Google have unveiled their Android ‘L‘ update, calling it a radical design overhaul. Their new ‘Material design’ will be consistent across all platforms: Chrome, Android and Google websites and services.
It is based off a principal entitled ‘Material Design’ which draws inspiration from paper and ink. Seams and shadows allow an elevation/Z axis to be programmed, with real-time shadows being rendered automatically. It also allows for easy coloring across the app. Google also claim that it allows for easy implementation on every platform. Touches will be represented by ‘rich animated touch feedback’. Seamless animations between screens will be easy to program for and to implement. The software keys have also been overhauled with a new, much more simplistic design, in the form of simple shapes (a triangle, a circle and a square).
As well as a new UI design they have also introduced new features to the OS, such as improved notifications. Right from the lock screen you ca. access notifications and swipe them away without having to unlock your phone. ‘Heads up’ notifications appear whatever your doing, if they’re deemed important enough. Personal unlocking has been introduced, in which lock patterns only appear under certain circumstances, for instance if the user’s Bluetooth watch is present then you will not receive a prompt to enter a pin or pattern.
Google also showed off the ability to use all these aesthetic features for the development of web apps, using polymer. With it come a new set of design guidelines for developers. Google also claim to have reduced touch latency, an issue often cited when Android is compared to iOS. Multitasking has also been improved now showing up not just apps but also your Chrome tabs. Google claim it will allow for easier switching between the web and apps. This feature will be open to developers to make use of. It is not currently clear if this is something you can switch off. From Google searches you’ll be able to go directly to an app, rather than to a website. Previously this feature was only available to select developers.
More enhancements include a new keyboard UI, improved quick settings and it now runs in the ART run-time. They claim it supports ARM, x86 and MIPS. Google say that Android performance can potentially double compared to using Dalvik. Android is now 64-bit compatible too. GPU performance, for us gamers, has been improved using ‘Android Extension Pack’ which features things such as tessellation and improved texture compression. They demoed Unreal 4 PC pipeline being ran on Nvidia tablet hardware, presumably their K1 chip. Another improvement, Google claims, is improved battery life. This is done using features such as battery historian, which more effectively records usage allowing issues to be fixed more easily. New APIs have also been added to allow for apps to run more efficiently. This will supposedly make a ‘significant difference’ to your battery life. A battery saver mode has been added allowing you to save battery life by lowering refresh rates and data usage. This is similar to a feature OEMs such as Samsung, Sony and HTC have implemented under various names.
Google then proceeded to take jabs at Apple, referring to their recent additions of widgets and custom keyboards. They also emphasized security improvements such as more apps being scanned for malware and updates via Google Play Services. They also have made it easier for users to check which apps have access to data. Google claim that everything about ‘L’ is contextually aware, voice search has been improved and that everything is focused around your Android smartphone, on different Google platforms.