5 most exciting features in Android L: performance enhancements
In one respect, from day one Android has been fighting a losing battle against first iOS and latterly Windows Phone 8. Something about the underlying Android code made previous versions susceptible to lag at the oddest times. And this in turn gave an overall perception of performance somewhat worse than was the case. Since the Galaxy S3 at the latest flagship Android smartphones have been the fastest gig in town, but it doesn't always feel that.
The proof will be in the testing, but Android L is set up to be the biggest overhaul in Android performance that we've seen. Android L will support 64-bit processors and it will also support the ART software library, which Google says will be twice as fast as laggy old Davik.
5 most exciting features in Android L:battery saver mode
There is, of course, an arms race of performance benchmarks in which smartphone- and tablet makers try to convince us to buy their wares based on miniscule differences in terms of overall computational speed or graphics framerates. But the best phones are already plenty fast enough, and the differences are difficult to notice in the real world. Much more important - cruciual even - is battery life. The first smartphone that can last for three days on charge will be a very popular device.
Again, we don't know how this will work, but it's great to see Google taking up the cudgels and attempting to address battery life. Google promises that Android L will bring it via a new battery saving mode known as 'Project Volta'. This will allow developers to identify how their apps are using battery so they make improvements. Google said that the new battery saving mode will immediately give a Nexus 5 an extra 90 minutes of power. We'll have to wait and see, but we do like the sound of that.
5 most exciting features in Android L:useful notifications
Notifications have long been a strong point of Android... up to a point. Sit in the PC Advisor office and you'll be a treated to orchestral beepings and rumblings as a multitude of smartphones notifies a legion of users of a plethora of things. What you won't see is many people acting on the notifications.
Android L will, Google tells us, make notifications useful. For starters you can get them on the lock screen. And they will be automatically ordered in priority. But here is the key thing: while you will still be able to swipe away notifications, you will now be able to double tap to open the relevant app and respond to a notification. So rather than having to open up your phone and then the app, find the message and type out the response, you can get straight to it. A simple (obvious) change, but an important one. (See also: The best smartphones of 2014.)
5 most exciting features in Android L: Material Design
Google has revealed a new design language for the Android L release which is called 'Material Design'. It remains to be seen what developers make of Material Design, but overall it's a cleaner and very Google style which developers can make use of in apps. The Roboto font can also be used anywhere.
Elements 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 and there are new animations and touch feedback.
It's exciting because it makes Android look modern, slick and cool. But it will also add a feeling of simple pace to the interface. And if you don't believe us here is a video:
5 most exciting features in Android L:meaningful relations between all manner of devices
Google's I/O keynote was low on detail and heavy on a grand plan for world domination. But the theme that emerged was: Android shall speak unto Android. So Android Wear smartwatches will work as extensions of smartphones. Android Auto will make your car into a big smartphone, Android TV will do the same for your telly box.
It's a grand vision that could ultimately have amazing consequences for our lives (and for Google's ability to harvest data on our lives). But as exciting as it is right now there are relatively few practical applicaions. There are some, though.
For instance: in the I/O keynote Google said that security is a key element for Android and its users. A new feature will enable users to unlock their smartphone when physically near enough a device like an Android Wear smartwatch. So your Wear watch would become a kind of token that you are you and allow you to unlock doors and so on. You'd want two-factor indentification before you allowed this method to unlock your Nest-enabled smart home or Android Auto car, but it's coming. You can see the potential and it is exciting. See also: Android TV release date & new features.