Android L preview

Everything you need to know about Google's shiny new OS

It seems like only yesterday we were sinking our teeth into the chocolatey goodness of Android 4.4 KitKat, but now we've got a newer, tastier version of Google's OS to look forward to.

Google shared glimpses of Android L (the final name has yet to be confirmed) at its I/O event this year, and while there's still a lot left to discover, there's plenty to be excited about:

READ MORE: 8 things you need to know about Android L

A fresh new look

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Material Design is the name of Android L’s UI overhaul, and its primary aim is to kill clutter with a flat, minimalist interface and bright primary colours.

The Google+ app is the currently the easiest way to get a feel for Android's new design direction, and the new look will apply to both smartphone and tablet versions of Android L, and will also be a core feature of Android Wear.

Emphasis has also been placed on slick, flashy transitions, with the aim of seamlessly switching between connected apps.

The on-screen navigation buttons have been simplified to basic triangle, circle and square shapes, although Google has stressed that this may not be the final design.

Smarter notifications

Android L's smarter, in more ways than one.

Android L

For starters, its notification system has been overhauled, and is now even more useful.

Notifications can now drop in from the top, even when you're playing games, and you can choose to deal with them there and then, or wait until you've cracked the high score.

The new lock screen notifications have also been given a boost. The lock screen now  essentially replicated the drop-down notification menu, displaying all of your notifications as cards. 

You can choose to dismiss them by swiping them away, or open them up to see more information. 

Slicker multitasking

Multitasking has also been given a boost, with an all-new 3D card-style view which lets you flick through different apps like a virtual rolodex.

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Individual chrome tabs now have a dedicated card each. If you're in one app and open another directly from it (going from Gallery to Instagram for example), then the new app will also have its own tab.

Google Now also has the power to launch any installed apps relevant to your search. Search for a film for example, and you’ll be able to fire up a film app like IMDb directly from Google Now.

It all makes clicking between webpages and apps a far more fluid experience, and it's a very welcome change. 

We are however a little concerned about how messy all those cards will get during a heavy multitasking session. Something tells us that the current setup which shows of multiple open apps could be quicker. Time will tell.

More after the break...

It's safer

Google didn't go into the ins and outs of its behind the scenes security features at I/O, but it assured us that there have been plenty of behind the scenes changes to ensure that L is more secure than ever, with more options to help customise your privacy settings.

Android L’s lock screen has also smartened up. It can now automatically unlock if it recognises that it’s in a secure situation.

It will, for example, remove the lock screen pattern or pin if it’s connected to your smartwatch. It can also bypass security measures in trusted locations like your house, for example.

It's faster

ART is now the default runtime in Android L. While that won’t mean a lot to most people, it essentially means that the engine running behind the scenes has been completely renewed.

Apps and animations will run at a much more fluid 60fps, and Android L now offers over twice the speed of its previous runtime, Dalvik. Impressive stuff.

Other tweaks include an improvement in graphics performance, and Google has worked with the likes of Nvidia and Qualcomm to further improve optimisations within their own processors.

More stamina

Android L will land with Project Volta - an app which focuses on improving battery life. 

It offers in-depth battery life information at your fingertips, letting you pinpoint possible causes of battery drain.

This, coupled with various under-the-hood-optimisations, means that developers should be able to produce apps which are even more efficient and less power-hungry.

Android L also has a built-in battery saver mode, which presumably automatically reduces brightness and cranks down data connections and app syncing, in a similar fashion to battery saver modes found in the LG G3 and HTC One (M8).

Release date

Developers have already wrapped their hands around Android L’s SDK preview, and Nexus 4, 5 and Nexus 7 owners can flash Android L to their devices right now.

Bear in mind that it’s by no means complete or bug-free, so we’d wait until the final version is released. Whenever that may be…

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Android L

Android L
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