Jun 27 AT 4:32 PM Nick Sarafolean 13 Comments

Android L Developer Preview first impressions

Android L Preview Nexus 7 (JPG, Resized)

Android has always been the most adventurous mobile operating system. It’s constantly evolving and Google is always changing different aspects of it. This year’s release of Android L includes one of the biggest overhauls to the OS that we’ve ever seen. Everything from the runtime to the design scheme is changing. With all of those changes, Google made the wise move of allowing nerds and developers alike to try out Android L on Nexus devices before pushing it to mass market.

I’ve had the privilege of using Android L on my Nexus 7 since last night. As such, I thought that I’d share my first impressions of it, both for those who have it and those who don’t. Let’s get right into it.

Android L Preview (5)

Material Design

Google made a big point of Material Design at Google I/O. The truth is, Android L doesn’t look as radically different as you might think. There are differences, sure, but the majority of things are the same. The homescreen has no major changes, nor does the app drawer. The settings have changed to adopt Material Design, as has the Calculator app. None of the other apps (aside from the dialer on phones) have changed their design, which makes the change seem much lot smaller. This should change over time, though, as more apps switch from Holo to Material Design.

Android L Preview Nexus 7 (2)


The notification tray is one area that received a major redesign. No longer are there two trays for alerts and quick settings. Now there’s one unified notification tray that’s home to both notifications and quick settings. This is how it works: drag down from the top of the screen to see your notifications, and then drag down on that notification tray to view your quick settings. There’s also a button to go directly into Settings.

There are couple of major flaws with this system. One: to open quick settings, you now have perform at least two swipes – sometimes more, because it’s finicky – to get to your quick settings. While you’re in those quick settings, you also can’t act on any of the notifications that are quite visible directly below the quick settings. To access the notifications, you have to manually close quick settings and then tap on the notification. It’s a bit too much of a hassle and is something that I sincerely hope Google changes before launching Android L to the public.

Lock screen

The lock screen has been due for a refresh, and with Android L it’s finally received one. Notifications are now front and center, with quick access to them straight from the lock screen. Notifications are also expandable on the lock screen, just like in the notification tray. To unlock your device, you simply swipe up. You can also swipe to the left to open the camera, and on phones, swipe to the right to open the dialer. It looks busier than the previous lock screen, but it works well.

Battery Life

Project Volta is Google’s push for better battery life in Android. As of yet, we haven’t seen this. In fact, battery life has been worse than on KitKat. Since this is a preview build, though, we’re going to let this slide because are plenty of other bugs to squash. By the final release, we expect this to be ironed out.

Performance and ART

Android L adds in lots of new animations and features. To compensate, Google has switched the default runtime to ART, promising faster performance. However, performance has been a mixed bag so far. Some things, such as scrolling and animations, are noticeably faster and smoother, but others aren’t quite as refined. The new multitasking view stutters whenever you try to use it. At times, the notification tray will also stutter or randomly flick back up even without a screen touch. All of this is normal for a preview build, but I hope that Google is working hard to fix the problems.

Android L Preview Nexus 7 (4)

App compatibility

As we’d expect from a preview build with a new runtime, app compatibility is varied. Some apps support Android L just fine, but others don’t. Some of the big name apps that don’t work include Twitter, Dropbox, Bible and Google Docs. There are others that are are having issues, and it’ll take a bit of time for developers to get their apps working with this new version of Android. In the meantime, it’s important to remember that this is still a beta OS and that these issues are to be expected.


For a beta build, the Android L Developer Preview isn’t too bad. It has some quirks and there are some things that we’d like to see changed, but for the most part, it works and is filled with potential. The best thing for Google to do is to listen to user feedback, take into account what all of us using Android L are noticing and then work on fixing those issues. If you don’t have the Android L Developer Preview, don’t stress it; you’ll get the fully working version in the fall and you won’t have to deal with all the bugs.

If you do have the Android L Developer Preview, drop a comment letting us know how you’re enjoying it!

A nerd at heart, Nick is an average person who has a passion for all things electronic. When not spending his time writing about the latest gadgets, Nick enjoys reading, dabbling in photography, and experimenting with anything and everything coffee. Should you wish to know more about him, you can follow him on Twitter @Zricon15.

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  • SGB101

    Sooooo jealous, no n7 2012 rom 😲

  • renyo

    Will the L release update periodically (with fixes) before the final release or are the bugs gonna remain till the final release?

    • http://www.androidandme.com Nick Sarafolean

      I would assume so, but I’m not entirely sure how Google is going to update. It could be done in multiple beta builds, much the same way Apple tests iOS. Or, Google could simply fix the bugs as time goes on and release the fixed version in the fall to everybody.

  • Jeff

    So did they do away with blocking access to the SD card for all but “special” apps?

  • oninross

    im enjoying everything about it. agree that some apps dont work on it afterall its a preview. the only thing im not happy about it is that some of the apps are not “unified” with the design yet. but other than that, im completely hapy with the new ui! clean and neat, just how i like it

  • Braden

    Just curious has anyone else run into the problem of their phone resetting everyone minute over and over? I have L on a nexus 5 and that keeps on happening to me randomly and then it will just stop for a while.

    • thomas emerson

      no random reboots or resets on my nexus 5. only problem in the LTE reception and it is slower.

    • http://www.androidandme.com Nick Sarafolean

      I haven’t had an issue like that on my Nexus 7. Performance is hit or miss and there are some weird graphical errors, but nothing serious like that.

  • Mac & Nexus

    L isn’t lookingtthat impressive.. The larger iPhone 6 and the changes to ios8 are going to get alot of Android users… I may too from the looks of it

  • dag

    Why is ‘bible’ a big name app?
    Please tell me the use of this application.

    • Joytofender

      Bible has over 50 million downloads and over 1 million people rate it. Also it’s the most sold /read book in the history of humanity. Irrespectively of any agreement on the teachings from it, you cannot say it’s not a big app. Read it and make your own conclusions about it.

      • ap

        While the book itself is much read, the app “Bible” is not something you usually see in a list of “big name apps” along Twitter, Dropbox, and Google Docs, so I can understand dag getting confused.

  • Sniffles

    I wish Google would give you the option to turn off the notification items on your lock screen. I don’t really like the camera option and now with this new version you have the ability to do more on the lock screen.