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.
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.
At Google I/O last week, Google announced Project Volta, its effort to change and drastically improve how Android manages battery life. Since then the folks over at Ars Technica have downloaded the publicly available L developer preview build and put it through its paces. Is there a noticeable difference? Yes, apparently. They were able to get an an extra two hours of battery life out of their Nexus 5, an improvement of thirty-six percent.
Android's upcoming L release, currently available in developer preview form, has a lot of improvements to its networking and Wi-Fi capability. One of the smaller additions that will nonetheless make a few people very, very happy is the user-facing reporting of Wi-Fi frequencies. Translation: you can finally see whether the Wi-Fi network you're connected to is using the 2.4GHz band or the 5GHz band.
Left, center: separate network frequencies in Android L (note the SSID).
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.
The last time that the Padfone 2 got a major version update was way back in December 2012, for Jelly Bean 4.1. Yeah, you read that right. Today ASUS is updating its second phone-tablet-combo-thingy all the way to KitKat, a move that will surely please at least some of the users who haven't upgraded to one of the newer models. Are you ready for some sketchy ASUS English translations? Of course you are.
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.