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This is what Android 5.0 will look like: design changes and user interface [updated: video]

Kris Carlon

One of the most eye-popping aspects of the Google I/O keynote was the radical design changes coming to the stock Android user interface in the L release, what we likely will know as Android 5.0 Lollipop. Everything Google has been working on comes down to a key concept: Material Design, and a key element: cards. Just as Google Now is penetrating more and more into Android, Google Now-style cards are becoming the default interface element as well.

Android L design teaser
Android's L release promises to be the most eye-popping Android version yet! / © AndroidPIT

What is Material Design?

''Material Design'' is the overarching concept that ties the whole interface makeover together. The Holo standard has begun to look a little tired (yes, you can abuse me for that in the comments!) and Google obviously knew it was time for a refresh to coincide with the biggest Android update yet. Material Design harks back to ''primitive'' man, where we understood objects and planes through simple elements like shadows and touch feedback. This is where the new stock Android interface has drawn its inspiration but it will also find its way into Google's web properties and ChromeOS.

Android notifications evolution
The Android notification shade evolution. Time for a refresh! / © Google

How does it work?

Well, there's super flat design, as we have already seen with the new Google+ app and Gmail leaks, with different ''layers'' distinguished by shadows in the same way as you'd see between leaves of a book. Developers can set ''elevation values'' for different UI elements and have shadows rendered by Android in real time. There's also bold, bright colors and adaptive ''palettes,'' where apps can draw their color from the content they are displaying. So your gallery banner may soak up color from the images you're displaying or your music player from the album art. 

Link to Video

Touch response is another core feature of the L release, with animations to accompany every key press. System-wide transitions between apps, pages, menus and more are fully animated, so the entire experience of Android will become more fluid and consistent. There's new navigation buttons that look a lot like PlayStation controls, with a triangle for back, circle for home and square for recent apps. It's actually quite clever (and easily replaceable if you simply hate it). Everything is clear, bold, easily readable (even the system font Roboto got an update for readability) and everything is much more intentional-looking. Google really wants to tidy up Android across the board, and Material Design is a great first step in achieving that goal.

android l features review contacts
New nav buttons, mini-menus, bright colors and adaptive system bars. Sweet. / © AndroidPIT / XDA

What does it look like?

Beyond the Material Design guidelines, which developers can start making use of already and which will debut in Google's apps in the months to come, there's also the Material theme for apps. As you've probably guessed already, it revolves around a few key ideas: touch response animations, 3D views with real-time shadows and activity transitions. Pop up mini-menus will replace the current action of launching an entirely new window and nested scrolling allows you to decide which elements scroll together. As we've already seen with the new Google+ app, menu actions take a turn to floating buttons rather than living in system bars.

android l features review app settings
KitKat-era app settings (left) and the L release simplified makeover (right). / © AndroidPIT / XDA

Likewise scrollable and expandable notifications, which will now be accessible direct from the lock screen, effectively combining the lock screen with the notifications shade. You can set privacy options so no personal messages will be displayed without first fully unlocking the screen or you can everything set to broadcast publicly, meaning you can read and respond to notifications from your lock screen. ''Personal unlocking'' also means you can set specific locations like your home or other conditions (like proximity to your Bluetooth smartwatch) as ''safe'' so your security is automatically turned off when those conditions are met. No more endless PIN entry every time you pick up your phone!

android l features review gallery
The different look of images in an album in KitKat (left) and the L release (right). / © AndroidPIT / XDA

Floating pop ups, called ''heads up'' notifications can also appear above any other content you're currently involved with, kind of how some SMS apps and instant messenger apps currently do things. Again, you can respond immediately without needing to launch the full app, or you can swipe to dismiss the notification and continue what you were doing. There's also new system icons (shown below) and the system bar will either be fully clear or adapt to the color of the app that is currently running. The stock Android keyboard also gets a refresh with the borders around each letter vanishing. When the final version is ready we'll be pulling it all apart for you, but in the meantime stay tuned for our L release preview video!

android l features review keyboard
The evolution of the stock Android keyboard from KitKat (top) to L release (bottom). / © AndroidPIT / XDA
android l features review system icons
The new L release system icons. / © XDA
material design gmail
The new Gmail (right) looks much brighter, lighter and clearer than the current version (left). / © AndroidPIT

What do you think of the new design previewed in the L release? Is it better or worse than Holo?

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  • Zaid Siddiqui 7 months ago Link

    Fascinating :) will be waiting for it!

  • tekf33k3n 7 months ago Link

    The bright colors against the white background can be a bit jarring to the eye. Also the round elements, like the write icon in the updated G+ against all of the rectilinear elements can be just as odd; visually speaking. The round element feels like it doesn't belong. Google was on to something with Holo. I agree that it needed a refresh but I think the latest iteration is going to head in the wrong direction.

  • Cam Dexter 7 months ago Link

    I love the whole HOLO look that Google introduced in Jellybean and Kit-Kat and thought it cannot be beaten for aesthetics but Lollipop is looking like it will be even better and I cannot wait to see it on a big high resolution screen. I especially like the notification pull down, the current one is looking bland in comparison.

  • pedro amaral 7 months ago Link

    Will nexus 4 be updated???

  • Greg1100 7 months ago Link

    Cloud is not safe in my opinion. SD cards are. As if google isn't making enough money as it is, it is only total GREED that is pushing out sd cards in favour of cloud crap. I can take my card out of phone, put on it what I want- all the content is mine. Cloud servers can be hacked- there is more than enough of it going on now.
    Can someone tell google where to shove their cloud ??

    • Andrew White 7 months ago Link

      Agreed...what good is a cloud when you're travelling to or through an area with second rate connectivity.
      There is some discussion happening now about more localized clouds that can insulate your data further, something I might actually subscribe too.
      SD cards though....forever!!!
      Amazon's Firephone UI and 3D capability still blow 'Lollypop' and whatever Apple has in the wind, right out of the water.
      My concern though is having 4 infrared cameras tracking my face in real-time. Amazon needs to provide assurances also. It is offering unlimited cloud
      So much to consider.

    • Larry R. 7 months ago Link

      I agree I guess we can stick with the Company that keeps using the micro sd chip. I think at least a few will keep the sd.

  • Slim 7 months ago Link

    I think it looks sophisticated and clean. I cannot wait to have it on my nexus 5

  • Bojan M. 7 months ago Link

    I don't like it at all. It's ugly. Their way towards simplicity and holoish design is understandable, but it should be done differently.

    Also, those cards? WTF? Someone actually thought that was a good idea? I can't stand google now especially because of that ugly data presentation.

    And honorable mention goes to.... drums... cloud crap. Yes, Greg1100 is absolutely right, someone should really tell google where to shove their cloud and actually do it as well.

  • Scott 7 months ago Link

    Looks awesome! Great job google. Keep it up!

  • James 7 months ago Link

    I like it, although it is starting to look quite a lot like windows 8.

    • User picture
      Kris Carlon 6 months ago Link

      Speaking of, when my laptop boots up in Windows 7 I see a very familiar boot animation - looks like I know where Google got their new Android Wear boot animation idea from!

  • Chris R. 7 months ago Link

    I am not a fan of the new "flat" design. It looks to cartoonish for my taste and reminds me of Windows 8.1. I guess I prefer the classic style and hope it would be possible to retain that somehow for people who prefer it to the new flat look.

  • User picture
    Kris Carlon 7 months ago Link

    Check out the video of the L release guys. It's not as unified as what we saw at I/O but it's definitely got potential.

  • Greg1100 6 months ago Link

    My S3 sammy contract up at end of August---looking at the alternatives,- it would appear to be the LG G3 which has what I want. New phone, REMOVABLE battery, SD card and a bit quick. Plus all the rest. All in in a case very little difference to S3 size. I was looking at Z2/3 Sony, but due to ( my mind, unecessary waterproofing,- electronics and water is taboo ), the battery is fixed in. Not many phone makers left with removable batteries.

  • Greg1100 6 months ago Link

    Looking more like LG G3 for me on my next phone. Removable battery, SD card and a bit quick. Very little difference in physical size to S3 sammy.

  • Greg1100 6 months ago Link

    Thanks Bojan M. for the vote of confidence, lol.

  • parezar 6 months ago Link

    thank you 4 information

  • CJ Brown 6 months ago Link

    those new Navigation Buttons .... I can adapt to them but senior citizens? They're going to tell you "if its not broke why fix it?" (and I will agree with them, because Google / Android has been using the same style Navigation Buttons for years) ...

    I also agree with tekf33k3n - pastels against white backgrounds isn't the best format for me vision wise, too (I'm more of a monochrome black, grey, white - H.R. Giger biomechanical - kind of guy) ...

    Unless Google buys a manufacturer of micro SD cards? I doubt they're going to offer you that option vs their cloud storage (I hate to say it but we're moving away from purchasing physical content - cds dvds flash sticks - and its sad because I still collect Vinyl albums) ...

    • User picture
      Kris Carlon 6 months ago Link

      Two points: while I don't really mind the new nav buttons, I totally agree with your ''if it aint broke'' statement. Change for the sake of change is pointless. And two: don't ever stop collecting vinyl!

      • Bojan M. 6 months ago Link

        Change for the sake of change is pointless, when it comes to pure functionality, but when it comes to visual stuff, i.e. design, looks and stuff, change is always welcome, although it would be good to have options and not be forced into using it.

  • Nishant gauns 5 months ago Link

    Well I'm waiting for a android L custom rom to be flashed on my galaxy s 3

  • GT Ohh 3 months ago Link

    I find it very boring. Todays devices are so vivid why go back to flat colorless designs?

  • paulc 3 months ago Link

    Aside from white backgrounds being more jarring in low ambient light levels, won't all those backgrounds that were previously black start to increase battery drain? Wonder if Kris noticed anything like this during reviews, which is excellent BTW.