Google's showing no signs of slowing its pace of Android development, with Android 4.0 appearing on the Galaxy Nexus late in 2011, followed in July of 2012 by the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean release that arrived powering the super Nexus 7.
But, forward-looking, update-obsessed people that we are, we can't help but imagine how Google's going to maintain the pace of innovation in its next version of its mobile OS, Android 5.0.
All we know so far is that Google's working away on the K release of Android, which it's developing under the dessert-related codename of Key Lime Pie. Regarding the version number, it's likely that the Key Lime Pie moniker will be given to Android 5.0. We thought we might find out on 29 October 2012 but as yet there is no official word from Google.
So now as we wait on official news of the Android 5.0 release date and features, we can start to pull together the Key Lime Pie rumours from around the web, with the first sighting of Android 5.0 on a benchmarking website, apparently running on a Sony smartphone. There has previously been speculation that Sony is in line to produce the next Nexus phone, which may lend some credence to this rumour.
Android 5.0 release date
Google has announced that its next developer conference - Google IO - will take place from May 15 to May 17 2013, a month earlier than 2012's June dates. Given that Google announced Android 4.1 Jelly Bean at 2012's IO conference, it's not unreasonable to expect to see Android 5.0 at this year's event.On 31 January, a Google IO showing of Android 5.0 looked more likely when screengrabs of a Qualcomm roadmap were leaked, showing Android 5.0 as breaking cover between April and June 2013.
Android 5.0 features
For 24 hours, it seemed as though the first kinda, sorta confirmed feature for Android 5.0 was a Google Now widget, which briefly appeared in a screenshot on the company's support forum before being taken down. As it was so hurriedly pulled, many people assumed it was slated for the big five-o and accidentally revealed early.As it happened, the following day, on 13 February 2013, the Google Now widget rolled out to Jelly Bean.On 28 February 2013, we learned from Android Central that Google is working with the Linux 3.8 kernel, which gives rise to the notion that this kernel might make it into Android 5. One improvement that the 3.8 kernel brings is lowered RAM usage, which would mean a snappier phone with better multitasking.
While we wait on Key Lime Pie features to be revealed and scour the web for more Android 5.0 news, TechRadar writer Gary Cutlack has been thinking about what we want to see in Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie. Hopefully the new mobile OS will feature some of these things...
1. Performance Profiles
It's bit of a fuss managing your mobile before bed time. Switching off the sound, turning off data, activating
airplane mode and so on, so what Android 5.0 really needs is a simple way of managing performance, and therefore power use, automatically.We've been given a taste of this with Blocking Mode in Samsung's Jelly Bean update on the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the Note 2 but we'd like to see the functionality expanded.
Something like a Gaming mode for max power delivery, an Overnight low-power state for slumbering on minimal power and maybe a Reading mode for no bothersome data connections and a super-low backlight.
Some hardware makers put their own little automated tools in, such as the excellent Smart Actions found within Motorola's RAZR interface, but it'd be great to see Google give us a simple way to manage states.
Another little power strip style widget for phone performance profiles would be an easy way to do it.
2. Better multiple device support
Google already does quite a good job of supporting serious Android nerds who own several phones and tablets, but there are some holes in its coverage that are rather frustrating.
Take the Videos app which manages your film downloads through the Play Store. Start watching a film on one Android device and you're limited to resuming your film session on that same unit, making it impossible to switch from phone to tablet mid-film.You can switch between phone and web site players to resume watching, but surely Google ought to understand its fans often have a couple of phones and tabs on the go and fix this for Android Key Lime Pie?
3. Enhanced social network support
Android doesn't really do much for social network users out of the box, with most of the fancy social widgets and features coming from the hardware makers through their own custom skins.
Sony integrates Facebook brilliantly in its phones, and even LG makes a great social network aggregator widget that incorporates Facebook and Twitter - so why are there no cool aggregator apps as part of the standard Android setup?Yes, Google does a great job of pushing Google+, but, no offence, there are many other more widely used networks that ought to be a little better "baked in" to Android.
4. Line-drawing keyboard options
Another area where the manufacturers have taken a big leap ahead of Google is in integrating clever alternate text entry options in their keyboards. HTC and Sony both offer their own takes on the Swype style of line-drawing text input, which is a nice option to have for getting your words onto a telephone. Get it into Android 5.0 and give us the choice.
5. A video chat app
How odd is it that Google's put a front-facing camera on the Nexus 7 and most hardware manufacturers do the same on their phones and tablets, yet most ship without any form of common video chat app?
You have to download Skype and hope it works, or find some other downloadable app solution. Why isn't there a Google Live See My Face Chat app of some sort as part of Android? Is it because we're too ugly? Is that what you're saying, Google?
6. Multi-select in the contacts
The Android contacts section is pretty useful, but it could be managed a little better. What if you have the idea of emailing or texting a handful of your friends? The way that's currently done is by emailing one, then adding the rest individually. Some sort of checkbox system that let users scroll through names and create a mailing list on the fly through the contacts listing in Android Key Lime Pie would make this much easier.
7. Cross-device SMS sync
If you're a constant SIM swapper with more than one phone on the go, chances are you've lost track of your text messages at some point. Google stores these on the phone rather than the SIM card, so it'd be nice if our texts could be either backed up to the SIM, the SD card, or beamed up to the magical invisible cloud of data, for easy and consistent access across multiple devices.
8. A "Never Update" option
This would annoy developers so is unlikely to happen, but it'd be nice if we could refuse app updates permanently in Android 5.0, just in case we'd rather stick with a current version of a tool than be forced to upgrade.Sure, you can set apps to manual update and then just ignore the update prompt forever, but it'd be nice to know we can keep a favoured version of an app without accidentally updating it. Some of us are still using the beta Times app, for example, which has given free access for a year.
9. App preview/freebie codes
Something Apple's been doing for ages and ages is using a promo code system to distribute free or review versions of apps. It even makes doing little competitions to drum up publicity for apps much easier, so why's there no similar scheme for Android?
It might encourage developers to stop going down the ad-covered/freemium route if they could charge for an app but still give it away to friends and fans through a promo code system.
10. Final whinges and requests...
It's be nice to be able to sort the Settings screen by alphabetical order, too, or by most commonly used or
personal preference, as Android's so packed with a huge list of options these days it's a big old list to scroll
through and pick out what you need.Plus could we have a percentage count for the battery in the Notifications bar for Android 5.0? Just so we know a bit more info than the vague emptying battery icon.