Google's Head of Android, Sundar Pichai and Mathias Duarte, the Head of Design, have just officially previewed the next major version of the world's most popular mobile operating system, which is currently being called the L release as it's still a developer preview, but we know it better as Android 5.0 Lollipop. We've pulled apart the major features of the next big thing in Android for you below.
Android is a constantly evolving ecosystem and the same thing can be said of the design principles that Google expects of those making use of its platform. The official Google apps are always at the forefront of what to expect from future versions of Android and provide a template for quick-witted developers and designers to base their own interface revisions on. This year is no different, with a strong focus on improving design across the board of Android., so we've already seen previews in the new Google+ app and other leaks.
''Material Design'' is the new design language we'll be seeing in Android, the web and desktop, and it is playful, colorful and flatter than ever. However, shadows are also a key element of the new language with new options for developers to integrate 3D views with real-time shadows into their apps, allowing for easily recognizable layering of information, tabs and more. Android also has a revision to the Roboto system font, and all new animations including touch feedback. Animations between apps, activities and screens can be made across the entire Material Design framework and the Material theme will filter out to Google's apps in months to come.
There is a new unified design guideline for developer's available on Google's design site. The use of shadows takes elements of Google Now's card stacks and spread them throughout the interface, so you can see, through the use of shadows and layering, that one element will animate above another when you tap it, swipe it or scroll to it. The effects are great and the animations look smooth and creative.
Notifications, multitasking and access
Notifications are now available direct from the lock screen. As we saw with the leaks of Project Hera, notifications and alerts can instantly access the relevant app without leaving what you were doing (swiping will dismiss notifications so you can continue what you were doing if you're busy). If you are wearing a smartwatch, are at home, or you've set your voice to be recognized, your smartphone can be kept unlocked. As soon as you leave your ''unlocked'' space, stop speaking or remove your Bluetooth device, your smartphone will assume it should go into lockdown. ''Personal unlocking'' means you'll no longer need to endlessly enter your PIN or password every time you unlock your device.
ART runtime, graphics and battery optimizations
As we've known for a while now, ART is replacing Dalvik as the default runtime in the L release of Android. ART pre-compiles apps the first time you install them, so you'll be getting faster app launches every time, right from the beginning. ART also supports 64-bit processing. ART is reportedly twice the speed of Dalvik and will be an Android-supported update for all apps, costing app developers nothing at all to implement. There's also major improvements to graphics performance for hi-res gaming and impressive changes to battery demands through system-wide optimizations covered under the umbrella of Project Volta. A default battery saver in the L release will bring the same kinds of extreme power saving options we've been seeing on 2014's flagship devices to all Androids on the L release.
Google Play Services and security
Google Play Services updates ship every six weeks, meaning users always have the latest malware definitions, constant security patches and the long-awaited kill switch (although they never called it that specifically) so you can remotely disable or wipe your device if it is stolen. Google Play Services will now be the agent responsible for pushing security patches, rather than via firmware updates, meaning security will be much more responsive than it has been previously. The L release will also allow you to use your personal device at work, with built-in sandboxing (like we've seen in Samsung's Knox platform) to keep your personal and professional experiences separate, even within the same device. Universal Data Controls let you manage all of your app privacy settings in one place.
Android Wear and Google Fit
As expected, Android Wear is a key component of Google I/O and is deeply integrated into the L release too. The full Android Wear SDK is now available for developers. The smartphone will become the hub of activity, but the wearable will be the key screen in your casual interactions, so you can cut down on the frequency of pulling your phone out of your pocket and checking notifications, updates and other relatively ''minor'' things. Check out further details on Android Wear and wearables at Google I/O.
Google Fit is a new set of APIs designed to take all kinds of data from your fitness apps and the sensors on your smartphone and wearable devices and centralize them in one place, so all of your fitness data is instantly accessible. Of course, you can also grant apps permission to access that data as well, so you can pick and choose amongst the variety of health manager apps available. Google is really taking the health aspect in Android L to new heights.
What are your thoughts on Android L? What other features do you want to see?