Back in KitKat, we were introduced to translucent system bars, which gave app developers the ability to make the navigation and status bars semi-transparent. Reclaiming as much of the screen as possible became an obsession for many fans as they demanded their favorite apps go "full bleed." With Android L, Google is treating us to even more flexibility by allowing developers to set their own color for the status bar, or even turning it completely transparent.
A couple of days ago, AOSP was graced with a series of freshly created "l-preview" branches and a massive push of brand new code. As we know now, quite a bit of that code push wasn't truly representative of the L developer preview. (Very sneaky, Google.) Most of the truly new updates belonged to GPL-licensed projects, which Google is obligated to release in a timely fashion. The remaining projects with "l-preview" branches were filled with a recent snapshot from the Master branch.
It looks like all of the recent Nexus devices are covered - everything from the 2012 Nexus 7 up through to the Nexus 5. Of course, just because branches have been published for these devices, it is not absolute confirmation that this entire list of devices will receive an official L release.
Battery life on Android has been a bit of a sore spot for many users, mostly because it's simply not good enough. Most devices can make it a day on moderate use, and a few can even do so comfortably, very few phones can hit two days without some time on the charger. The Android "L" release is making several improvements to power efficiency via Project Volta, but there are also ways to improve 3rd-party apps, and that's where the new Job Scheduler comes in.
If it's not already completely obvious, the L Developer Preview is shaping up to be an absolutely massive sea change for Android. While we've been treated to an entirely new design language called Material, a redesigned Recents screen, huge performance improvements, and over 5000 other new APIs and features for developers, it's easy to overlook plenty of exciting improvements that aren't quite as flashy. One such change was briefly mentioned by Dan Sandler during the "What's new in Android" session: Multi-Networking, the capability to maintain multiple network connections simultaneously.
Last year, at Google I/O 2013, some major new features and improvements were announced for Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) -the replacement for Cloud to Device Messaging (C2DM). A couple of the new bits were even featured during the keynote, particularly notification syncing, which the audience loved. The one thing most people don't know is that most of the coolest things announced that year were marked as beta and locked behind an application process.
If we're being honest, it's hard to deny that one of Android's most obnoxious flaws comes in the category of audio performance. Playing some music is generally fine, but the issues start to become obvious after introducing very high quality audio or trying to achieve precise timing or real-time processing. With the L Developer Preview, it appears that Google is driving to improve upon these weaknesses and give audio performance the shot of adrenaline it needs.
Android Studio was first introduced to the world a little over a year ago at Google I/O 2013. At the time, it was coined a "Developer Preview" to indicate that it wasn't ready for major development projects, but people were welcome to experiment with it. In the following months, Android Studio has progressively improved, swatting many of the bugs and adding truly valuable features for developers and interface designers. After a long, and sometimes frustrating road, the upstart IDE is finally trading in its 'Developer Preview' moniker in favor of a shiny new 'Beta' tag.
The Android team has been hard at work replacing old code that hasn't scaled well with newer and more powerful hardware. We've long known that the camera API was destined to see a massive update, but we were missing details like a release date or exactly what was coming. Thanks to the L release, we can finally see what has been in the works for all these many months.
One of the most important aspects of the new Camera 2 API is a dramatic increase in performance over the previous interface.
Android 4.4 contained a number of interesting and very powerful features for developers, many of which went unused or misunderstood for quite a long time. Since it was introduced in KitKat, The Storage Access Framework (SAF) may be one of the best examples of an API that has been underutilized, despite offering a great method to provide cleaner and more informative interfaces. I even theorized that it may ultimately take the place of file system access.