Google has announced the new version of its mobile operating system, which it is calling Android “L release” for now.
Among the new features revealed for the operating system include a new visual design, improved notification handling, context-aware authentication, performance improvements to the runtime and graphics, and better battery life.
Matias Duarte, vice president of design at Google unveiled “Material design”, saying that they drew inspiration from paper and ink to bring depth to the Android user experience.
Showing off some of the design changes on the cards for Android, the “L release” looks an awful lot like Windows Phone’s colourful, card-based interface with more square than rounded corners.
New animations are reminiscent of Apple’s iOS.
This is not to say that Google is “stealing” from Apple or Microsoft (iOS and Windows Phone have “borrowed” features from Android as well), but does offer those familiar with the other operating systems a basis for comparison.
Notifications & lock screen authentication
Dave Burke, Android engineering director, showed off the improvements to notifications and lock screen in Android “L release”.
According to Burke, you will be given instant access to notifications on the lock screen, which will also be ordered according to priority.
Priority will be determined based on the user’s behaviour, such as which notifications you tend to react to and which you ignore for longer periods.
To minimise the amount of time spent unlocking your phone to respond to notifications, Android L will also has a “personal unlocking” feature.
Burke said that Android will determine whether you are in a trusted environment, by determining whether it is in its user’s hand or next to their bed.
Should it determine it is with its owner, it won’t request a lock code.
To demonstrate the feature, Burke removed his smart watch. After the phone could no longer “see” his watch, it requested that an unlock pattern be entered before unlocking.
Performance & battery improvements
Burke also announced that the Android L release will offer a number of performance improvements.
The Dalvik runtime will be replaced with the new Android Runtime (ART), which Burke said will be more memory efficient, be fully 64-bit compatible, and let apps execute faster.
He added that graphics performance will also be improved and that mobile graphics was catching up to console, and even PC graphics.
The Android L release also introduced “Project Volta” which Burke said will optimise how the phone subsystems that use a lot of energy use the battery.
Android L is expected to launch to users “this fall” (September – November 2014), while developers can download a preview of Android L later today.