A quick look at Android “L” – what you really need to know

Tue 15 July 2014 Written by Evi
Evi

It can’t have escaped any Android app developer’s attention that there’s a new release of Android pending - Android “L”. Google is going all out to refresh Android in this release and there are some pretty major changes coming. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know:

UI changes

Google’s biggest change is a move to “material design”. That’s a flatter, more rounded look that offers soft edges to screen objects. It’s also designed to extend beyond the phone/tablet and onto the desktop as well as Google’s own products. Gmail looks fantastic with the new interface - the typography scales perfectly on all sizes of screen.

Auto-scaling

Let’s be fair about this, Android L looks great and the UI seems a lot more intuitive than before. There’s a simple exposed navigation bar that you can use to make things “pop out” and then you can reform the bar intelligently afterwards. It’s easy to get this to work with multiple screen sizes too – you simply specify an “elevation value” and all scaling is automatic. That’s a great way to get rid of the headache of catering for an endless list of screen sizes for Android devices.

Touch feedback

Touch feedback is in. That’s a level of responsiveness that had to be coming – it also ensures that transitions are less “jittery” than they have been in the past. In particular, this means that feedback moves beyond the 2-D standard and into three dimensions. Whatever applications you’re running – you’ll find ripple effects and material colors that are in your face (in a good way). This is a major leap forward and one that users are going to love.

Lockscreen

Personal unlocking is in and that means Android “L” can track the proximity of your smartwatch and smartphone for example, and ensure that if you’re wearing your watch – the phone is unlocked.

Notifications

It’s about time but notifications have received a major overhaul in Android “L”. They’ve been completely streamlined and you can now interact with them on the lockscreen too. Double tap the notification and you can immediately launch an application. If you want to dismiss the notification, do so with a single swipe of your finger. You can also swipe to open the device

Chrome is Overhauled Too

Chrome is finally getting some major work to make it better suited to mobile platforms. This is probably because the mobile browser is taking a major beating from mobile applications. For developers the big deal here is the App Indexing UI - now you can click on a card and get to another card seamlessly. It also allows you to move data from Google app to Google app without any real effort – this functionality is open to all app developers too - you don’t have to stick to Google to Google data transitions.

Runtime Environment

ART is the new runtime environment; built to run on ARM, x86 and MIPS. It’s 200% faster without having to change your development approach.

Summary

Android “L” isn’t in release at the moment, but smart developers should be planning how to take advantage of its new features, starting today. There’s a lot to take in, and almost all of it will benefit your clients in the long run.