Android L Preview

Android L Preview (Lollipop)

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Check out Google's next generation mobile OS

Android L, or Android 5.0 Lollipop, is Google's next update to its mobile operating system. The revamped OS is due for release in fall 2014. View full description

Android L, or Android 5.0 Lollipop, is Google's next update to its mobile operating system. The revamped OS is due for release in fall 2014.

Material world

The main focus of the Android Lollipop update has been on user interface design. Prepare for an eye-opening new look, based around a principle Google calls 'Material design'.

The concept of Material design is based around "familiar tactile attributes", taking inspiration from paper and ink. Essentially, what this means is that the interface elements of Android now feel like they have a surface and respond to touch in a more natural way. Color schemes are bright and bold, when you touch menu items they animate beautifully, and shadows are used to convey a sense of depth.

You can already see examples of Material design in the redesigned Google Play 5.0 app, the Chrome Beta app, and various parts of the Android L developer preview, such as the updated Calculator app.

Revamping Android's design principles is good news for users. It will set a new standard in the way user interfaces look and feel in all Google apps, with Google pushing app developers to embrace the new principles just as it did with the Holo design theme introduced with Android 4.0. Hopefully we'll see consistent design spreading across smartphone apps, as well as software for Google's other platforms such as Web, TV, and wearables.

New features in Android Lollipop

Besides the cosmetic changes, Android Lollipop will bring improved functionality to users, although the number of new features might disappoint.

Probably the biggest change you'll notice in Android L is the new notifications system. Just like with iOS, notifications can now be viewed on the lock screen with Lollipop. Privacy settings for notifications can be set if you want to make sure that the contents of messages or other alerts won't be seen by others when you get out your phone to check it. You can already test lock screen notifications by checking out third-party apps like Peek or DashClock.

Notifications in Android Lollipop are designed to work smarter, alerting you when necessary but without butting in too much on what you're doing. Notifications appear at the top of the screen when you're using an app or playing a game, and you can choose to act on them straight away or ignore them.

The quick settings menu in Android Lollipop has also undergone a major overhaul and is now tied to the same panel as notifications. Slide the screen down from the notifications bar and you'll get access to the quick settings. New settings have been added to the panel since Android 4.4 (KitKat), including an option to cast the screen via Chromecast, and manual brightness adjustment controls.

Multitasking has been given a tune-up in Android Lollipop. Recent apps are now displayed on a carousel, which you can cycle through by swiping up and down, dismissing apps by swiping its card to one side. Though not evident in the Android L Developer Preview, Google has promised that Chrome tabs and searches will be available as separate cards on the carousel, which could make for an improved web browsing experience.

Among the other new features of Android Lollipop to watch out for is the ability to unlock your device automatically when it gets near to your Bluetooth devices, such as a Google Wear watch. When you move away from this device your Android will lock and request a PIN number or pattern unlock.

With other goodies to come such as improved battery life, a new runtime for enhanced performance, redesigned keyboard, the Google Fit health app, and auto-encyrption of your device's data, Android Lollipop is worth getting excited about.

Watch this space

Android L will be released soon. It's likely to hit Google's Nexus device range first (the new Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 devices initially, followed by Nexus 4, Nexus 5, Nexus 7, and Nexus 10. Certain other Android devices from HTC, Samsung, Motorola, and LG will almost certainly get the update after the Nexus devices.

Keep your eyes trained on Softonic's news section for more information on Android Lollipop as soon as we have it.