Google I/O was pretty amazing this year, right? We got the deets on Material design, a preview version of Android L, the formal release of Android Wear, the first manifestations of Android TV and Android Auto, and plenty of other bits and pieces. However, all of that content and all of those developer sessions can take forever to absorb, and professional developers just don't have time for that. Now that all of the videos have been posted, I've combed through every last one to narrow the list down to just the sessions that absolutely can't be missed.
Android L is going to be the biggest thing to happen to the platform since at least 2.0 – maybe even ever. Google is radically altering its design language and adding a ton of new features this time. Not only did we get a quick tour of the new OS at Google I/O a few weeks ago, Mountain View released a developer preview, which it's never done before. This is truly a new era for Android, and we've been keeping track of every little detail (some might say obsessively).
Android is really turning into a jack of all trades, having become the OS of choice for phones, tablets, face computers, and now wristwatches. The combination of flexibility, open source code, and low cost of entry make it a prime candidate for countless utilitarian purposes. With the upcoming release of Android L, Google is aiming to make it even easier to deploy highly specialized environments with a new feature called Task Locking that allows a single app to take control of the interface and prevent users from switching apps or even seeing notifications.
Google has only posted official images of the Android L developer preview for the WiFi Nexus 7 and the Nexus 5, but Nexus 4 users want a piece of the action too. That's why folks on XDA have been burning the midnight oil to get Android L running on last year's Nexus. Beta 2 of the N4 port is now up, and it seems to have resolved the showstopper bugs from the first one.
If you've been itching to use your USB DAC with your Android phones and tablets, get ready: USB audio-out support is coming to our favorite mobile OS, finally, in this fall's "L" release. Android has been without native USB audio support (some OEMs have added it in, but at the moment it's rare) since, well, ever, and the main ticket in the Android issue tracker has been there nearly two-and-a-half years.
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.
Google didn't spend enough time on Material Design during the keynote. We saw a beautiful video and learned a little bit about the intent and thought behind Google's new cross-platform look (which we actually saw a bit earlier than anticipated), but there's so much more to be said. Having attended as many design sessions as possible during I/O, I think it's worth taking a somewhat closer look at Material Design. In this post we'll attempt to scratch a little bit deeper into what Material means, why it's awesome, and why it's a forward-looking move for Google.