Android L | A First Look

Our editor Si Jie recently flashed his Nexus 5 with the Android L developer preview, and is certainly impressed with it, even in this pre-beta stage. However, don’t be too hasty to flash your own Nexus 5, because it’s still buggy (to be expected as it is, after all, but a developer preview). Read on to see his take on the preview…

“This is a preview version of the Android system image, and is subject to change … The Android preview system image is not a stable release, and may contain errors and defects that can result in damage to your computer systems, devices, and data. The preview Android system image is not subject to the same testing as the factory OS and can cause your phone and installed services and applications to stop working.”

This warning perfectly summarises up Android L: a preview. Bleeding-edge but heart-bleedingly unstable.

Unfortunately, Google was careful not to reveal the full codename for this version of Android. Would it be Lollipop, or Lime Pie, only time will tell.
Unfortunately, Google was careful not to reveal the full codename for this version of Android. Would it be Lollipop, or Lime Pie, only time will tell.

After waiting for about 10 minutes staring at the new boot animation, wondering if my phone went into a bootloop, a familiar interface appears as the device comes back to life.

Some sense of familiarity there, KitKat users?
Some sense of familiarity there, KitKat users?

Well, maybe not so familiar.

In Android L, Google has pursued the Material Design, a new set of design guidelines. Sure enough, there has been significant changes in terms of animation, motion of objects as well as the response to interaction. With a design that emphasises on content, the design for apps become delightfully clean, such as the one in Gmail.

The new Gmail design
The new Gmail design

Another change that anyone would notice is the much touted notification bar. In Android L, notifications are no longer on 2 pages. Simply drag with one finger as per normal to reveal the notifications, then drag again to reveal the quick settings pane. While it may be more inconvenient for some who are used to the two-finger swipe, it is now easier to use your phone with one hand. The buttons still work as they used to on previous versions of Android, except for a new function: Do Not Disturb.

Do Not Disturb is a new built-in functionality that allows you to, as the name suggests, avoid getting disturbed. Set it and go to sleep without being woken up by calls at 3am. Or simply, use airplane mode.

“Bzzz.” Oh, it’s a new message. Only this time, if floats on the screen, near the top. Being reworked by Google, the new notification claims to provide an unobtrusive way of informing you about whatever’s happening. The interactive notification allows you to interact directly with the notification or dismiss it as they appear.

Message came in while you’re gaming? No problem! Picture: Heads’ Up Notification, Android 4.4, an app to emulate the behaviour of Android L’s notification.
Message came in while you’re gaming? No problem! Picture: Heads’ Up Notification, Android 4.4, an app to emulate the behaviour of Android L’s notification.

Notifications is also re-worked on the lock screen. Similar to what you find on iOS, Android L now allows you to have control of your phone all at a glance. Before I forget to mention, simply double tap to open the notification. Well, you can’t swipe to open it, can you?

Android L Lock screen. Source: GreenBot.com
Android L Lock screen. Source: GreenBot.com

Anyway, I got to reply to my message. The new Android Keyboard surprised me. Beautifully designed. While functionality remains the same, I’m left without words to describe how lovely the design is. You can see for it yourself.

Android L Keyboard. Source: Android L Keyboard, Shen Ye, Google Play Store
Android L Keyboard. Source: Android L Keyboard, Shen Ye, Google Play Store

I hope I haven’t gotten you too excited, because it also has its fair share of problems.

I’d have loved to announce to the world that I’m on Android L, but Twitter doesn’t work. I try Facebook too, but the app crashed as I tried to post. Yes, Android L is still largely incompatible with a number of apps. Being a power user, I was also dismayed to find that my SuperSU has been wiped, and after a painful process of flashing more things to get the superuser package on my phone, it unfortunately still didn’t work with one most important app – Titanium Backup. In other words, if I remain using Android L, I’m going to get stuck without my preferences for Spotify, my long lost password which I use to sign in to Skype, and my Plants vs Zombies 2™ saved game.

Well it was the holidays, so it was okay using a semi-functioning phone for I could always rely on an always-on computer. But maybe not so as July approached.

If you have a spare Nexus 5 or Nexus 7, you’re definitely encouraged to try out the new ROM! Do tell us your reviews in the comments below! However, please do not rely on it as your primary OS. No guarantees when your phone call may not go through, or when you desperately need to post a Twitter update! MultiROM has been recently updated, so maybe you might wish to go for an install from there.

As a tidbit, you can now get the Android L Heads Up! Notification from Google Play Store on any of your Android 4.3+ devices at Heads Up! (Google Play Store), as well as this lovely keyboard that I’m sure I’ve tempted many of you with: Android L Keyboard (Google Play Store)

Leave a Reply