While Google isn’t the be all and end all of Android, it’s pretty obvious that Google’s interests are the driving force behind Android. The search giant may have bought their way into the mobile market with the purchase of Android years ago, and while things started off slowly, Google is now one of the biggest names in mobile with Android being the world’s most used mobile platform. With version after version of Android, Google improved their platform and now, Android is a well-established platform, so where do you go from here?
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Last week’s Google I/O was easily one of the more eventful events we’ve seen in a long time and the announcement of Android L and Material Design marked the next era for Android and Google’s mobile agenda. To answer the above question, Google is to focus on what makes Android great and what needs work. Since Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, we’ve been using a fairly digital and almost cold interface that tech lovers everywhere really like, but it wasn’t always the most inviting look. This is to change, completely, with Android L and what is obviously Matias Duarte’s baby; Material Design.
Color has been absent from Android for a long time now and the warm, inviting demo that was vibrant and alive with movement looked completely different from KitKat and below. The interface looked alive and it was simple, far more intuitive than Holo is. Those of us that get giddy at the sight of new typography and drop shadows can appreciate L for the impressive feat it is, but otherwise this new approach of Google’s will be great for, well, everyone.
This universal appeal is what makes Material Design perhaps the best thing Google ever did when it comes to mobile. The average user doesn’t particularly care about why Holo was apparently better than Samsung’s TouchWiz or HTC’s Sense, instead what they often saw on Nexus devices was a stark and barren build of software that was uninspiring. I’m a Nexus user and I really like the look of KitKat and simple software in general, but then I know what I’m doing and I’m happy to spend the time playing around with something. Meanwhile, my father and my girlfriend frankly don’t care. They want color and easy, straightforward and obvious interfaces. That’s what Matias and his team have tried to bring to Material Design.
With this approach, more and more users will be able to take advantage of somewhat advanced features and just generally enjoy their devices more. What this means for the slew of skins from Sony, LG, Samsung, HTC and others is unclear, but Google have presented an excellent new approach to interface design with L and the need to cover it up and change it isn’t as necessary – if it ever was – as it used to be.
Moreover, Android L holds big changes for developers as well, whom arguably make mobile platforms like Android viable to use everyday. On stage during the Android TV demo, it was noted that the same APK file for a game could be used on Android TV and Android Tablets. That’s the promise we’ve been hearing about since Ice Cream Sandwich, but it’s only now coming true. Not only that, but we’ve seen that Material Design will help developers easily create excellently designed apps with nowhere near as much effort required in previous versions of Android.
Android L – whatever it end up being named after – will no doubt give Apple and Microsoft a lot to worry about when it hits this Fall, bringing watches, TVs, tablets and phones together at long last. While also offering an excellent new look and feel that will appeal to everyone, something that Apple’s iOS 7 didn’t quite do.