As you probably know Google had it’s annual I/O event this week and during the event they announced the new version Android, which is Android 5.0 L. It seems that they have dropped the fun code names and gone for something much more sensible.
Material also brings in real time shadows for the user interface elements adding a sense of depth to the Android user interface. Realtime shadows are not a new thing to Android with many third party apps and mods bringing this feature in, but they usually end up terrible looking and add a massive performance hit to the device.
The Android soft keys which replaced the hardware buttons in Android 4.x have also had a redesign and have been compared to the symbols on a PlayStation controller. Now the Icons are a triangle, circle and square, opposed to the old home, back and task manager icons. The functions of the soft keys are still exactly the same, although it may take a short time to get used to the new design.
Google is also working on getting it’s products looking similar on all of the platforms it supports, so keep an eye out for the changes to google services as they start to implement the material design.
The way Android displays notifications has also also been changed, now as well as the toast notifications in the status bar and the pull down notification center, Apps can now use heads up notifications which displays over the current app you are using, this means that you can see what’s going on without having to exit the app you’re using, or pulling the notification center down.
The biggest changes in Android 5 are the under the hood ones, with Android 5 adding support for 64-bit CPU’s this allows devices to have more than 4GB of RAM which will allow device makers to add more RAM and therefore improve the performance of the devices, also this allows for more instructions to be processed, therefore improving the performance of the system.
GPU support has also been improved with the extension pack allowing for much more impressive visuals on Android devices. Extra features include tessellation, geometry shaders, computer shaders and ASTC texture compression. These extra features will improve performance of graphics heavy apps and also allow app developers to produce some impressive games for the Android system.
After all of the trouble that Google has had with the usage of Dalvik runtime, they have finally produced and alternative going by the name of the ART runtime. ART will be much more efficient with the down side that the application data will be slightly larger, with the newer devices this is not a problem as they have plenty of storage so you wont really notice this. What you will notice however is the better all round performance of applications and will make Android and more responsive system to use.
People serious about their sound will be pleased to know that Android 5 will have support for USB audio devices as standard which will allow people to use things like standard USB audio devices. Some devices in the past have supported USB audio, such as the G1 but this not a very common feature as earlier Android versions did not have support out of the box.
Bluetooth 4.1 support has also been added in Android 5 which is a good move especially for 4G enabled devices as on these devices 4G and Bluetooth clash together. This also gives manufactures more control of the timeouts for connections, making bluetooth more secure and also lowering the power usage of the device while bluetooth is active
Battery usage has also been improved which is very important for large screened devices. Android has been falling behind in the battery department for a long time now, with many users complaining about short battery life, with the new Android battery saving mode this problem should be fixed or at least improve the current battery life of devices.
Another battery related tweak is that, when charging the device will now tell you how long it will take to charge on the lock screen, this may seem like a very basic feature, but has been missing from all previous versions of Android.
Android will also be venturing into other markets with the introduction of Android Auto for in car applications, Android TV for smart TV’s which will replace the failed Google TV project and google wear for the wearable tech such as the smart watches watches that seam to be getting very popular at the moment.
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