Android L. That’s the name of the next major release for Android that Google has planned. Announced and revealed at Google I/O, Google also released an early preview version of the OS intended for App developers to test and ready their apps. However, the preview version was only released for 2 devices – Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 2013. Nexus 4 owners were understandably unhappy at being left behind.
However, all was not lost as the developer community came to the rescue and ported the developer preview version to the Nexus 4. The ported version is, in some cases, an improvement over the original developer preview version that was released. Developers worked relentlessly to fix issues and add features as the ported ROM matured.
How does it look and feel? Well, in most aspects, this ported ROM is a solid daily driver (i.e. suitable to be used daily). There are some bugs, which are to be expected since this is based off an early developer preview and not all apps have been updated to be compatible with it. Still, a good deal works and works well.
In my usage, the worst I’ve encountered is a one time self reboot while using the camera (not able to reproduce after that) and some apps crashing. Some people have reported that Bluetooth doesn’t work properly when connecting to certain devices and WiFi may not disconnect properly when moving out of range. However, since I’m using Hellscore Kernel with the ported Android L developer preview ROM and do not use Bluetooth, I’m happy to report that except for the Facebook Messenger crashing a few minutes after installation, I’ve not encountered any other real issues. On that note, those who contact me via Facebook Messenger may encounter a delay in response when I’m not at my PC. Please contact me via WhatsApp or Hangouts instead for a more immediate response.
So what has changed in Android L?
With the official KitKat 4.4.4 ROM, I used to get around 2.5 to 3 hours of screen on time (SOT). With the ported Android L developer preview ROM, enabling the new Battery Saver feature results in no real noticeable difference in performance but with an increase of SOT to 4 or 5 hours. However, as always, SOT is always dependent on various variables such as signal strength, apps running in the background, screen brightness and so forth. My typical use case consists of a corporate exchange email sync, Gmail sync, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Hangouts, Tapatalk, an hour of phone call, some music listening and web browsing. A mixture of WiFi and 3G data signal is available throughout the day. With this, I’m at least able to get 3.5 hours usually.
New Quick Settings Toggle
Android L promises to bring with it a new Quick Settings Toggle design. The current implementation requires either a two finger swipe down from the status bar or a swipe down and a tap on the Quick Settings Toggle on the top right corner. The new design requires two swipe downs from the status bar. A first swipe brings down the Notification Shade and a second swipe brings down the Quick Settings Toggle. Also for the first time, Auto-Rotate is available as a Quick Settings Toggle on phones unlike the current implementation where only tablets get this. Very handy.
New Recent Apps
The Recent Apps feature has also gotten a bit of a revamp as it now uses Material Design’s card based look which is the focus of Android L’s image makeover. Per Google’s demo during the IO event, the new Recent Apps will be able to show multiple cards for a single app. An example is Google’s Chrome Browser app having a card for each tab that is opened. However, the implementation of the new Recent Apps feature in the developer preview is incomplete and does not yet have this capability.
Gone are the Lockscreen Widgets that Google introduced earlier. In its place, the swipe from right to launch the Camera is still present. Newly added is the swipe from left to launch the Dialer from the Lockscreen. A swipe up will unlock the phone while a swipe down will pull down the Notification Shade. Speaking of the Notification Shade, notifications will now be directly viewable on the Lockscreen itself and you can customize the behaviour whether to show the details of the notification or hide it for security or privacy reasons.
Color schemes for this new Android L is also updated and is very different from the existing color schemes of Jelly Bean or KitKat. Personally, I feel it has a much brighter and lighter look which is quite pleasing to the eye.
The navigation buttons are also changed with the back button using a backwards facing triangle, the home button a circle and the recent apps button a square. It is not known whether these will be the final look or simply placeholders for now but after using them for a while, I think it shouldn’t bother most people and therefore should be fine either way.
You can read more about the new features available in Android L by heading here.
Here are a few screenshots for your viewing pleasure. 🙂