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Google details Android L design changes, new software features

updated 01:01 pm EDT, Wed June 25, 2014

Material Design aesthetic used in next iteration of Android

Google has previewed the upcoming major update to the Android mobile operating system, Android L, at Google I/O. The latest iteration is said to be built for multiple types of displays and devices, from smartphones and tablets to large-screened televisions. New design elements were tackled, including an overhaul in how the user interface operates, a new flatter appearance and other new additions.

The overall appearance uses a new "Material Design" motif, effectively treating elements of apps as if they are layered materials. Cards and other visual elements can now have an elevation value assigned to them by developers, with Android L rendering shadows at the edges automatically with the correct perspective. Material Design will also allow developers to easily add colored framework elements to their navigation and control panels to match their apps, with a new Palette support library pulling colors from onscreen images and altering other elements to make it stand out.

Existing Gmail, Android L Gmail
Existing Gmail, Android L Gmail

Designers will receive grids that work across screens to provide a uniform appearance between apps, as well as ensuring apps have a consistent appearance between smaller and larger displays. Roboto, the system font used in Android, has also been optimized for use on multiple devices. Animations will now slide with the "physics of card stock," with buttons and other interactive elements providing more feedback. Iconography has been tweaked to include extra animations. Developers will be able to assign seamless animations between screens, activities, and apps.

Material Design, however, will not only apply to Android apps. Last year, Google announced the Polymer UI library for web design, which Google will improve this year by adding Material Design properties to the library. A new unified set of style guidelines for Android L will help ensure apps have a consistent interface.

The first of new features in Android L demonstrated at Google I/O are enhanced notifications. Android L will provide a list of notifications on the lock screen, prioritizing the more important notifications to the top and allowing for notifications to be swiped away. A new heads-up notification will provide an alert pop-up at the top of the screen, allowing the user to continue with whatever app they are currently using while minimizing disruption.

A new unlocking system has also been previewed, in the form of Personal Unlocking. The device uses a number of elements to decide if it is with the owner, such as receiving Bluetooth signals from a smartwatch or designated location. The smartphone then wakes up without requiring authentication. If it's away from the linked device or in a foreign location, it will present a security screen, such as a pin unlock.

Android L will incorporate the work of Project Volta, a system designed to help with extending battery life. A new tool called Battery Historian will provide feedback to developers on what is discharging the battery, while a new job scheduling API will help optimize power consumption further. On the user side, a new Battery Saver mode will reduce the refresh rate, slow the processor and minimize background network requests to conserve battery. Similar to modes seen in the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8, the Battery Saver can be turned on manually, or can be set to automatically enable when a certain percentage of battery remains.

In terms of security, Android L will see the launch of Factory Reset protection, giving more control to users over stolen phones. New Universal Data Controls will be a central setting where users can manage privacy settings, such as managing what kind of data can be shared from the device to apps or online services.

Google L has also implemented Samsung's "sandboxing" technology Knox. Devices running L can have separate partitions for work and home. Google didn't go deeply into the specific implementation of this, but more information is likely to be forthcoming at a presentation on Friday.

Google will be making the Android L developer preview SDK, including over 5,000 APIs, available tomorrow, as well as early system images for the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7.

by MacNN Staff



  1. cashxx

    Junior Member

    Joined: 04-13-09

    Not impressed! Everything they announced is like a repeat of what Apple has done over the years and some repeats from this years keynote.

  1. OldMacGeek

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-04-10

    Gee, a flatter UI. Remarkable! Innovative! How does Google do it?!

    What? iOS 7 did it first a few months ago? . . . .

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    Another brilliant Google look from their amazing lead designer, Sir Jonathan Ive! :)

  1. coffeetime

    Senior User

    Joined: 11-15-06

    Uh... I have to say that the flat looking UI icons actually started off from Microsoft's mobile UI first.

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