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google i/o l android homescreen

Google’s next generation version of Android is here. Sort of.

The search giant revealed its plans for the iOS–bothering OS during a lengthy keynote at its annual I/O event this week.

And since then there’s been plenty of chat about what it can do and what it means for the future of the smartphone wars.

Want the lowdown? Then buckle up and we’ll take you through everything you need to know about Android L.

1 It’s up for grabs now...but beware niggling issues

google i/o l android

If you’re a hardcore Android fan, you can snag L right now. But the release comes with some serious caveats.

This is very much an early developer release and while anyone can get hold of it, Google has issued a warning to those who do download it, explaining it’s an early build that could harm your device.

Only Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 (2013 Wi-Fi) owners can download it, which again limits its exposure.

2 It’s got a whole new look

android l build

Google’s ‘Material Design’ aims to make Android sharper, less cluttered and, in a lot of ways, more like Apple’s iOS.

The feel is much flatter and apps and icons look far neater than they do on the current KitKat iteration.

Google is hoping its new design will help slow down manufacturers’ insistence on using their own custom skins and instead rely on the Big G’s OS in its unalloyed form.

3 Notifications overhauled

google i/o android l notifications

Google has made a big play of changes to Android’s notifications system.

These will now be delivered in a smarter fashion, with the most relevant nudges coming at the top.

This is learned through the number of times you use a given app.

So email will likely be top, with Hangouts next.

They can also be played with from the lock screen, a feature that smartphone-makers have needed to incorporate in their kits ever since apps became big business.

4 Trusted Environments

google i/o l android trusted environments

Instead of tapping in a PIN or using a series of swipes to unlock your phone, Android L will also let you unlock your handset using a new ‘Trusted Environments’ feature.

At I/O, this was explained with an Android Wear smartwatch, which can unlock your phone when it’s close by.

Move your watch far away or take it off and the phone will lockdown as normal.

5 It won’t be out officially for some time

google i/o psyche

Google hasn’t said when the final build of Android L will be available.

But with a developer preview out in the wild, the hope is that it will get the nod before 2014 is out.

Certainly, with new Android phones due before Christmas, it would be strange for it not to be.

However, with KitKat only on 15% of Android phones, Google has some work to do with its current OS before it moves onto the next one.

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