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Android L Developer Preview - first look

Now that Google I/O is over and the Android L Developer Preview is available, we've managed to get our hands on it and while we are still putting it through its paces, just us for a first look!
June 27, 2014

Just a day ahead of Google I/O Sundar Pichai confirmed that they would in fact be showing off the next major version of Android for the first time, with plans for a full release in the fall. Now that Google I/O has concluded and the dust has settled, we managed to get our hands on the Android L developer preview.

We’re still diving in and getting a better look at what’s new in the developer preview, it’s important to note that not everything announced for Android L is fully functional in the preview. So without further ado, let’s jump in and take a closer look at the next version of Android.

Android L lockscreen contacts multitasking cards

ART is the new King, Dalvik has perished

The number one enhancement that L brings is something you can’t see. the system is is now running ART. ART – which stands for Android Run Time, was brought in as developmental piece with Kitkat, meant to replace the aging Dalvik virtual engine. As you might recall, a few months back we pitted ART against Dalvik in our own series of tests, finding ART to be substantially faster!

Bottom-line, ART is a major improvement over Dalvik, even if there are still some apps out there in the wild that don’t play nicely with it just yet. 

Android L notifications settings multitasking cards

Goodbye Holo, hello Material Design

Material Design is the new design style in Android L, and is a design language we’ll see universally throughout other Google products as well. Material Design is flat, its colorful, and its flashy. A lot of features they announced in regards to material design are not ready yet, but we can see where it’s heading. When heading into the dialer your speed dial contacts are laid out in a metro-esque grid. When tapping into recent or contacts you will have a subtle splash of color . This splash follows you around in the OS. All actions, have some sort of animation to them, and it makes the OS feel more alive and less static.

The on screen buttons received a facelift as well sporting a triangle, circle and square. This is the first time since android 4.0 we have seen such a major change in the UI department.

Android L dialer dropdown notification location settings

Recents gets a card-inspired makeover

Keeping with the theme of cards the recent application windows has been replaced. the new card layout does not have all the bells and whistles running at this time, but what you can expect is to see individual tabs from Chrome to show as separate instances. You can also use the X button to close a window or simply swipe them away.


Redesigned notifications

Notifications has been reworked in Android L. On the lock screen the rectangle widgets display in a card layout. These notifications are laid out by priority. And some notifications do not show in this view at at all. A good example of this is when your device is plugged in as media.  If you pull down on a notification, it then displays all notifications, including the hidden ones.  From here you can slide your finger up to unlock, or slider your finger down to access the notification drop down and quick settings

Wrap up

While those are some of the main hitters found in the L release, there’s plenty more to be discovered in the developer preview. That said, it’s important to note that none of the updated Google apps from the keynote are present in this version, so the main changes have to do with the system UI. We’ll be sure to keep digging and will hopefully be bringing you more news related to Android L and the developer preview in the days, weeks and months to come.

For now, we at least have a great idea where Google is headed, and the future is colorful.