’t work well, sometimes not finding settings you already know do exist.
4. Material Design. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but at least in our eyes, Material Design is refreshingly beautiful. As a design language and guiding principle, it seems to be much more consistent and well-thought. The only problem, at least in this developer preview, is that it isn’t yet applied consistently to Android’s core. We expect things to be more seamless later this year.
5. ART. The new Android Runtime. Perhaps it is only subjective, but apps do start faster, run smoother, take up less space. They do install slower though. Most of the promised benefits, and drawbacks of ART. The true litmus test will be when everyone jumps into the pool, whether they like it or not, and there are times when they won’t.
5 Things We Did not Love
1. ART. Yes, ART appears twice. This is more of a growing pains issue and not entirely Google’s fault. App developers will have to work double time to make sure their wares will work once Android L is released, otherwise expect a less than painless transition, with crashes or incompatible apps. Plus the ever looming threat of non-working root apps and methods make us await this new feature with a bit of anxiety.
2. Still no “Clear All” button. It’s 2014 and Google still won’t give us a convenient way to banish all notifications or clear the recent apps list. Perhaps it is a bit more debatable on the Recents view, but in this day and age where users get notifications left and right throughout the day, it boggles the mind why such a feature does not exist by default.
3. Recents redesign. No doubt it is pretty, but is it the most efficient way to present these recent apps? The app thumbnails take up majority of the screen, instead of being herded to one side in a line, but as far as practical information density goes, nothing has changed. You practically really see only three, at most four, of those most current apps, and can only swipe away those. Perhaps a more compressed tickler visualization would be better. But, still, it really looks nice.
4. Still no battery percentage in status bar. Maybe it’s considered a power user feature, but is it really? Considering how small the battery indicator is, it is not so easy to determine from a quick glance really how much battery is left. And since that sometimes crucial information takes a few taps to reach, it is quite strange that it wouldn’t be there to greet you, optionally at least if not by default. Not even in the expanded notification panel.
5. Inconsistent Material Design. Again, growing pains. Or to be exact, half-baked pains. The Android L Preview wasn’t really meant for end users anyway, so it’s not surprising that even core pieces of the Android UI don’t adhere to it yet. It should, however, not be an excuse for app developers not to ensure that their apps will be Materialized when the time comes.
Ready to Jump to L?
Nothing in these two lists are set in stone and things are bound to change, hopefully for the better, by the time Android L, whose real name still remains a mystery, gets released later this year. Google is undoubtedly already working on addressing many of these issues, and might finally be giving into some of the most requested features. Unfortunately, neither developers nor adventurous users will be able to taste those changes like this again, as Google might not be releasing an updated preview image anymore..
Have you tried out Android L for yourself? Is there any feature that stands out to you, either in a good way or not? Let us know your thoughts on the next major Android version in the comments below!