Google executive Sundar Pichai, head of Chrome and Android.

Breaking: expect a new Android version tomorrow at I/O


In an interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek today, Google executive Sundar Pichai, head of both Android and Chrome, indicated that tomorrow’s I/O just might include a look at a new Android version. This departs from recent history, in which new versions of Android have been completely hush-hush until the release of a Nexus device. Expect no device tomorrow, but a demo of new features to the next version of Android.

Buried in the profile of the affable leader was this nugget:

This year, Pichai will preview the next release (Lollipop? Lemonhead?) for the first time at I/O, rather than waiting until the fall. It’s a significant shift toward greater transparency. “I want the world to understand what we are doing sooner,” he says.

Talk about burying the lede!

The reasoning is sound: normally, Google releases new Android versions in the fall along with a Nexus device (or devices). Manufacturers of Android-powered phones found this time schedule impossible if the goal is to release and update phones with the new Android version by the time Christmas comes around. By giving a sneak peek at the software in the summertime at I/O, manufacturers have plenty of time to get current-generation devices up to date and their fall and winter releases ready for the newest versions.

The next Android version is expected to start with an “L,” which is why the article speculates on Lollipop and Lemonhead. What nobody seems to know whether it will 4.5 or 5.0. One wonders if it would serve Google well to label it 5.0 even if it doesn’t meet their standard for such a release; this way, they can market it as a brand spankin’ new operating system. Apple does this every year – no fiddling with decimals at the big event!

So, what’s in it?

Wouldn’t we all like to know. There are some solid leads, however.

Similar to our previously posted leaks of a Gmail redesign, Google has been working on a standardized set of design guidelines for all of their products that they have called “Quantum Paper.” Thanks to Android Police, we have some images and details on this already. Here’s a promo image:

quantumpromoimage

Lots of white, lots of geometry, lots of vibrant colors is the name of the game here. A big portion of this redesign, beyond refreshing the aesthetics, is creating more responsive interfaces that work on all sizes of screen. With good responsive design, you can make a website that can seamlessly turn into a mobile app and look good at both sizes.

Also in the design department, Android Police also leaked prototypes of new icon designs for Google services. These were referred to internally as “Moonshine.” These icons are much flatter with defined shadows. They also more closely resemble their web equivalents. I would love to see this become the new standard for Android icon design. Here’s a glance at those leaked icons:

moonshineleakcrop

Note: enthusiasts have been hard at work at replicating the Moonshine theme for the purpose of Android custom theming. You can see an example of a way to give your Android device the Moonshine look here.

Yet another exclusive from the reliable rumor mill Android Police regards something known as Project Hera, which will be a new multitasking interface that unites web services better with Android and enables cross-device multitasking. Basically, you will be able to execute certain actions in apps without exiting your current app.

For example, you find something hilarious on the Reddit app on your choice. With Project Hera, you could open up a Hangouts conversation and share the link or the GIF without formally closing the Reddit app. It would be a bit more like opening a second window on a desktop. Likewise, this initiative seeks to make it seamless to transition from web versions of Google services to their mobile equivalents. Your Google Docs project will be waiting for you on your Android device exactly where you left off, even if you didn’t open up Docs on your phone.

Likewise, there is probably going to be a revamped launcher that is much more multitasking-oriented.

A Redditor called Doopl spotted screenshots of a test version of the upcoming Android version in the Chromium issue tracker, which has been responsible for several leaks by Googlers registering complaints about their test software. It takes a close eye to spot the differences, but they’re there:

chromiumleak2 chromiumleak1

The visible changes are:

  • redesigned dialogue box, Quantum Paper-style
  • Chrome appears slightly redesigned
  • Chrome appears to be floating in the background rather than filling the screen – looks like the multitasking interface of Project Hera
  • The volume-off indicator in the status bar is a new shape – the same shape as the alert icon in Google+

If you want the whole story, you can stream the live event starting at 9AM PDT tomorrow, June 25. Keep up with our live blog if you can’t listen in.

Featured image by Sam Churchill (Flickr).

Tags: Android Android Update Google Kit Kat Rumors Smartphones Technology