GOOGLE on Wednesday announced the next version of Android, known as Android L, which introduces a cross-platform design language and support for 64-bit processors.
Despite speculation that it would launch as 'Android 5.0 Lollipop', Google today outed its next software iteration as simply 'Android L', touting the oddly-named iteration as "the largest update to the operating system yet."
One of the biggest changes is the introduction Material Design, a cross-platform design language that brings a new-look, unified user interface (UI) to Android, Chrome OS and the web. Google boasted to its developer crowd that "users will already know their way around your app, no matter what device they are using it on."
As well as a new colourful look and rounded icons, Material Design sees Google refreshing fonts across its operating systems, and kitting Android out with new, transitions and rich animated feedback. These animations are designed to mimic paper with Google boasting that its "digital material can expand and reform intelligently."
Google showed off what some apps will look at during its I/O press conference. The phone dialler in Android, for example, has been given an new look and new animation effects, and Multitasking and Notifications have also been given a thorough revamp.
Sundar Pichai, head of Android at Google said, "We wanted to take a radical new approach to design. We wanted to rethink Android to have a fresh, bold and new look."
Support for 64-bit processors is included in Android L, and Google has also looked to improve graphics performance across the software. The firm introduced the Android Extension Pack which it has developed in partnership with Qualcomm, Nvidia, Imagination Technologies and ARM during I/O, which looks to bring desktop-class graphics to mobile.
As expected, Google also announced that Android L will ditch Dalvik in favour of the ART virtual machine, and claims this will run "twice as fast."
Perhaps one of the most interesting new features in Android L is a new security measure called Personal Unlocking. This enables a device to know when it’s in a “personal environment” - so if it detects your Pebble smartwatch, for example, it will know it's you using the smartphone and won’t request a PIN. A similar feature will also be coming to Chrome OS, with Google announcing that devices can be set to automatically unlock when it detects a users' smartphone in range.
Google is clearly going big on security, as it also announced that Android L will allow users to seperate personal and business apps on the same device, making use of Samsung's Knox enterprise suite and making it available to all Android OEMS. Clearly eyeing the enterprise, Google also today announced Drive for Work, offering corporate customers unlimited storage.
Android L also boasts a number of new privacy settings for users, an Apple-style 'do not disturb' feature and a new battery saving mode, which Google claims will add an extra 90 minutes of juice to the Nexus 5 smartphone.
The Android L Developer Preview will be available from tomorrow, with Google saying it will be made available to all "in the fall." µ
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