Today at Google I/O 2014, Senior Vice President of Android Sundar Pichai gave us the first taste of Android L, the next generation of Google's mobile operating system. The release is Google's first developer-only preview, and while it's not the final version of the next flavor of Android, it gives us a great look at what's next.
Google names its new Android releases after desserts and sweets, and we've already known that a treat starting with the letter L was next. It seems that Google hasn't yet landed on an official name, leaving us to still speculate if version 4.5 (or perhaps 5.0) will be named Lollipop, Lemon Bar, or something else when it undoubtedly officially debuts later this year.
Until then, there's plenty to see in Android L, so without further ado, let's take a look.
Material is the new design theme and philosophy for Android. It has a minimal, more transparent design that cleans up the user interface in the operating system and Google apps. Text has more space between it, and there's a flat design through the operating system.
Material also adds updated animations, including animated check boxes and colored ripple effects when you touch the screen.
Though L has a relatively flat design, there's still areas where Google and developers can add depth. In the next version of Android, when designing a new app, developers can add shadows and natural light effects to create depth in the app.
For the most important notifications, such as phone calls or battery warnings, there are new Heads Up pop-up notifications that show up over your apps at the top of the screen. They won't interrupt what you're doing, and you can interact with them to, say, take that incoming phone call. To get rid of them, just swipe them away, or swipe them up into the notification shade to save them for later.
Notifications also show up on your lockscreen in order to put them front and center. In order to protect your privacy, app developers can program notifications to show "public" information or "private" information, which does a great job of hiding message and email content, and more.
A public notification will show everything, while a private notification will show a message that tells you to unlock your phone to read more. Notifications for general information, such as the weather or your battery level will show up as public by default.
The old multitasking menu is getting a face lift in Android L. A new menu called "Recents" shows apps that are running in the background as a stack of cards, instead of the previous list view. You can scroll through that stack to switch between apps quickly.
Unlocking your phone gets smarter in Android L. You can still use a PIN, password, or pattern lock when you're out and about, but you can now easily unlock your device without entering your PIN or password when it's close to your personal Bluetooth device, such as a smartwatch. That means if you have the Moto 360 or LG G Watch on your wrist, and pick up your Android phone, the phone knows that the watch belongs to you and automatically unlocks itself. You just need to swipe on the screen to unlock the screen.
You can also set your phone to unlock when you're in a specific location, such as your house or office. Lastly, it can unlock using your unique voice print -- meaning you can talk to your phone and recognizes your voice to unlock it.
Google is making more improvements to how Android and apps drain your battery. Specifically, developers get more tools to control how their apps affect the battery, including scheduling jobs, such as fetching new data, only when your phone is charging.
There's also a new Battery Saver mode for users that clocks down the CPU and turns off background data. You can turn it on manually or program it to turn on automatically when your battery drops too low.