Droidcon UK: Android 5 (Lollipop) is a major improvement on 4.4

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This year there was significant involvement from the Google Android team at Droidcon UK.

  • Chet Haase presented an overview of the changes in Android 5
  • Nick Butcher and Chris Banes discussed the new design (Material Design)
  • Narayan Kamath discussed coding for the new ART runtime engine which will replace Dalvik.

Of the numerous changes and improvements to Andoid 5, Material Design and ART Runtime will have the biggest impact on both new and existing apps.

Material Design promises a consistent UI on all form factors
The main changes to the Android Lollipop design are:

  • Tangible surfaces. Android 4.4 had a flat design. Material design is meant to look like pieces of paper placed on top of each other with a certain degree of depth. Where iOS 7 did away with skeumorphism, Material Design has brought it back a little.
  • Bold, beautiful, aesthetic. Shadows for the UI elements because they have depth. Android now provides a set of easy to use methods to customize the look and feel using tints.
  • Meaningful motion. The UI has better transitions and animations. 
  • Adaptive design. The card based layout system is intended to make designing for phones, phablets and tablets a natural continuum. In theory you make one design for all form factors.

Bottom line: The new design is better, but will require existing apps to be recoded in order to utilize it.

ART Runtime: your code will be interpreted differently
Android is coded in java, which was designed to be platform independent. Therefore the java compiler (javac) makes no assumptions about the processor or hardware on a device. This leads to slow code, especially on constrained devices such as smartphones. The solution for Android was to add an extra compilation process which takes the output of the javac compiler and optimizes it for smartphone processors. This is called post-compilation and Androids first postcompiler was called Dalvik. With Android 4.4 Google introduced the ART postcompiler as an alternative, and in Android 5, Dalvik will not be available. ART has many performance improvements, but there are a few incompatibilities which can cause existing apps to break.

Bottom line: ART is better than the current Runtime Engine, but you will have to regression-test existing apps to make sure they don’t break.

Many interesting talks at Droidcon UK

There were many other interesting talks during the rest of the conference. Here are a couple of highlights, this blog post will be updated later in the week…

Nick Butcher and Chris Banes: Material Design and implementation

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Taylor Ling: The Importance of Feedback in User Interface Design

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Richard Woolley: Creating the Internet of Things with Bluetooth Smart

Bluetooth smart device numbers are growing exponentially, with 2.5 Billion (2500000000) devices shipped in 2013. Read more…

Stephan Linzner: What’s new with Android Testing

Finally Stephan Linzner announced the Read more…

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