Google didn’t pull any stops in the first day of Google I/O. Of course, the big topics for Day One are all Android: Android Wear, Android Auto (yey!), Android TV, and the much anticipated upcoming build, Android L.
Yes, folks, they’re simply naming it L for the moment (I’m going for Lollipop, or Lemon Pie). They haven’t even revealed the official build number yet (I’m betting 5.x). Regardless, though, it seems to be an evolutionary step compared to Jellybean.
As with most of their releases, Android’s interface has undergone some changes. Called the Material Design UI, it’s the logical evolution of what we got for Jellybean. It’s more streamlined, flatter, more colorful and multi-layered. Aside from that, there a lot of pleasing visual cues, such as seamless transition animations between apps, and an elevated, 3-D-like property on your screen (for example, icons seemingly hovering over the screen, etc). This new design will also trickle over other Google apps, such as Chrome, etc.
But a pleasing facelift isn’t the only thing to get excited about. Starting with Android ICS, every new version has a “project” feature. In the aforementioned ICS, it was Project Butter. For Jellybean, it was Project Svelte. For L, it’s Project Volta. As the name implies, it’s all about the battery, baby! And it’s not just a glorified battery saver (although that feature promises to be slick). There’s a new battery historian feature that will be able to measure the impact of specific activities on a device’s battery life, a boon for developers to be able to create more efficient versions of their apps. Couple that with the new job scheduler feature that will allow devs to optimize power consumption in apps as well as schedule battery-intensive tasks like downloading updates, etc. Intensive games will benefit greatly on this.
If you’re a security nut, fret not, as the new security features will most surely delight you, such as Personal Unlocking which, among other things, allows you to set a specific location in which the phone knows it’s safe to unlock without a PIN or other lock screen security; and the Factory Reset Projection, a.k.a. the “killswitch”. There’s also Android at Work, which is (just the gist of it) Google’s version of Samsung’s Knox. We get some new notifications, too, via the lockscreen and heads-up notifications.
The biggest change, however, is that this time, Android will be using ART (Android runtime) exclusively, replacing the old, aging compiler Dalvik. This may not mean much to most people, but the effects are staggering. For one, it means that Android will no longer natively care what platform it’s running (f.e., whether ARM or Intel, or whatever), it’ll run your apps on any of them. That significantly reduces compatibility issues, and running faster is just an icing on the cake. This change ties into what is for me the BIGGEST draw of Android L…
…It’s meant to run across different devices, not just on you phone/tablet! Yes, folks, Android L will be meant to reside on your watch, your Glass, your TV, and heck, even on your CAR!!! Think about it, with a unified code base across a myriad of devices, a lot of developers can create apps that will work seamlessly across different devices.
For those lucky enough to own Nexus devices, particularly the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7, Google’s giving you your candy as early as tomorrow (as of this writing June 26) as they will be releasing the preview system images at that time. Of course, take note that these are unstable versions, so be careful. However, I think most enthusiasts won’t care. I know I won’t.