Android’s L Release Preview: Available for Download Later Today

June 25, 2014 - Written By Alexander Maxham

Google is showing off the latest version of Android for the first time since the OpenSDK was released, back in the day. It’ll be available for download later today on attendees developer devices. Android L is full of all kinds of new APIs as well as a new design. Which our buddy Matias Duarte is talking about today at Google I/O. Material Design is going to be beautiful and bold, and shadows are rendered in real time. This is going to make it easier for app developers to create great icons for their apps. Google’s new guidelines will make it easier to use the same design on every screen. Matias is also informing us that Roboto was updated so we have the same font on all screens as well. We can see this latest version of the design in the Google+ app which was updated a few weeks ago. It looks great, but I’m not sure on the navigation with Google+ right now.

There’s also a new dialer, which is a bit more colorful and it works even better than the dialer in KitKat did. When you have a call at the top of the dialer now, scrolling down in the dialer app to see other contacts, that missed call or your call log will collapse. Which is great.

Next up is the lock screen. You can view notifications on the lock screen which are just floating on the lock screen. Now to jump into the device, just swipe up to close the notifications and voila. There’s also personal unlocking, which allows the device to see if its in a secure location. It uses signals you designate, Bluetooth, and even your voice. Basically, it’s Google taking Motorola’s “Trusted Devices” to the next level.

There’s plenty new features here, including an entirely new recents menu. Chrome Tabs are now shown in your recents view, as well as bringing material design to recents. Which is great to have this. These changes in Chrome are from a new API that’s available in Android L. Other changes in Chrome now allow you to search ¬†for things on OpenTable, Foursquare, etc, that already have apps. So when you click on one of those results, it’ll automatically open the app if you have it installed.

Next up is performance. Google is now talking about ART, the new runtime that made it’s debut in KitKat. They are making L run exclusively on ART. So no more Dalvik, unfortunately. ART was built from the ground up and is cross-platform so it’ll support just about any processor. Including ARM and X86. Google says that developers don’t need to make any changes, as Google has made them all. There’s also a new garbage collection. This makes your app run more smoothly, as there are less pauses. The demo shows Google Maps which goes from 2 pauses down to 1. ART brings better memory efficiency as well. It can save tons of RAM, and it’s fully 64-bit compatible. So that we do have 64-bit Android coming this fall.

For 64-bit, they’ve added new NDKs and such for developers to use. If your app is made in Java, there’s nothing to change at all. Graphics have also gotten improved, and it’s basically the same graphics quality as you’d get on your PC. Which is amazing, and something NVIDIA had talked about before. Next up is battery. This is Project Volta, which is aimed to improve battery life. There’s a new feature called Battery Historia which shows you what exactly was using the battery and see wakelocks. Making it easier to find wakelocks and not need another app to find wakelocks. There’s also a new job scheduler API, to make your app more efficient. There’s also battery saver which will underclock the CPU, turn off Auto-Sync, etc. Which is now built into stock Android.

Still developing…