All you need to know about Android L, Google’s latest OS

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Sundar Pichai, head of Android at Google, announced a new version of Android that goes by the name of ‘L’ at Google’s I/O 2014.

Android L has seen a lot of changes including a revamped design, improved performance and enhanced battery life.

Here is a detailed look at what is new in Android L.

Material design: a major overhaul in UI

A dramatic user interface overhaul is the main feature in Android L.

According to Google, material design is not only about visual appearance, it is primarily intended to make better use of available space and to bring a unified user interface across tablets, smartphones and desktops.

During the I/O keynote, Google showcased how its apps will benefit from the new design language. Smoother animations, an improved typography, 3D effects and brighter colours appear in the new design as well.

Following in the footsteps of Apple and Microsoft, Google announced that Android L will bridge the gap in user interface design between smartphones and tablets.

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Check out this video to have a better idea about how material design looks.

Improved notification system

The notification system in Android L has seen a couple of improvements over KitKat.

In KitKat, notifications were locked to the notifications bar where you had to pull down the bar to check for new notifications.

In Android L, the notification list can be directly accessed from the lock screen and pulling down the notifications bar will reveal more information.

Also introduced was a new type of notification called heads-up notification.

According to Google, heads-up notification is for truly important events like a phone call.

In the on-stage demo, a heads-up notification for an incoming call popped up on the top of the screen during an ongoing game session and the choice was given to either ignore the notification or to tap on it to either accept or reject the call without having to leave the game.

Smarter security

Although Android KitKat was heavy on security with many authentication options like pin code, patterns, face unlock and more, Google decided to add a new authentication feature called “Trusted Environments”.

The newly introduced feature relieves you from the burden of entering a pin or a certain pattern every time you want to access your device. Trusted Environments uses data like current location or nearby Bluetooth devices to authenticate and unlock your device.

The feature also meshes well with the recently announced Android wear, where if your phone is within a certain distance of your G Watch, it will automatically unlock your device.

Improved performance with ART and 64 bit support

Before Android L, any Android application had to run in a virtual machine called Dalvik to function. Dalivk caused performance issues as it was an extra burden on the processor of the device.

Since the introduction of JellyBean, it became clear that Google is continually trying to eliminate performance issues in Android, first by introducing Project Butter, then Project Svelte and now by introducing ART runtime.

By introducing ART runtime, applications will run and launch faster than before as they will not pass by Dalvik anymore, however; Dalvik will continue to be the default runtime to be backwards compatible with older applications but new applications will use ART runtime.

ART runtime also provides support for 64 bit mobile chips which should provide a boost in overall performance and lesser power consumption as 64 bit mobile chips allows more processes to run simultaneously compared to 32 bit mobile chips.

Graphics performance should also increase in Android ‘L’ with a new set of tools called ‘Android extension pack’.

The Android extension pack enables tesselation, geometry shaders, computer shaders, ASTC texture compression and provides support for OpenGL ES 3.1.

According to Google, these tools could bring desktop-class graphics to Android games.

Unreal engine 4 demo on Android ‘L’  showing desktop-class graphics on Android games.

Optimised battery life

Google’s Project Volta will debut in Android L.

Volta is basically a set of new tools that should help developers create battery efficient applications.

Also, battery saver mode is now included by default in Android, which should provide an extra 90 minutes of battery life under normal use.

What exactly does L mean?

Google has been known to name Android releases after names of desserts, starting with Android Cupcake and ending with KitKat.

The L name is temporary and will be changed soon, but it is still unclear if the dessert-naming scheme will be used again or if a new naming scheme will be used.

Fire up in the comments and let us know what you think “L” in Android “L” should stand for.

When will L be released?

Android L has been available to developers from June 26 as a preview.

For the rest of the world, Google announced that starting this autumn, it should launch onto new devices, while older devices will get an update to Android L if their manufacturers provide it.

HTC announced that they will “begin” rolling out updates to the HTC One (M8) and HTC One (M7) in regions worldwide within 90 days of receiving final software from Google, followed shortly thereafter by other One family members and select devices.