All signs point to the imminent arrival of the groundbreaking upgrade, but one beta user sees looming fragmentation issues.
Introduced at the Google I/O conference in June, Android L made a good first impression with developers, with its Material Design visual design technology, use of the ART runtime, and Battery Historian feature for improved power efficiency.
“Google said Android L would be available in the fall of 2014, but they haven’t provided much more information beyond that,” beta tester Juan Gomez, a senior mobile engineer at Eventbrite, said in email. “My expectation based on previous releases is that the final version should be announced between the end of October and beginning of November.”
Published reports back up this contention, with devices anticipated from companies like HTC and Samsung. For its part, Samsung is mimicking Google and staying tight-lipped. “Most Android watchers expect L sometime this month as a few new devices pre-loaded with it are released,” analyst Stephen O’Grady of RedMonk said.
Gomez believes that Android L breaks what has been an evolutionary cycle and introduces groundbreaking features. Material Design is probably the biggest and most notorious, he said, but the ART runtime and new and improved notifications systems also hype up the release for developers and consumers alike. The notification systems, for their part, are “light-years ahead of iOS,” said Gomez.
“The downside of that is that all these new features will introduce more fragmentation into the Android ecosystem, and that’s a challenge,” he said. “My opinion on that is that the Android developer community has grown a lot in the last few years and we’re better prepared to deal with these fragmentation challenges in ways that allow us to take advantage of the new developer-oriented features but also maintain a good user experience for people who have not yet upgraded to the latest version.”
The upgrade will bring obvious and behind-the-scenes changes, O’Grady said. “Android L brings with it Material Design, which is a more responsive, grid-like user interface framework that should be very apparent to end-users. Less obvious will be under-the-hood shifts, such as the migration from Dalvik to ART made for performance reasons, or Project Volta, which is a series of optimizations to improve battery life.”
Gomez said Google has not released any new updates to the preview version of Android L, except for a different preview build provided several weeks after Google I/O that was actually older than the original but included parts of new APIs for developing Google Fit applications.