Google unveiled lots of details about its newest version of Android some months back, but we didn’t get a name — it was just ”Android L.” Finally we have a name and a version number to go with it. Android 5.0 Lollipop is groundbreaking in terms of both design and features. Let’s sift through all the details of the latest, largest, and greatest Android release thus far.
Google’s previous design language was named Holo, however, that has been superseded by Material Design. This was closely previewed when the ”developer preview” was released, and Google moved on to upgrade the design guidelines for developers to start creating Material apps. Nonetheless, Google is emphasizing something new with the introduction of Lollipop — consistency across devices.
The consistency would be visible in your phone, through to your tablet, to your watch, to your car, to your TV. Well, immediately after your device maker gets around to pushing out an update. There will still be manufacturer skins, however, Google is aiming at developing a vibrant new UI that OEMs will have a tough time covering up.
A striking example of this is use of ”hero” colors in apps. The header color will move across to the bar (if there’s a developer support), and that color is then displayed in the header when you open the app switcher. OEM’s delight in skinning the app switcher, however, doing so now will imply whisking away useful new UI cues, so why bother?
The Android L preview appeared at a time when no Material apps were there to try-out, but that won’t be an issue when the roll out of Android 5.0 begins. It wasn’t comprehensible last spring just how critical (and cool) animations were going to be in Android 5.0. Developers were trying their best to devise ways to fake all the subtle button morphing and panel layering of Lollipop on KitKat devices, and these do add something, however, Android 5.0′s native support for Material Design will likely make even cookiecutter apps look breath-taking. The upgraded UI samples and upcoming SDK are looking impressive.
Battery Life Fixes
Android phones have been lingering on battery life issues brought on by the way apps and services can behave in the background. Any app can be accorded the ability to wake up a device and keep it awake (named a wakelock). This is a key feature of the platform, but occasionally apps are coded poorly or there’s a slight incompatibility that prompts a device to stay awake too long. Android 5.0 is presumed to stop that while also giving you more information about when you’ll have to charge up.
Google is also coming up with a power saving mode, which was always lacking in stock Android. It’s not as exhaustive as what Samsung or HTC are doing with their low-power modes, still it’s a start. You’ll be enabled to cut down on syncing, background data, and screen brightness when you need to stretch out a little more battery life. This mode appears to have the same staple options as it did in the preview, but it’s presumably tuned better.
The battery use menu has also been upgraded with a superior graph, holding statistics about which apps and processes are causing drain, rather than mere foreground tasks. You also get access to estimates of remaining battery life depending on current and past usage patterns, and a time until charged reading when plugged in. That’s particularly cool for devices with Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 2.0 feature, such as Nexus 6 (which calls it Turbo Charger).
One of the most attractive changes at hand in the preview of 5.0 was the upgraded Notification system. The whole look and feel of notifications on Android is altering with easy access on the lock screen, a spruced up pull-down menu, and a new heads-up style floating notification that shows up at the top of the screen.
The alterations to the layout and placement of notifications were already known from the preview, but they are no less notable now. Lock screen widgets vanish in Android 5.0, but that’s presumably a useful tradeoff. Lock screen widgets never looked to gain popularity and gaining easy access to notifications — even on secured devices — is a big deal. Single tap on a notification unlocks the phone to corresponding app.
The newest features of notifications include: ‘Notifications will be aptly ranked in accordance with the contact they are from or the app that generated them. So a text message from a best-loved contact appears at the top and the harassing alert from a social game is demoted to the bottom (you should really turn those off).
Priority Mode is the new addition, which seems terrific! The volume slider has a setting that enables restricting notifications to only priority items. So the text message from above would come through, whereas the other stuff doesn’t irritate you.
The newest feature in Andriod 5.0 is encryption by default, an attribute that has made the intelligence and law enforcement communities none too happy. You can encrypt an Android device right away, but in truth it’s quite a pain. You are required to plug the phone in and let it be for 30 minutes. If a snag develops your data gets lost forever.
On Android 5.0 this thing occurs automatically at the onset, so you don’t have to be concerned about anyone harvesting your data if the phone is lost or stolen. In case the screen is locked, you can gain access to unencrypted data with a range of workarounds, however, there’s no good way to break the kind of strong cryptography utilized by Android.
In case your phone is stolen, the new version of Android comes with factory reset protection or a ”kill switch.” This attribute is opt-in, that doesn’t happen automatically like with iOS. You’ll be enabled to set the phone or tablet to require your Google ID and password to activate a complete wipe of the system. That implies a lost Android Lollipop device is a useless brick to anyone but you.
Google is also affirming that Smart Lock is integrated to stock Android. This was deliberated about at I/O 2014, but didn’t pop up in the preview. Smart Lock is a technique to automatically deactivate your secure lock screen when a trusted Bluetooth device is paired. For instance, you’re enabled to set your Android Wear watch to automatically bypass the lock screen when it’s connected. If the connection is lost phone will urge for a password again. The same thing can be tried with a fitness tracker or even a Bluetooth headset.