Google today dropped a load of goodies, from the expected Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 devices, to the surprise Nexus Player Android TV contraption. Tying all of these together, however, is one that has been, sometimes rather comically, speculated on since June. Android 5.0 is in town, and its name is Lollipop. But before you go making fun of this seemingly unassuming name, first try to hear out the sweet things that the latest Android version will bring. At least for those devices that are fated to receive it.
The most noticeably new feature upfront is, of course, Google’s new visual language, Material Design. We covered that here in depth, but suffice it to say that Material Design focuses on paper metaphors, blocks of color, and bold graphics. But more than just a singular design, Material Design also espouses flexibility and responsiveness which ensure that you will get at least the same visual experience on any Android 5.0 device moving forward, be it a smartphone, a tablet, a smartwatch, or a TV.
Next to the theme, users will immediately grasp the changes in notifications and, finally, quick settings. Now popularly known and imitated as the “heads up notifications”, Android Lollipop does more than just give a new way to display notifications, the changes extend even to lockscreen. Plus, the new Priority settings, accessible from the Volume buttons, lets you temporarily block out certain notifications from certain people during certain times. In short, Android finally gets its own built-in Do Not Disturb/Blocking mode feature. While Google still won’t allow users to customize their Quick Settings options, they have added a few new ones like Flashlight and hotspot and improved on the ones already there. Oh, and of course, they now look even prettier than before.
There is more to Android Lollipop than a change of costume, of course. Under the hood, one can also find loads of new features and improvements. Well known already is the switch to having ART, the new Android Runtime, as the only option available, which might cause some growing pains. Revealed a few days ago, Android 5.0 is also the first version that takes advantage of 64-bit CPUs, which will be exemplified by the Nexus 6 and its 64-bit Tegra K1 Denver. Android TV support has also been added, which ties in with the launch of the Nexus Player later this week. And the much touted improved battery efficiency will finally be something that many will be able to experience themselves.
A lot of attention has been given to security lately, both on devices and on the cloud, so it isn’t surprising that Google has also focused on it for Lollipop. It started with SELinux, which is now enforced for all apps. Whether that will trip rooting and custom ROMs is something we’ll have to wait and see. Device encryption will now be enabled by default for new devices shipping with Android 5.0, another great security feature that might prove to be a burden to power users. There is also a new kind of unlocking mechanism which ties in to Android Wear. Smart Lock will let you use other devices, such as a smartwatch, or facial recognition to unlock smartphones.
There are many more new features which may interest different kinds of users. Here’s a mixed bag of a few more:
• Tap & Go lets you setup a new phone simply by tapping on an old phone. Both of course need to have NFC
• Device sharing, which includes multi-user accounts, guest modes, and screen pinning, the latter of which confines a user to just a single screen, makes it easier to pass phones and tablets around family and friends without privacy worries
• “OK Google’ hotword now works even when the screen is off, but unfortunately only for devices with dedicated hardware, such as the Nexus 6 and the Nexus 9
• Power-efficient scanning of Bluetooth LE devices such as smartwatches and beacons
Android 5.0 Lollipop will ship together with the Nexus 6 and the Nexus 9. It will also be available later on for some Nexus and Google Play Edition devices and OEM models as well, the latter at the discretion of the manufacturer.