Google finally unveiled a first look at Android L, the next version of its mobile operating system, and as expected, it features a brand new user interface design paradigm.
Matias Duarte, Google’s Vice President of Design, said at Google I/O today that the company is using a set of principles it calls “material design” that are supposed to add depth and perspective to applications. Developers can specify an “elevation value” for a user interface element, and the system will render shadows automatically, based on that information.
In addition, developers will get access to new animated buttons, and will be able to animate transitions within and between apps. That should give users a greater sense of presence and motion while they’re navigating around their phone’s interface.
Those same design principles are also supposed to give developers the tools to scale their user interfaces up from smartphones to tablets and then on to computers and television sets.
The new operating system comes with a number of other improvements for users, including more interactive notifications that allow users to interact quickly with information on their phone’s home screen. Users can also set up their phone to unlock without a passcode under certain conditions, like when a Bluetooth watch is connected.
The new release also includes changes to Android’s “recents” feature that blends recent web tabs from Chrome and recent applications that users have been working on in a single interface, without requiring people to switch between apps and the web.
Google also improved the integration between Android and third-party apps, by allowing people to search for content that they found inside apps using Android’s built-in search bar. The new feature means that people could look up a restaurant inside Google Earth, and then find that same search without having to remember which app they used.
The update brings a number of new performance improvements, including 64-bit support, and a new Android runtime that significantly boosts how well the system works, without requiring developers to optimize their apps any further. Graphics-heavy applications will get a boost from the Android Extension Pack, which provides additional power for games and video.
People who have been disappointed with their Android device’s battery life will be happy with Battery Saver mode, which is designed to minimize a device’s energy consumption. Developers also have a wealth of new tools to try and figure out how to optimize their apps to use as little battery life as possible.
Privacy-conscious users will be able to control what data is shared from the device with a new setting, as well.
Developers will be able to get their hands on Android L through the developer preview program, and will also be able to build web apps using material design with Polymer, Google’s web UI framework.