Android L comes with a number of significant updates and enhancements, including something called Material Design. This is a major change to the platform’s look and feel, and allows developers to create layers and pop-ups within applications that will span all of Google’s forthcoming platforms.
The latest update also comes with also features deep integration with Android Wear – Google’s latest wearables platform. In addition to being able to check messages and calendar information, Android L users will also be able to unlock their phones using their smartwatches, and without using a pattern or a pin-code based on proximity.
The decision to release the latest version of Android for older devices shows that Google is serious about its commitment to minimising fragmentation, something Apple is always quick to highlight at WWDC each year. The lack of updates for older devices has resulted in almost a quarter of Android smartphones and tablets running Gingerbread, which was first released in 2010.
Earlier efforts by Google have tried to address this. 2011’s I/O conference saw them create the Android Update Alliance, which guaranteed that Google would support and release updated versions of the Android operating system for 18 months after the initial release.
The Nexus 4 was released in November of 2012, meaning that it’s getting an update after 19 months since launch. Likewise, the original Nexus 7 was announced at Google I/O in June 2012, making it almost two years since it originally launched.
The original Nexus 7 sold almost 7 million units, whilst the Nexus 4 shifted a slightly more modest 375 thousand, but despite reaching their golden years in electronics terms, Google’s plans for Android L highlight that you really can teach an old dog new tricks.