Android L's flashy new "Material Design" stole the spotlight at Google I/O last week, but the company's new Project Volta may make an even bigger difference when it comes to improving your Android experience. The battery-saving update includes a handful of new features and tweaks designed to keep your phone running longer than ever on a single charge, and according to a new report from Ars Technica it really works.
In a simple experiment the tech blog compared two Android handsets, one running Android 4.4.4 and one running the L preview. Both devices were left to refresh the same webpages over Wi-Fi every 15 seconds to see which battery would give out first. In the end Android L was the clear winner, lasting almost 8 hours (471 minutes) compared to under 6 hours (345 minutes) for Android 4.4.4. That's a 36-percent difference, and Ars Technica even disabled Google's new "battery saver" feature, which automatically kicks in on L once you hit 15 percent battery life.
So how does Project Volta work? Like Project Butter, which kept animations running smoothly on Android Jelly Bean, and Project Svelte, which got KitKat running on mid-range smartphones, Volta is made up of a handful of improvements across the operating system. The biggest may be a new "JobScheduler" API, which lets Android batch together smaller app requests instead of hitting each one separately.
Moving along, there's that new Battery Saver feature, which cuts down on background activity and lowers the screen brightness when your battery life starts running out. Google's also introducing an improved battery-tracking tool called "Battery Historian," which lays out all that data in an easy-to-read chart. Finally, Android L switches from Dalvik to ART for its virtual machine, meaning it can run faster, more efficiently, and compile apps less frequently.
The average Android fan won't notice most of these changes, but behind the scenes Project Volta will be buzzing along saving them battery life. Two hours of extra juice may not be enough to get you through an entire day depending on how much time you spend glued to your phone, but for most people it should make a huge difference. We also can't wait to see how Android L and its new battery saving techniques work on the next generation of smartphones, particularly the still-rumored Nexus 6.