After releasing the Android “L” developer preview in Google I/O few months ago, everyone has been anticipating the arrival of the full OS update. Google has made it came true yesterday. Android 5.0 was launched quietly through the Android site and this version of Android will be powering phones, tablets, watches, TV and also vehicle.
So what does this update bring to the top of the table? While the appearance of the whole OS has been updated to bring a modern look, it does bring some new features which are noteworthy.
The new version of Android got a bigger bump in version number. From the previous version number 4.4, this update will bring Android to version 5.0. As usual, every version of Android will be named after some desserts in alphabetical order. The Android 4.4 has a nickname of Kit Kat which starts with letter “K”. So this version of Android should have a name starting with “L” and Google dubbed it as “Lollipop”. I have to say Lollipop is a good name if compared to weird names like “Lemon Meringue”, “Lady Fingers”, “Lava Cake” or “Lemonade” that was spread in the wild.
The New Look
Google introduced the new design language in Android 5.0 update and the new style is called Material Design. The new design is more colourful and flatter. There are more motions and animations than before to show users how does the UI lay out in their devices. It will be easier for new users to understand the way of navigation.
In overall, I like the new design a lot. The new modern look instantly makes the previous UI looks ancient. Personally I do not like a lot of animations in the UI as the animation tends to slow things down. I understand that they are essential for people to understand how the whole user interface works but I would hope that there will be options to turn them off. I also hope that the developers can update their applications as soon as possible so that we can have a uniform visual experience inside and outside of the applications.
Other than the visual sweetness, Android 5.0 does carry some useful features under the hood. You will have more control over how and when you get the notifications. You can turn on Priority mode so that only important people and content can reach you so that you can focus on your work. You also can turn off the notifications completely. The notifications will be shown right from the middle of lock screen so that you can react to them easily. Of course, you will have the power to control what will be shown as the lock screen can be accessed by anyone without the passcode.
Multi-user on Phones
While Android tablets can support multiple users for some time, the Android phones do not share the ability. With Android 5.0, this feature is brought to the phones. I do not see this very useful for phones as typically phones are not shared, unlike a tablet where all the family members can share it at home. There will be a “guest mode” which is useful for lending out your devices without sacrificing your privacy. You will have the power to allow the guest access tocertain preselected content only so that you do not have to worry that your friend will mess with your stuff. This is much like the Kid’s Corner in Windows Phone.
The Battery Life
Battery life is one of our major concerns on modern smartphones. In Android 5.0, there is a built-in battery saver feature to extend the battery life by up to 90 mins. While charging the devices, you will be granted the ability to see how much more time is needed to fully charge your device. The system can also tell you how much longer you can use your device with the remaining charge without the need of additional software.
While most devices are quite powerful right now, Google will bring the performance to a new level by introducing a new Android runtime and 64 bit support. For your information, a runtime is a package of software to define how does the application software interact with the hardware. It will define how does the code written being executed. The new runtime, ART, can improve performance for applications up to 4 times. The apps with a lot of visual effects will be running smoother and they run more efficiently at background.
Android 5.0 also comes in 64 bit. This means that it can support 64 bit processors. The native apps such as Chrome, Gmail and other Google Play services will be running on 64 bit too. There are some devices such as HTC Desire 820, Desire 510 and ASUS Fonepad 7 FE375CG which ship with 64 bit processors. If they can receive the update, their performance will have a boost.
There are other little things added here and there too. Android 5.0 can encrypt your data automatically to protect your private contents. Android Smart Lock is a feature where the Android devices can be unlocked without inserting the passcode you set when your devices are connected to your wearables and your car. You also can say “OK Google” to the supported devices to activate Google Now even when the screen is turned off. There are a lot more that I cannot cover here. You can learn more about the new Android 5.0 here!
What is the use of the update if your devices cannot get it? It really has to depend on what devices you are using and the commitment for Android OEMs to provide the software update. For the time being, there are some devices that definitely will get it. Google has announced that the Nexus 4, Nexus 5, Nexus 7 (both 2012 and 2013 models), Nexus 10 and other Google Play edition devices will get it in weeks. The newly announced Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 will be running Android 5.0 out of the box.
Motorola has committed to provide the newest update for Moto X (2013 and 2014), Moto G (also 2013 and 2014), Moto G with LTE, Moto E, Droid Ultra, Droid Maxx and Droid Mini. There is no news from other companies yet and of course we are hoping for the best. The Android 5.0 SDK will be available starting from October 17th and the developers can update their applications accordingly.
In overall, I really like this update. Given the magnitude of changes done to the whole OS, I can understand why Google puts this update as Android 5.0 instead of Android 4.5. I am a big fan of the new Material Design and I feel that there is no way you can go back to the old design we have currently after getting used to the new look, just like what I experience in the Apple iOS 7 update last year which features a big visual overhaul.
What I appreciate even more is that the appearance is not the only thing that comes along. Most the new features are useful even though not all of them are exactly new in the market. However, it does not hinder me from liking the update. I guess you will have the same feeling and let’s hope that the Android 5.0 Lollipop update will be delivered to our devices.