Google announced Android L earlier this week, and it's due for release in late 2014. There are plenty of cool new features, but after playing with the developer preview, we discovered a bunch of sweet things Google didn't mention. Here are the coolest features Google didn't highlight in its announcement.
Disclaimer: This is a developer preview of Android L, so anything could change by the time it's released. There may be even more features that we haven't found, and some things we have seen might end up removed, disabled or changed by the time it hits consumers.
Do Not Disturb Mode Silences Incoming Notifications
Up until recently, Android hasn't had the ability to block all notifications if you need some peace and quiet for a little bit. This changes with Android L. Open up the Quick Settings panel in the notification shade and you'll see a Notifications toggle. Here, you can enable a Do Not Disturb mode. Set the silent period for a set time, or turn off all notifications until you re-enable them later.
Search within the Settings App To Find That Obscure Setting
The Settings app has a lot of useful functionality, but if you don't know what you're looking for, it can be a mess to find it. Now the app comes equipped with a search box. For common things such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, you probably won't need it, but if you're looking for the setting to enable colour correction for red-green colour deficiencies, the search box can be a huge help.
Estimate Time Until Battery is Charged or Depleted
Google promised a slew of new battery saving features in Android L. One of the things it neglected to mention was that Android will now estimate how long it takes to fully charge the battery. When your device is plugged in, the lock screen will display how long it will take until your battery reaches 100 per cent. Additionally, while unplugged, the battery section of the Settings app will estimate how long your battery will last and when your phone will die. How accurate these estimates are will probably depend on your usage and Battery Saver settings, but it's nice info to have.
Customise Your Display with Adaptive Brightness
Auto-brightness is a feature that works for some, and it's horribly broken for others. In the old version, you can either set your phone's brightness level manually, or set it to auto and give your phone complete control. Obviously, this is less than ideal.
In Android L, Google's introduced a new feature called Adaptive Brightness that combines manual and auto brightness. You can manually adjust the brightness level to a state you like. Once it's set, your screen will adjust based on ambient light so it stays at the same brightness relative to the light around you. This way you can set the screen to your preferences without sticking to an absolute level.
Android Beam is (Somewhat) Easier to Use
Android Beam was always one of those features that sounded a lot better on paper than it worked in practice. You had to open up the photo, contact, or file you wanted to share, press two devices together, and tap and hold the screen until a connection is established.
In Android L, you can initiate an Android Beam transfer via the Share menu. This prepares to share a file from your device. Then, you just tap the two devices together to complete the connection. The amount of time you have to keep your two phones pressed against each other awkwardly is drastically reduced. It's not perfect, but it may actually be a feature you use now
Swipe to Access the Dialler from the Lock Screen
In previous versions of Android, you could swipe to the right on the lock screen to quickly open up the camera app. Now, Google has added the ability to swipe to the left to jump directly to the dialler app. This seems to take the place of lock screen widgets. This build of Android isn't final, so they may return, but for the moment at least, it seems like swiping to the dialer is your only first-party option.
Display PDFs Without a Separate App
How often do you really need to read a PDF on your phone? Almost never, but just often enough that it's obnoxious when you can't do it natively. If you have one of the commonly pre-installed apps like Quickoffice, you might not have noticed, but if you don't have an app with a PDF renderer included, it's a pain to track one down. Android L now includes a built-in reader. Android Police notes that it's not currently activated, but this is a preview build, so it's reasonable to assume it will be available once it's time for release.
Turn Off Notifications on a Per-App Basis All From One Place
You can already disable an app's notifications entirely by going to that app's system settings and unchecking the "Show notifications" button. Now, Google's made it a little easier to turn off notifications from several apps at once. In the Settings app, tap Sound & Notifications > Showing notifications > App notifications. You'll be presented with a list of all the apps on your device. Tap a given app and you'll see the "Show notifications" check box. It's not much different than digging through the app list, but it's simplified so you don't have to dig through the Downloaded/All sections, or get cluttered up with other settings.