Project Ara is still going strong, and Google demonstrated it at I/O at the ATAP presentation. Project Ara Technical Lead Paul Eremenko talks up the modular phone platform in the video below (starting at around 23:30), bringing the concept beyond simple phone component upgrades. "What if a phone could see in the dark? What if a phone could test if water is clean?" The collaborative Ara team wants the hardware to be just as flexible as the larger Android ecosystem.
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.
Ever get frustrated trying to figure out exactly when your battery is going to hit 100% so you can take it off the charger? Well, Google's right there with you, apparently, because in the Android "L" release preview, your phone or tablet will now tell you how long it will take to fully charge.
It appears in both the battery menu of the settings and the lockscreen. You'll also find an estimated time until your battery hits 0% in the battery menu, though you accuracy may vary +/-allthehours, we've found.
I don't think the developer behind the Xposed Google Experience Launcher Settings (XGELS) module will be satisfied until he's made the stock Google Search launcher every bit as flexible as Nova and Apex. The latest update to the popular module adds even more customization options. Premium users can now assign custom icons to a single app or the app drawer icon, with or without a full icon theme applied, like most of the more advanced launchers allow.
If you're looking for the auto-brightness switch on the Android L preview build, you won't find it. That's because it's been replaced with the adaptive brightness toggle, shown below.
If you're familiar with iOS, you'll know this is how Apple has been doing things in regard to brightness for a while now, and many users prefer it. Samsung and LG, too, have shipped phones with adaptive auto-brightness in the past, though both seem to have shied away from it on US models of their phones in recent years.
A long-requested feature in Android has been a native "do not disturb" mode, similar to what Apple has featured in iOS for some time now. With Android L, that feature arrived. Do not disturb allows you to block "all interruptions" with exceptions for things like phones calls and SMS messages, which can be limited further still to contacts or starred contacts. You can set scheduling for the feature, too.
DND mode shows up in both the settings pulldown and the notification bar (though it looks a bit like a "no signal / SIM" icon if you ask me).
For the next installment of our ongoing series Things You May Not Have Noticed About Android L So Let Us Tell You About Them, we're heading over to revamped settings app. Now, sure, it looks pretty and nice and oh so clean, but the settings menu has a new surprise in store: search.
Like many Samsung phones, stock Android now has a built-in search function in the settings area, allowing you to quickly and scroll-lessly find just what you're looking for.
Update: As many of you have pointed out, this feature isn't new for everyone. What is new is the checkbox you're seeing below, which was not previously a part of the sign-in process. The checkbox, now decoupled from the global "restore all the things" setting, lets you get back just the Wi-Fi passwords but not apps and settings, or the other way around (which isn't nearly as useful).
While it's not exactly aggravating, per se, having to enter your Wi-Fi password every time you get a new phone or tablet (or reset your current one) is something that doesn't exactly feel like living in the future.
Just yesterday Google announced that it would soon allow users to send video and other entertainment items to a nearby Chromecast even when they're not connected to the same WiFi network, with the backend relying on location data for verification. It looks like there's some even more interesting technology going on behind the scenes. GigaOm reports that the upcoming update will allow Chromecast and Android devices to authenticate each other using ultrasonic waves.
Here's a cool little Android "L" feature you may not have noticed - just bring up your lockscreen and swipe right. Boom. Dialer. This new shortcut, unlike the old camera gesture, does require that you enter your pin or unlock code before the dialer will actually open, but it's handy nonetheless.
You can, of course, alternatively swipe up on the dialer icon at the bottom of the lockscreen, too, though this is arguably quicker and definitely a bit more eyes-free in terms of getting the gesture right.