Google kept mystery alive at its annual I/O conference yesterday, announcing new SDKs and initiatives but keeping mum on the name and version number of its next Android operating system.
The Google I/O 2014 keynote offered a wealth of information for developers. The software development kit (SDK) for Android L – whatever its dessert-themed final name ends up being – is available today at It will include more than 5,000 new APIs and extends the mobile platform fully to wearables, cars, and televisions.

Android L version preview at Google I/O 2014

Material Design

Although it might seem more of a simple look and feel revision, Material Design is the term Google is using for its unifying interface. Colors are automatically drawn from images to illustrate apps and dynamic webpages; animations create transitions between screens and touch feedback; buttons appear to hover above content with drop shadows.
Other features of Android L will include:

  • Speedier app performance with the Android RunTime (ART)
  • App Indexing for searching content within apps
  • Full 64-bit support
  • Desktop-level graphics processing
  • Battery Saver to extend unplugged phone life 

Android Wear

Smartwatches aren’t catching on as quickly as smartphones, but Android Wear looks to make them an essential part of the mobile experience. It enables “glanceable,” contextual apps that synchronize with other devices.
The first products on the platform appeared in the Play Store yesterday: the LG G and Samsung Gear Live.

Android Auto

If Android Wear is meant to preempt an inevitable iWatch from Apple, then Android Auto is a formidable answer to CarPlay. The two platforms share similar functionality:

  • Maps, music, and messging through a dashboard interface
  • Additional apps that adapt to the car’s screen
  • Voice control
  • Built-in controls

Android Auto boasts 28 automaker partners, while CarPlay counts 20 plus aftermarket component manufacturers Alpine and Pioneer. Chevrolet, Ford, Nissan, and others have signed deals with both Google and Apple, so compatible systems will probably be optional packages.

Android TV

The branding is different, but Android TV is definitely an evolution of Google TV. Special Lean Back code classes adjust the user interface of Android TV apps to be comfortable to use on the couch.
Android TV has full Google Cast support built in, which users of the Chromecast streaming media stick are familiar with. Android L takes full-screen device streaming out of experimental status and also includes things like voice search and game pad support. 

Developer support

Google’s announcements at I/O 2014 all come down to one thing: giving developers more resources to make great apps. More than $5 billion was paid out to Google Play developers in the past year, and new features are being rolled out to enable more types of apps:

  • Google Fit, similar to Apple’s HealthKit, for consolidating fitness data
  • Social and multiplayer connectivity through Google Play Games
  • Direct carrier billing even for tablets

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Tags: Android L developer preview, Android L, Android auto, Android wear, Android tv