Comparing the Android L settings to KitKat

The settings menus in Android L get a fresh look and a few tweaks, but aren't as different as you would expect.

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A fresh coat of paint for Android's settings

Android L is a big release. Google promised thousands of new features and APIs, as well as a visual overhaul with a new design language called Material Design. It took us no time at all to find a bunch of neat new changes in Google's upcoming OS.

With such a dramatically changed Android, surely the Settings menu drastically different, right? Wrong! Surprisingly, the Android L settings menus are very much like those in KitKat. 

Android L is sitll in a "developer preview" state, and we likely haven't seen all the changes in store for us this fall when the next version of Android is released. Here are some side-by-side comparisons so you can easily see what's changed, and what hasn't.

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Main settings menu

The settings menu in Android L has received a facelift, including a lighter theme with more space, matching the design standards for the new OS and giving each option some breathing room. Gone are the dedicated toggle options next to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, requiring the user to dive into the menu itself or use the Quick settings option (accessed by dragging down the notification panel).

Although a few things have changed, Android L's settings aren't going to alarm anyone. Remaining largely intact when compared to KitKat, L primarily just gives it a nice spit-shine .

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New landscape layout

Android L now has a landscape view with two settings next to each other, reducing the amount of scrolling you need to do. This new landscape layout is also reflected on the Nexus 7 with the Android L developer preview.

With only two devices officially supporting the developer build, only time will tell if larger tablets will also adopt the layout, or if bigger tablets will get a three-column view. Given that larger tablets usually take advantage of Fragments to put the menu on the side of the screen, it wouldn't be completely surprising if the current layout remains the same.

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Display

Gone are the options for Auto-rotate screen and Pulse notification light in Android L's Display settings, as both have been moved and tucked away into other menus. The new OS introduces a check box for Adaptive brightness, which is just another way of saying auto-brightness, a feature Android has had for ages. 

The Pulse notification light option is now buried in a sub-menu of the Sound and Notifcations settings (where it makes a little more sense, as the light would only pulse when you got a new notification). 

While some options that have moved into different menus make sense, moving them to a deeper sub-menu is not necessarily an upgrade.

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Sound & Notifications

Sound settings have now been merged with notifications in Android L, so it’s not surprising to see things changed up quite a bit. The developer preview now includes sliders for media, alarm, and ring volume right in the main Sound & Notifications menu. In KitKat, these sliders were tucked away in the Volumes option. 

Android L includes the new Do not disturb mode, and more control over when your phone rings or vibrates when receiving a call or notification. The latest version of Android also includes new options for showing notifications and other sounds.

Note: The phone with KitKat we used for screenshots was the HTC One M8 Google Play Edition. Stock Android does not typically include a BoomSound option. 

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Battery

Battery settings have received a nice overhaul in Android L, as the menu will now predict when your phone will be finished charging when plugged in and how long your charge will last. 

The action overflow settings (three stacked dots in the upper right) is where the new Battery saver option is found, a feature many manufactuers add to Android, and we're excited to in stock Android. 

Aside from the two aforementioned features, and the obvious visual changes, the battery settings in Android L are very much the same as KitKat.

Now that there is no quick setting for the battery settings, the menu take a bit more work to get to this menu.

And there's still no option to display battery percentage on the menu bar, which is just remarkably dumb.

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Accessibility

Accessibility options in Android L now include two new features for the color blind: color inversion and color space correction. 

This is also the only place in the settings menu where you can choose the screen to Auto-rotate. The option is now officially baked into the Quick settings options, though it was previously found both in the Display and Accessibility settings menus.

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Developer options

Developer options in Android L haven't changed a lot, but they're not totally untouched. A new option to Enable WiFi Verbose Logging is included, as well as the optional (and experimental) NuPlayer option. 

The option to choose your own runtime is now missing in the Developer options, and this is because Android L uses the ART runtime as the new default, signaling the end of the Dalvik runtime that the operating system has used since it debuted. (Note that the ART runtime in Android L is far more advanced than the experimental version in KitKat, so you can't directly compare performance and compatibility between them.)

By the time Android L officially rolls out, there could be even more goodies in the developer options, but for now, nothing is all that different.