Google has definitely been focusing on space-saving and performance improvements with Android O, such as faster boot times and the leaner Android Go operating system. Fonts aren't quite as exciting, unless you like to spice up your reports and presentations with obscure typefaces. Regardless, Android O has a few improvements in store for developers wanting to use custom fonts in their applications.
With Ice Cream Sandwich, Google introduced Roboto to the world. Since then, the family (designed by Googler Christian Robertson) has expanded to include a set of slab serif fonts, and has even seen a major revision introduced with Android 5.0 last year.
Today, Google has announced the next step in Roboto's history - making the entire family open source, and reorganizing its production toolchain around open source tools like ufo2fdk and FontTools.
According to Google, the effort to open source Roboto succeeded thanks to collaboration between material design, internationalization engineering, Google fonts, and Android teams.
For reference, the family now includes more than 40,000 total glyphs which span all Latin, Cyrillic, and Greek characters, making Roboto an immensely informative family to study.
We're all looking forward to Google I/O. Some of us frequently check the official website to count the days until registrations are open, so we are familiar with the cool font and animations used for the event's hashtag and countdown. They're all about Material Design — layers, colors, shadows, FABs, and all the design elements that have populated our conscious and subconscious dreams for the past months.
Now you can count the time until I/O more accurately and with the same style, thanks to this IO 2015 Watch Face. It uses the same font, works on both round and square watches, has cool animations and transitions when turning on and off, switches to a battery-friendly ambient mode, offers the choice between 12h and 24h formats, and comes in 7 colors to satiate the Material junkie inside us all.
We always talk about the customizability of Android, but most of us never really put it to the test. Sure, we might change the theme on our keyboards or replace some homescreen icons, but when is the last time you changed your system font? If you're running CyanogenMod and feel like trying something a little different, treat your eyes to any of the six brand new fonts that have been packaged up for use in the CM Theme Engine.
A couple of weeks ago, we were very excited to find a new, revised version of the Roboto family hiding in a leaked Android 4.3 build. Since then, I've been keeping an eye out for any more Roboto goings on.
With the new Play Store web portal having launched today, I thought I'd check in and see if it was using the new version of Roboto we reported on before. As it turns out, it isn't. It's using another version of Roboto, pared down to just over 200 glyphs (compared to over 1000).
That's not it though.
(Another) New Roboto
What first tipped me off to the difference was Roboto Thin's lowercase "m".
Yesterday, we reported on an alleged Android 4.3 Jelly Bean ROM originally posted by SamMobile. Since then, we have – in usual style – been digging away, looking for goodies. In the midst of that search, Ron noticed something – the Roboto files in the ROM were up to 30% bigger than the versions found in 4.2.2.
My first guess as to what would cause a file size difference was the presence of additional glyphs. When looking at the new files closely, there appeared to be 15 extra glyphs. But something even better became apparent.
Roboto got a facelift! What follows is my attempt to catalogue (in a coherent fashion) some of the changes in the new Roboto.
Google Keep, the app that Goog sprung as (almost) a surprise recently, is interesting. Its functionality is undoubtedly handy, and – if Google chooses to pursue the service in earnest – it could actually be a decent competitor to other note taking apps like Evernote.
Something else has had us interested though, and that's Keep's UI and UX. There are a few weird things going on, but one stuck out: what is that serif font? The font, for those who don't know, appears only in some parts of the app. Notably, it comprises the text of every note. This is only the case for the mobile app, however.
If you fired up the web version of the Play Store today and everything felt a little off, don't panic. Google just decided to apply its Roboto font to all text on the site. Stock Android users will already be familiar with the typeface as the default setting for all written words on their Nexus devices. Outside of that family, though, it may be relatively unknown. Which is a shame, because it's beautiful.
...and the old.
That being said, in times past Roboto has not shown itself to be terribly versatile in scaling down to relatively low-ppi displays such as computer monitors and in this case it seems to work alright for headings, though to my eyes, some of the smaller text gets a little messy.
JRummy, the developer behind Root Browser, Ultimate Backup, BusyBox Installer, and a handful of other awesome apps, has put ROM Toolbox on sale in the Play Store for just $2.99 (a cool 50% off its usual price) and plans to donate half of all the sale's revenue to the Testicular Cancer Society.
For those not familiar, ROM Toolbox is a rooted user's dream app, combining the best parts of SetCPU, Root Browser, Font Installer, Terminal Emulator, ROM Manager, and a ton of other root tools into one 3.7MB package, providing a truly impressive array of features which allow users to control just about every aspect of their device from a single app.
Today's Ice Cream Sandwich announcement yielded a number of exciting enhancements, but not quite as distinctive as the new font Roboto. Indeed during the keynote, the presenter spent an inordinate amount of time expounding the virtues of this font. Roboto is a sans-serif font with characters that have a pleasing roundness, and are spaced evenly, making e-mails, clocks, and menus easy on the eyes, and, in the words of one presenter, "a pleasure to read".
Unfortunately, as the font comes with the new OS, the majority of Android users will not be able to experience Roboto until their devices are upgraded to Android 4.0.