Gadgets: The Features of Android 5.0 L

Gadgets: The Features of Android 5.0 L
The Android L
The Android L

Android 5.0 L is Google’s latest operating system update for smartphones, tablets and even Android Wear-running smartwatches. The official name came from Android 5.0 Lemon Meringue following Google’s dessert-based naming convention and succeeding Android 4.4 KitKat.

Expanded notifications

This is something Google introduced in recent Android updates and now users will be able to view notifications in more detail in three different ways. There’s text, inbox and image all of which can provide you with additional context for the notification. It’s something that Android Wear smartwatch owners are also going to benefit from greatly as well.

The idea is to evolve one of Android’s core features to be more useful and deliver the information when you really need it.

New lock screen notifications

Notifications also have a real spot on the lock screen. And, again, this is something that has been common for some time in many custom Android interfaces.

Each notification shows up as a little bar across the screen in high-contrast fashion, making them super-clear. It looks as though four different notifications can be displayed on the lock screen at once on a normal-size phone.

3D multitasking

A minor visual tweak of Android 5.0 L is the new multitasking menu. It still shows your ‘recent’ apps, but rather than being displayed as a 2D scroll of apps, it’s now a 3D cascade of app tiles.

It looks quite similar to the tabs screen of the Chrome browser for Android – no surprise there. The look of the Android take is better, though – sharper, simpler and with good use of those new realtime shadows.

Direct links to apps from Google searches

Developers will now be able to have links to their apps take the place of websites in web searches. What this means is that you’ll be able to head directly to a specific part of an app right from the Chrome browser on your phone.

This feature has been accessible to a handful of apps to date, but now it’ll be available to all developers. If you’re worried about being launched from Chrome into some dodgy app, don’t be. Just as lesser sites don’t tend to feature too highly in your search results, ropey apps won’t either.

64-bit CPU support

One new feature we knew was coming – support for 64-bit CPUs. As 64-bit CPUs clearly designed to work with Android devices have already been officially announced, this one was obvious.

As well as letting many more instructions take place simultaneously, having a 64-bit CPU really lifts the lid on how much RAM Android phones/tablets can actually make use of. With a 32-bit processor the limited address space means that only so much RAM memory can be accessed at once.

Android TV

While not a core part of the Android system, Android TV is a huge development in the Android universe. It’s a version of the platform designed for your TV, and it’ll eventually be built into set top boxes and TVs.

You’ll control the thing with your Android phone, and will be able to play Android games, watch video and do pretty much anything you can with your Android phone.

Improved GPU support

Google has improved the coding of Android’s execution of graphics, allowing for much more advanced visuals. It has been dubbed an ‘extension pack’, and will finally make top-end processors start to make a bit more sense.

The extension pack enables tesselation, geometry shaders, computer shaders and ASTC texture compression. The latter is an advanced image compression algorithm that will allow for highly effective reduction in the size of art assets.

ART runtime is in

Android 5.0 L switches over to the ART runtime. If you’ve read our Android 4.4 tips and tricks article you’ll know that this is something people with recent Android phones have been able to try out for themselves for a while.

At present Androids use the Dalvik runtime as standard. ART is significantly quicker, but uses a bit more storage space for apps. It’s a fair trade off in our opinion.

Smartwatch L

Smartwatch as authentication

One of the funkiest little additions in Android 5.0 L is a new way to bring your phone out of standby securely. Android Wear watches will work as an authentication tool, meaning you won’t need a password to unlock your phone if you’re wearing your watch. We’re not quite sure yet exact what tech is used to do this. But it is neat.

BUT, of course, if you get mugged your attacker is probably going to nick your Android smartwatch as well as your shiny new Galaxy S6 mobile phone. But it should at least stop your friends from being able to tweet on your behalf should you nip of to the lav for a minute.

Support for USB audio

One of the new APIs of Android 5.0 L is USB audio. This means you’ll be able to transmit digital audio right from a phone’s microUSB port, bypassing the DAC stage used when you listen through a headphone jack.

What will this mean? It opens up an Android phone to being a genuine audiophile source when paired with a decent outboard USB DAC, and could mean we start to see USB headphones – something Apple is rumoured to be working on through Beats. The Nexus 5 supported USB audio output, but it is not native to all Android 4.4 devices.

Battery efficiency optimisation

Android 5.0 L gets some new battery features, including a reworked Battery Saver mode. Android 4.4 falls well behind the competition in this respect – where phones like the Galaxy S5 have extreme power-saving modes on tap, the basic Android 4.4 battery saver is rather rudimentary.

The lock screen will also tell you how long your phone will take to charge when plugged in – a clever little tweak that seems so obvious now it’s in place.

Bluetooth 4.1 support

Android 5.0 L offers native support for Bluetooth 4.1. Top-end phones have Bluetooth 4.0 these days, but what’s the difference?

Bluetooth 4.1 doesn’t clash with 4G signal like Bluetooth 4.0, and it gives manufacturers much more control over the timeout times of the connection. This gives much more scope for controlling power consumption. Bluetooth 4.1 also improves connectivity, letting Bluetooth peripherals talk to each other more easily.

Android Auto

A major new bit of Android 5.0 L is Android Auto. This is a bit like Apple’s CarPlay – it’s an in-car system that runs off your Android phone.

You jump into your car and your Android 5.0 L mobile will start transmitting Android Auto to the screen on your car’s dashboard. Its interface looks quite a lot like Google Now and Android Wear, and will of course let you GPS navigate to wherever you want to go. We imagine it’ll be a lot more open than CarPlay too.

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