Google unveils Android L developer preview with redone design

Google has just unveiled Android L, with an incredibly redone “Material Design.” The whole OS is built off of everything being able to have depth, and Matias Duarte (a Google designer) demoed a new Roboto typeface as well. Developers can add elevation to any part of the UI, and a shadow will automatically be created. They can also create seamless animations between apps.

As part of Android L, Google apps such as the phone dialer and Gmail have been redesigned. Google has also unveiled the first draft of the new design guidelines, consistent across devices and screen sizes.This is all really about the look — everything has been changed, even if barely in the least. This is only a sneak peek at Google’s progress, so the company is still working to extend Material Design to every aspect of Google apps.

The mobile web also has been redone for material design. Just check search results when running Android L, and you’ll understand just how everything has been made smoother and more consistent. The Recents feature in Android has also been redesigned to add realistic shadows and perspective as part of Material Design, and you’ll be able to see Chrome tabs as well in this view. You’ll also have a full-screen preview of apps in the Recents feature.

Notifications have also been expanded, so you can read, open, and dismiss notifications right from the lock screen. This all, of course, has the Material Design aspect involved. You can also have heads-up notifications, which will let you act on notifications without leaving the app you’re currently in (just as iOS 8 currently does).

There’s also now Personal Unlocking, a new lockscreen feature. It uses signals such as visible Bluetooth devices and locations to determine when your phone is safe to unlock without authentication of any kind. This can tie in with Android Wear really well — wear your watch, and your phone will unlock seamlessly.

A new API will let you find items within an app. Demoed on stage was a way to go straight into the Google Earth app by searching from the home screen omnibox. Any developers can also make search results open up in their own apps now, and Google+ sign in has been extended to all apps as well.

Performance is also a huge part of Android L. ART (Android Runtime) has been made the default runtime, replacing Dalvik, and this is a truly cross platform runtime. 64-bit architecture is now fully compatible, and this has been taken advantage of by new APIs. The runtime has support for ARM, x86, and MIPS. Google has optimized the ART backend to boost performance incredibly, and there’s a new garbage collector and memory allocator allowing apps to run more smoothly.

Google has also defined the Android Extension Pack, a collection of features increasing GPU performance. It has worked with companies such as NVIDIA and Qualcomm to make this possible, and demoed Unreal Engine 4 running on an NVIDIA-based tablet on stage.

Battery performance has been optimized as part of Project Volta as well. Battery Historian will let you correlate battery discharge with what’s happening on a device at any point in time, to let you quickly identify what has gone wrong and fix it. A new JobScheduler API will let developers schedule jobs, just as the name suggests. There’s also a new Battery Saver mode built right in to Android L in an effort to extend the battery life. On a Nexus 5, up to 90 extra minutes are quoted.

APIs (over 5000!) will be around for developers today, and early factory images will be hitting tomorrow. We’ll be sure to try Android L out when it becomes available, and hopefully a hands-on will be in order.

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Rithvik Rao