Yesterday the annual Google I/O event kicked off its 2014 edition, where all the novelties to come at the software level for the Android system over the next months were presented. Exciting times seem to be looming after the announcement of Android L, the next version of the operating system that will come accompanied by a comprehensive redesign thanks to the so-called ‘Material Design’, a new design and multiplatform layouting language that will once again turn the company’s product ecosystem upside down.
Android L, the next version of the mobile OS
After the K in Kit-Kat, next comes L on its own, whose minimalist definition reflects the logic of this new version in which simplicity is taken to extremes, with a hybrid between a “flat” design and a stackable card system, as contradictory as that sounds. Out with the flourishes or flashy bars, windows, and buttons and in with a clear and direct look that directly evolves from the changes seen in previous versions. And best of all: these changes will be global in an attempt to unify the style of all of Google’s infrastructure, both mobile and desktop.
But not all the improvements are simply aesthetic. At the architectural level, Android L will use the new virtual ART, to the detriment of Dalvik, which was introduced for optional use in version 4.4. Compatibility with the already-existing apps will be practically complete, and in view of the performance improvements, it seems that the change will be quick and painless for developers, not to mention the added benefit of its support for 64-bit processors. Luckily, it seems that this performance upgrade will not affect the battery, and the new energy-saving system will extend the autonomy of some devices to 90 minutes.
Material Design, a new design language that shakes up the interface
The aesthetic changes are deeper with regard to service integration. As we’ve already seen, the Google redesign aims to shake up the way applications are designed via new specs that have been presented on its official website. The new design language aims to be more organized and hierarchical to facilitate “responsive” multiplatform design, as well as providing internal tools that improve the user experience when it comes to using services of all sorts on Android.
Following the trend seen in the different launchers being released by third parties, now you’ll see your notifications on the lock screen. In addition, new pop-up tabs will use the so-called Heads Up system to superimpose the app running at that moment, and you can do context actions in the background.
The multitasking system for viewing open applications will also be modified: the apps will now be displayed as cards stacked on top of each other, and pop-up windows will now appear from the element that generates them. As a general vision, it seems that the philosophy behind Android L is a sensible one: clear, fluid simplicity. The fact that Chromebooks let you run Android apps via Chrome OS says much about the integration and globalization to come.
All these improvements will arrive at the end of the year to most Android devices, although in the coming days a new developer preview version will become available to users to begin working on Android L. Likewise, all the design and graphic source specifications that it will use are already available.