One of the most interesting parts of the developer preview of Android 5.0, or L release, or Lollipop (or whatever we're going to call it until Google announces it will finally be called Lamington), was just how many features the new stock Android has absorbed from custom ROMs, third-party apps and manufacturer skins. While this is perfectly acceptable given the open source nature of Android and can be seen as an enriching of the core experience in Android based on what users actually want, it also steps on the toes of a lot of developers in the business of Android ''add-ons''. So will the new stock Android be better than all three? Here's ten reasons why I think it will be.
I'm a huge fan of mini apps and popup notifications. This is why I love HoverChat and the popup feature on instant messengers like Viber. I've also really come to like HelloSMS's drop down preview of text messages as they come in. In the developer preview we saw just how cool the ''heads up'' notifications in the next version of Android will be. Do you think Google's effort is better than the existing apps?
I've been following the progress of the legally required kill switch in smartphones for a while now, so you'll know I'm a fan of that too. Google already had Android Device Manager as a default location and remote wiping tool, but now the feature will be a core component of the operating system and not an add-on service. Plenty of other tools are available but it seems unlikely any will work as well as the built-in version.
You may also know just how big a fan I am of lock screen notification apps like Dynamic Notifications and Peek. I also love LED managers like Light Flow because the less I need to pick up and unlock my device the better. So being able to access and respond to my notifications directly from my lockscreen in stock Android is a great move in my opinion. Add to this the debut of Android Wear and I'll hardly need to unlock my phone again. Do you think existing apps do it any better?
I've written before about the best multitasking apps for Android and great time-saving apps like Javelin Browser and Link Bubble, so you know anything that cuts down on endless app switching is going to get my attention. The new Rolodex-looking, card-based recent apps setup along with smarter Google Search and dialer predictions are all great things for me, again cutting back on my reliance on third-party solutions.
I'm a huge advocate of privacy and I eye every new permission request with suspicion. CyanogenMod's privacy settings are a blessing and I wouldn't go anywhere without Permission Manager and Permissions Observatory. In the upcoming Android release we'll see built-in app privacy settings via Universal Data Controls and ''on-the-spot'' permission requests, so you don't need to add any third-party apps, custom ROMs or settings to take control of your privacy. Is Google just skimming from the great ideas of others?
Power saving mode
A while back I compared the power saving modes on the Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8) and felt that this kind of option would very soon be a standard for every Android device. Well, Google I/O proved that point too, with the next version of Android coming with a stock battery saving mode and battery historian for developers (and surely users) to monitor the battery consumption of their apps and optimize (or just plain kill) the power-hungry ones. Will manufacturers let these features seep through to their skins or stick with their own?
Other than being able to get a pedometer on your Nexus 5 there's not much in the way of health integration in the current Android. Some of you will know what a world-class runner I am and realize just how many fitness apps I've worn out with the volume of biometric data I send to my phone through all manner of wearables, sensors and scans. Including Google Fit in the next version of Android makes a lot of these third-party options unnecessary and puts up a big challenge to the likes of S Health and LG Health. So who will do it better?
I'm a big fan of smartphone security but an equally big fan of not having to unlock my phone every single time I pick it up. NFC tags or rings can be great for this, with a little modification, but to have my phone know when I'm at an unlock-friendly place (like work) or to know that it's me picking up my phone because of my Bluetooth headphones or smartwatch makes it even easier, especially when it's baked into the core system. Just how much of this is for convenience and how much to push wearables?
As a nerd I love tweaking things and customizing system settings to get the absolute best performance out of my smartphone. Most nerds have been running ART since it debuted ages ago, but not every app was running properly and it was, of course, a developer option that wasn't quite finished, even if it did speed up your performance significantly. Making ART the default runtime (that can also handle just-in-time compiling of older apps) makes it the perfect solution. Did I mention it also supports 64-bit processing?
I love CyanogenMod's Themer engine and the many different custom launcher themes you can switch things up with. Android tends to look quite disparate due to its open-source nature, so it's not always easy to get a streamlined, harmonious experience. By introducing the Material theme to their own apps, Google is providing a unified example, and Project Polymer makes it easier for developers to create apps in the Material Design language via reusable web components. This should hopefully make the entire ecosystem a lot more stylistically consistent but will it make Android look like iOS?
What do you think about all these ''add-on'' features being built into stock Android? Who do you think does these features better: Google, custom ROMs, app makers or manufacturers?