Technology Trends of 2015 Part 2: Native Android Trends
The big news of 2015 on the Android development front is the arrival of Android 5.0 (Android Lollipop). Google began deploying this new version to many Google branded devices in late 2014. In 2015 the Lollipop version of Android is expected to become the de facto version of Android shipped with new devices.
Android 5 brings with it a host of new features, the most significant being Material Design which brings the first new look to Android apps since Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) was released in the fall of 2011. Google has been busy upgrading their popular applications like GMail, Google Play, Google Calendar, etc. to this new UX design. In 2015 users on the Android platform will expect new applications to follow this design paradigm after experiencing it in Google’s applications. Material Design was introduced in conjunction with Android 5, but Material Design is not limited to just the latest version of Android. Google has enhanced the AppCompat library so that it offers many of the material design features on earlier Android devices. This is what has enabled Google to offer a material design user experience in GMail, Google Play, etc. even on older devices. In 2015 developers of applications should review all their apps and consider migrating towards material design. Material Design is not just appearing in Android applications. As noted in our AnguarJS and Hybrid app sections Google is offering a material design library for use in web applications as well. A basic principle of Material Design is to provide a user experience that scales from mobile, to tablet, and desktop devices.
In addition to the material design changes in Android 5 there are other changes that your applications should consider leveraging as you begin to support the growing base of Android 5 users in 2015. Notifications have been enhanced to allow the developer to set priorities on notifications and provide the user with the ability to see and interact with some notifications without even having to unlock their device. In the past the recent apps button in Android only allowed users to switch between applications. Now your application can surface multiple documents in this recents list allowing users to switch between things like multiple chat windows or documents within your app. The entries in this app list can even persist across device reboots. For applications that provide image capture, a new camera API provides a lot more control over photo capture and processing.
In 2015 we’ll continue to see an explosion of connected devices including smart watches (Android Wear), personal fitness devices, etc. All these devices will need to communicate with your phone or tablet and do so in a battery efficient manner. Connectivity features are enhanced in Android 5 with Bluetooth Low Energy device support including the ability to allow an Android device to act as a beacon for other devices to locate. Android 5 also brings with it improvements to NFC support providing the ability to use Android Beam to share items directly off the share menu. Consider planning for ways in which to leverage this improved sharing capability between devices.
The release of Apple’s Watch in 2015 will bring heightened interest to smartwatch offerings including the Android Wear devices that were launched during the summer of 2014. Android Wear received an update in November of 2014 which further improved usability and several manufacturers now make Android Wear devices. Applications that support notifications in Android should consider adding Android Wear support for integration with these new devices. However, Android Wear applications can do a lot more than just present notifications and in 2015 we will see more applications that allow users to update data via a connected Android phone applications. Applications like the recently released Coffee-SMS app show how a user experience can be built to allow users to send messages directly from an Android wear application. In 2015 we’ll see more UX innovation in this area as we see applications purposely built to fit on a wearable device.