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Android L: Google’s bringing a bold new look, feel and feature set to Android

Expect even the most basic Android apps to get a whole lot prettier after today thanks to the new design language coming to Android.

Android L

Google’s Matías Duarte and Dave Burke took us through some of the biggest new features coming to the next iteration of Android at this year’s Google I/O being held in San Francisco.

Material design

One of the most obvious changes to Android showcased in Android L – the current name for the next release of the operating system, is something called ‘Material design’.

This new design language offers up a flatter, cleaner aesthetic for developers to make use of. Google demoed how the changes to Gmail complete revamp and tidy up the interface design. There are two mains things that will now feature, most predominantly, on stock Android experience: colour and depth.

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Elements of apps like cards in Google Now or a highlighted calendar entry can now be given depth, so shadows and light sources affect user interface elements in real time.

App interfaces will now feature touches of colour automatically generated based on the content on the screen, so elements like browsing images in a Google search will now feature accented colours based on the image you’re viewing. What does this mean for you? Things will just look and feel better to use.

Enhanced notifications

You’ll soon be able to access apps and notifications from your lock screen, in an app or anywhere within your phone’s interface with it affecting what you’re doing. The idea is that these notifications shouldn’t get in the way of what you’re working on, but at the same time, should give you the ability to quickly jump to other apps.

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Personal unlocking

Security is an important element of any smartphone experience and despite only a brief moment being devoted to it at the main I/O keynote, Google unveiled an impressive new feature. If you’re at all familiar with keyless entry for your car, personal unlocking brings the same concept to your smartphone.

According to Google’s stats, some 15% of Android users make use of a pin or pattern lock. Whilst these are both novel and secure methods of keeping the data on your phone safe, having to enter them every time you unlock your device can become a little tedious. Using a Bluetooth smartwatch or anything which can be associated directly with the device’s owner, Android L can decide whether to display the lock screen, or simply allow the phone to be unlocked, code free.

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In the demo Google showcased, whilst the user’s Bluetooth watch was connected to phone, the handset opened straight onto the homescreen. When the watch was taken out of range, the lock screen appeared, adding an extra barrier for any potential prying eyes.

Recents

Google Chrome is a fundamental part of the Google experience. Up until this point, you could already access tabs you may have had open on your desktop web browser on your smartphone, however this is a particularly cumbersome process in its current form, requiring that you dive into the Chrome app, the bookmarks and history section and then browse to the device you want to retrieve recent tabs from.

With Recents, tabs from Chrome on your desktop browser, apps, Google Docs and other content recently accessed now makes an appearance on a single screen that’s easily accessible from the main Android UI. Along the lines of Google Now, you can swipe through cards which show content relating to different recent content from across your apps and services.

Battery saver

Up until this point, it’s been up to device manufacturers to ensure that their devices have the battery life to serve users for a decent amount of time, but sometimes the balance isn’t always quite right. The Sony Xperia T was a great flagship smartphone in its day, but with a battery that lasts less than a day, it fell short of the competition.

More recently, top smartphones like the HTC One (M8), Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2 all come sporting some form of extreme power-saving mode. These usually power down the additional functions, synchronisation and other ancillary services to leave just the bare essentials ticking along. Now, with Android L, the new inbuilt battery saving mode should help extend your smartphone’s life that little bit further. In Google’s own tests, the LG Nexus 5 could last an additional 90 minutes in a single day’s charge.

We’re still waiting on an exact date for the public release of Android L, but developers will be able to start tinkering with it today. What’s your favourite new feature?

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