The next version of Android is bringing a lot of visual options to the table, and they're not just for Google to play with. Buried deep within the KitKat 4.4 API (level 19) is the ability for apps to request translucent system UI overlays, specifically on the top notification bar and the bottom navigation bar (if your device has one). You can see this feature in action in all the promotional photos of the Nexus 5's homescreen, where the wallpaper is visible form the top of the screen to the bottom.
It's about damn time. While Pandora has been slowly and steadily updating its Android app for years (the latest big update was a sleep timer), the tablet experience has been sorely lacking ever since Honeycomb. The music streaming service has redeemed itself with version 5.0 of the Android app, which now shifts the interface significantly on Android tablets.
The main play interface occupies the center of the screen, going back through your play history with album art and displaying contextual track information below it.
Google is a strange master when it comes to user interface design. Though their apps can generally be relied upon to use Holo standards at the very least, some development teams seem to let the latest trends pass them by for months or years (I'm looking at you, Voice). In any case, the official Google Fiber app has a much-needed update waiting for those lucky few who will get to use it.
Twitter has been steadily tweaking their beta release channel for the Android app, and the latest update removes one of the most poorly-received features from the last beta version. The translucent tri-button array at the bottom of the screen (post a photo from storage, take a photo, or a simple textual tweet) has been removed, and is now replaced with a single, consolidated button.
New on the left, old on the right.
Feedly has replaced the much-loved Google Reader for quite a few of you, so we tend to pay attention when a new version hits the Play Store. Today the Android app has been updated to version 17 with a laundry list of improvements and tweaks. There's nothing game-changing in there (though arguably the "300% faster start time" is a big deal), but it does include "support for Android Kitkat." No, the developers are not elaborating on that.
Samsung claims that it has 100 million users of its proprietary ChatON messaging service. With that many eyeballs on your software, it makes sense to give it a little spit and polish, right? To that end they've release the 3.0 version of ChatON to the Play Store, complete with a fresh Holo interface and a few more options. Those of you with Samsung devices are probably getting the update anyway, but the cross-platform chat service is available to most Android devices.
Yahoo seems to be taking a page out of the NFL's playbook: the official Android app just jumped from version 1.1.4 all the way to 3.2. (It's probably been changed to match the iOS version.) But at least there's plenty of new content to justify the jump. In addition to a new Holo-style user interface sporting the revamped Yahoo logo (which still clings annoyingly to that vestigial "!"), the app has a ton of new options for content consumption.
Earlier this week Ookla teased their revised and updated Speedtest.net app for Android, and now it's live in the Play Store for anyone to download. The go-to network test for end users and reviewers alike has been completely redesigned, with a new interface, new options, and the ability to remove the advertising with a $.99 in-app purchase. That's a nice perk for frequent users.
The old interface wasn't exactly awful, but it had been going for several years without any sort of refresh.
Facebook's Android app isn't what you'd call a shining example of standards-based development, but it's been steadily improving for the last couple of years. A tipster who's using the latest Facebook Android beta sent us screenshots of what the next major iteration might look like. After resetting his account and being sent the relevant codes, our reader noticed two "code generator" entries in the app's slide-out menu. Tapping the first one shifted his app's UI considerably.
There are more than a few music players available for Android, but you could search the Play Store for days without finding one quite so full-featured as Music Player (Remix). The developer seems to have thrown every possible bell and whistle into the local playback app, and topped it off with a swipe-based interface and some impressive extras. It's available in the Play Store for $4.99, with a 14-day trial app available as well.