I’m sure that nobody expected me to wait around until fall for the release of Android L. And since I’m a bit impulsive, I went ahead and followed these directions to get Android L up and running on my Nexus 5 — Android L is only available for Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 (2013) devices.
Josh doesn’t explain that you’ll need to unlock your bootloader (that should be obvious to experienced users), but I suggest you follow these instructions to unlock your bootloader.
The entire install process took me about 5 minutes, though the device seems to “hang” on startup. I just powered down the phone and restarted the boot. That seemed to kill whatever hold up was being done and didn’t affect my phone.
Cool new design
One of the first things I noticed was the fashionable new navigation buttons.
Status bar and notifications
The next thing I noticed is the overlay design on the status bar notifications.
Google emphasized these new full-fledged notifications at I/O.
Unfortunately, if you have a pattern or pin set on your device, then you’ll need to enter the password or pin to read the message. This kind of makes me want to remove my pin.
The recent apps display is totally revamped. This is another area that Google talked about and really looks good.
One of my favorite features is that Android L puts often-used settings features directly on the notifications bar.
Now you can easily access those functions without fumbling through to a second screen.
Android L has a totally redesigned dialer and popup screen that’s simply beautiful. As the phone’s dialing, your contact’s information displays prominently on the screen.
What’s displayed correlates directly with the pictures in your account or attached to the contact’s Google account.
You’ll notice that there’s no longer a battery indicator, which isn’t good because I usually rely on that to know when I’m at 4%. However, Android L includes a new “battery saver” function (Settings > Battery > Menu > Battery saver).
Home versus work
Android L also allows you to separate your home and work accounts.
Honestly, I’m not sure why you’d separate the two, and it’s probably not necessary if you’re the only one in the business. But there’s a new process in Google Device Policy that’ll set up your phone for the separate environments.
Here’s what you need to know:
Don’t add your Google Apps account using Settings > Accounts > Google.
Do open Google Device Policy app and select Create work profile.
This will separate your device’s storage and encrypt your device.
The process takes about 3-5 minutes — I looked away and the phone was restarting.
Wait for the phone to reboot, and unlock your tablet or phone.
You should see a new set of application icons at the end of your app drawer.
These are apparently the “work” apps. I’ll tell you now that People is missing and that will become a problem later.
At this point, Do go back and click the new Device Policy app.
Now select Add account.
If everything is correct, you should have to click on the work Gmail app to load your Google Apps email (or any other Google App). You’ll also notice that you only have your non-Google Apps accounts listed under Accounts > Google.
However, this is where you run in to problems.
The first issue I noticed is that none of my Google Apps contacts synced with my device. Thus, it’s impossible to call or text any friends whose information resides in Google Apps. Bummer.
But that’s not the worst aspect. The next thing I discovered was that Google Now, because it’s linked to my personal account, doesn’t recognize any events from the work calendar. Thus, I didn’t get notification that it was time to leave for an appointment.
I’m sure Google will fix these issues before final release, but for now I’d recommend not creating the dual setup. I won’t even talk about the issues I had trying to unregister the account and remove it from my phone — let’s just say this: I couldn’t; I ended up factory resetting my Nexus 5.
We’re definitely Beta
I’m not going to criticize Android L too much. Afterall, this isn’t the final release and the second screen after installing gives you a big, “this isn’t final” warning.
But . . . aside from the two issue above, I hope Google goes on to make a couple more changes.
First, having to swipe away a dozen notifications gets annoying. Fast. I miss the “old days” — as in 6 hours ago — when I could push one small button to clear all notifications. Google certainly needs to bring that “clear all” function back.
Second, to access the quick settings panel you need to double swipe. I’m not exactly sure what the perfect combo is — two swipes on the notification bar works best — but Google needs to improve this usability. Sometimes, and frustratingly, I can’t open the drop down menu after four pulls.
Overall, Android L is a great looking operating system that will make a lot of non-Nexus owners jealous.
I’m sure I missed enough items. If you know of something, let Google know.
Update (June 29, 2014)
I’ve played with the developer preview for several days now. There are still a number of bugs, and if you need a stable release of Android, do not install Android L.
Here are the major bugs I’ve discovered that could prevent you from using your device:
Google Docs and Sheets don’t work.
Unfortunately, if you absolutely need Google Docs or Sheets, you’d better look elsewhere. The errors are known, but when they’re fixed is anyone’s guess.
Update: Google fixed this issue. Sheets, Docs, and Slides are now compatible.
If you like to binge watch, and you’re only connected to Netflix via your Nexus 5 or Nexus 7, watch out. Netflix crashes. This is, of course, because the developer hasn’t enabled Android L compatibility, but until it’s fixed, you’re out of luck.
Where’s my text?
Here’s a new issue I discovered while trying to test out speech to text for another problem. If you try to use speech to text in Quickoffice (because that’s your only solution for document drafting), good luck. For some reason, all of your text gets deleted immediately after it’s entered. You’re left with a blank page. Frustrating to say the least.
This is fixed with the update to Docs, Sheets, and Slides.
I’ll sometimes — because T-Mobile’s data service outside (and inside) of the city is atrocious — tether my phone with my computer or tablet. Unfortunately, if you try to modify the tethering settings in portrait mode, your phone crashes. Flip the phone to landscape and you’ll be just fine. This isn’t a huge issue, but is frustrating.