Thursday, June 26, 2014

Google unveils Android L with Material Design

Google IO event opened up with lots and lots of announcements - too many to go into detail on each and every one in a single post. So, today I'll focus on the upcoming Android L release and their new "Material Design" guidelines.

After Android J (Jelly Bean) and K (KitKat), the next Android L (still no known code name... Lollipop, perhaps?) focus on taking Android to the next level both in added functionality as well as looking better than ever. Have you ever noticed that iOS always felt "nicer" to play with, even though you couldn't exactly pinpoint way?

Apple uses lots of subtle but important hints when dragging, scrolling, flicking and interacting with stuff on the screen. Now, Google strikes back with its "Material Design".

Material design uses simple and bold colors, but elements now also have elevation and "weight", and are easily animated, meaning you'll "feel" it handles a lot better (working at 60fps with fluid movements will also help).

Google also took the opportunity to answer Apple directly, stating that 93% of the platform is using the latest Google Play Services, with all the enhancements and features it provides, regardless of Android version. And with Android L, Google detaches even more stuff from the Android version: even security updates will be handled by the Play Services, meaning you won't have to wait for a manufacturer update to have your device safe from potential harm.

Android L comes with the new Material Design, new notifications more akin to Google Now cards (and interactive even in the lock screen); floating notifications; intelligent unlock that requires no PIN codes in places like home/work or when you have a blutooth device nearby (like a headset or smartwatch); remote wipe capabilites; new battery saving modes; enhanced 3D graphics allowing "PC quality" games; and many more. One of the biggest "unseen" changes is that Android L will ditch the old Dalvik runtime and begin using ART - a new runtime that will speed up apps, and is compatible with 64 bit CPUs.

There were lots more stuff shown, like Android TV, a better Chromecast experience (including screen mirroring), Android for Auto, Chrome OS (that can now run Android apps), wearables (Moto 360 does look like we hoped it would, and LG's G Watch and Samsung's Gear Live are available right now on Google Play).

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