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5 cool Android L features you can get right now [updated]

Kris Carlon
28

After playing around with the developer preview of Android L on our Nexus 5, we all got pretty excited about what is coming up in Android 5.0 Lollipop. The nice part is that several cool features are already possible on your existing smartphone. Some are simple apps, some are pre-existing settings you may not have known about and some require just a little more effort. [Update: with a new Xposed module, you can also get the new navigation buttons][Update 2: the L Keyboard has now been removed from the Google Play Store. We have an alternative download link for you below]

nexus androidl
Android L may be far from finished, but you can grab some parts of it already. / © Google, AndroidPIT

L Keyboard

This is super cool. As soon as the preview was released, some clever develoepr scoured the code for anything that was fully functional and that could be scraped out and released. The cool new stock Android keyboard was the first to emerge, thanks to Shen Ye. [Update: the L Keyboard has been removed from the Google Play Store. Here is an alternative download link for L Keyboard on the Amazon App Store]

AndroidPIT L Keyboard
L Keyboard gives you the Android L typing experience right now. / © AndroidPIT/Shen Ye

ART

This has been a developer option since Android 4.4 debuted. Not all apps support ART yet so you may lose some functionality, but considering that as soon as Android L is released ART will be the default runtime, you may as well get on board right now and get some serious performance improvements. According to Google, ART is twice the speed of Dalvik. Go to Settings > About Phone > tap Build Number repeatedly until Developer Options appear, then scroll down and switch your runtime to ART.

ART Nexus
Yep, it's worth switching to ART. / © Google / AndroidPIT

Lockscreen Notifications

Ok, this may not let you respond directly from a lockscreen notifications as it will in Android L, but we have to let Google keep a few things for the official release, right? NiLS will nevertheless drop your notifications straight onto your lockscreen so you don't need to unlock to read them.

AndroidPOIT NiLS Lockscreen Notifications
NiLS gives you lockscreen notifications on Android 4.0 and up. / © AndroidPIT/Roymam

For advanced users: root access and familiarity with flashing zips and modifying root files is recommended.

Boot animation

You can also get the cool new Android boot animation. You have two choices, download the flashable zip boot animation to your device and flash it through recovery or you can grab the non-flashable boot animation file and replace the existing boot animation file with the new one in your root file manager (make sure you set the permissions of the new animation to be identical to the original). Then just reboot to see the cool new Android boot animation!

Android L boot animation
The Android L boot animation doesn't do anything, but it sure is cool. / © Google

Google Now Launcher with Material Design theme

First you need to install the Android L version of the Google Now Launcher (just look for GoogleHome.apk in the list of all the downloadable Android L apps). Then you need to manually change the build.prop file to get the Material Design theme (you need to be rooted for this to work, of course). In your root file explorer go to /system and open build.prop then change the line from ro.build.version.codename=REL to ro.build.version.codename=L (just delete the RE) save and reboot. You should now have the Material themed launcher. Beware: changing the build.prop file can have some weird effects (which are usually reversible), like losing LTE. If you have any issues head to the original XDA Developers thread for technical assistance as I'm no programmer!

Bonus: Android L wallpapers

Perhaps not the most exciting Android L feature but still, everyone likes to have the latest and greatest wallpaper and the developer preview is no different. Hit the host link to download the Android L wallpapers (there's the standard KitKat wallpapers there too).

AndroidPIT Android L lockscreen navigation
The Android L wallpaper and navigation keys. / © AndroidPIT/XDA Developers

[Update: Android L navigation keys]

I just came across the following post from XDA Developers that there is now an Xposed module that will get you the Playstation-looking navigation keys from Android L as well. Of course, you need to have the Xposed framework installed, but if you've got that already, all you need to do is download the APK, enable it and reboot. 

Don't forget that you can also install the latest Google Play Services version they discussed at Google I/O as well, with multiple changes including Play Services now being the new security patch delivery vehicle for Google. No more waiting for firmware updates to get the latest security updates! This update may also be required for some of the other Android L apps to work properly.

What is your favorite feature of Android L so far? What else do you want to see in the next Android version?

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Comments

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  • Philipp Junghannß (My1) 4 weeks ago Link

    did the L update include a Kernel that kills towelroot?

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      Kris Carlon 4 weeks ago Link

      My understanding is that towelroot used an exploit in kernel builds up to about a week prior to the one found in Android L, so it my assumption is that towleroot won't work. But I haven't tried so don't take my word for it.

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      • Philipp Junghannß (My1) 4 weeks ago Link

        if you have a device with L you can check the Kernel date, which will say quite something (probably)

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        Kris Carlon 4 weeks ago Link

        Ok, lemme check:
        June 11. I believe towelroot worked up to June 3rd builds.

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      • Philipp Junghannß (My1) 4 weeks ago Link

        truly. so most probably it wont work, unless google DLed and modded a June 2 or earlier kernel and compiled that on June 11...

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  • Seyi Falaye 4 weeks ago Link

    I can't activate the art runtime on my device. galaxy s4

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      Kris Carlon 4 weeks ago Link

      What do you mean exactly? Will it not switch runtimes for you or do you not have access to Developer Options yet?

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  • dharr18 4 weeks ago Link

    A word of warning on ART, every device I have tested that on, four different devices ranging from stock to various cm based roms, has had issues with random apps fc'ing. Mostly the apps won't open at all. The only solution is to go back to Dalvik, not a difficult return. Ymmv.

    I have seen this happen on many different apps such as anything from mlb advanced media, some core android processes, among others.

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      Kris Carlon 4 weeks ago Link

      Yeah it's not perfect but a lot of people are managing with it as a daily runtime. Of course, if the apps you rely on aren't playing nice then it's not the runtime for you (yet!)

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  • tekf33k3n 4 weeks ago Link

    So far, I've only had a few app FC under ART and they were always games. I've not experienced any core app or 'business' apps FC'ing. I'm using a rooted Nexus 5 and a non-rooted Nexus 7 (2013). ART performs beautifully but if I want to play some of my paid games (I'm looking at you Square Enix), I have to go back to Dalvik. I've been writing to SE and a few others about the issue for nearly a year with no reply and posted about it in a few forums. The problem I've had in the forums is crappy replies saying that the devs shouldn't have to make anything ART compatible until Google makes it a requirement. I say get on board early and then there will be no problems when (now eminent) the transition comes.

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  • tekf33k3n 4 weeks ago Link

    BTW, you don't need the Xposed module to get the new Nav buttons. You can get them is you have Softkeyz along with a bunch of other Nav button options. It's a paid app but it has a lot of detailed customization for the Nav buttons.

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      Kris Carlon 4 weeks ago Link

      Thanks for the tip @tekf33k3n! I'm interested to know just how well ART manages ahead-of-time compilation as well as just-in-time compilation in Android L. As far as I was aware it only did pre-compilation in current KitKat ROMs. At least that should mean no force closes.

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  • David DeMello 4 weeks ago Link

    Im having the same problem as Seyi .. nothing in my developer options (after following the steps) gives me the choice of switching runtime. Im currently using a non rooted Galaxy Note 3 ... maybe its a galaxy problem???

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  • David DeMello 4 weeks ago Link

    Well thats sad :(

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  • Jerry Lee 4 weeks ago Link

    I can get to Developer Options on my Galaxy S4 but no Runtime there. I guess I need to read that article at the link that was posted earlier.

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    • Philipp Junghannß (My1) 4 weeks ago Link

      Same with note 3. Maybe art wasn't completely perfect at kk so they will add it later.
      There is an untested mod on xda, which I didn't use since I don't run kk for good reasons and if I were you, I would only test it if I had enough knowledge about anything or rather switch to a custom ROM based on aosp...

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  • Zahra Tajkhalili 3 weeks ago Link

    What about Asus tablets?
    The model is: fonepad 7 new

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  • Sowri Rajan 3 weeks ago Link

    I have been using the Google Nexus 5 with ART. It is faster. However I did not test it on Games. Samsung Galaxy S4 - no ART support.

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  • Amat Mulisha 2 weeks ago Link

    sony xperia ZL,no ART support.that so sad.ughhh.

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  • john danner 2 weeks ago Link

    the L keyboard link dies not work on my nexus 10

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      Kris Carlon 1 week ago Link

      I've replaced the download link twice now. Good luck!

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  • Mohammed Alharbi 2 weeks ago Link

    When enabling ART, apps tend to take more storage space for some reason. It could be the fact that it's still under development and it might shrink over time or at least after the official release of L. It is however, at least in the mean time, a problem if you have a limited storage space. Any thoughts?

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      Kris Carlon 2 weeks ago Link

      Hey @Mohammed, this is because the app code is pre-compiled when you first run an app, and that code has to be stored somewhere. It's possible that the footprint will be a bit smaller once ART is finalized and ready for release but apps will still take up more space.

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