Hot on the heels of Apple’s iOS 8, Lollipop is Google’s latest upgrade to their Android mobile operating system which released this November, featuring a visual overhaul and a whole host of speed and performance improvements. Below is Dave Hardy with his verdict and a look ahead to future Google software.
November was a big month for Google, as it released its long awaited next iteration of the Android mobile operating system, Android 5.0, or “Lollipop”. Lollipop is the biggest update there has been to Android in years, featuring an entirely new design language, new features, and many changes under the hood to improve overall performance.
The most obvious change is the introduction of Material Design, Google’s new design language. The digital neon blues and black shades of Google’s previous “holo” design are now a thing of the past. Material boasts bright whites and splashes of colour, previously unseen on Android.
There is a consistent feel to all parts of the operating system, from the app drawer and notification shade, to the menus, hardware keys and animations. Everything has a flat card-like feel; notifications, texts, menus and the multitasker are displayed on flat rectangular planes set upon a background. These cards can be swiped around the screen, or shuffled through; producing an interaction that feels natural.
An illusion of depth is produced by the use of subtle shadows and animations, as cards and buttons appear raised over other parts of the user interface. The use of animation is in another league to Google’s previous attempts; subtle shades expand from touches, and screen transitions appear to flow as cards expand, collapse and slide away, either automatically, or in response to the user.
The lock screen has once again been redesigned. Texts, emails and other alerts are displayed here in individual cards: these cards can be expanded for more information, dismissed by a swipe or opened by a double tap. This allows for the information on the screen to be conveyed to the user faster than ever before. To unlock the device, simply swipe up, as if closing the notification.
To the dismay of some, lock screen widgets from previous versions of Android are gone, swiping to the right will now open the phone dialler to enable speedy access to phone calls. Meanwhile, swiping left will open the camera, making sure you don’t miss that ever important photo.
Security settings are still here; allowing for a password, pattern or face unlock. Trusted locations can now be added, to deactivate any security measure in place when at home, work or in proximity to an Android Wear device, such as a smartwatch.
There is added support for multiple users, allowing for families to use one tablet, each with their own customisations in place. Or children can use the device with limited access to other areas, such as services that cost money.
There are multiple changes behind the scenes also, the most noticeable of which is battery life. This has been greatly improved, allowing up to 1 hour extra screen-on time. Much more information is now displayed on battery status, such as how much longer your phone will last, how long it will take to fully charge, and what apps have been consuming the most power.
A battery saving mode has also been introduced, once the phone falls below 15%, the notification bar and software keys will turn orange, background data will be disabled, screen brightness reduced, and haptic feedback disabled. During tests, this battery saving mode provided an extra 8 hours to phone use!
Google’s previous version of Android, 4.4 KitKat, allowed power users to enable an experimental version of its future runtime “ART”, as opposed to its traditional “Dalvik” runtime. With Android 5.0, ART is no longer experimental, and is a core part of how the phone works.
All apps are fully compiled when the phone first starts up, as opposed to the previous method of compiling individual applications when the user chooses to open them. This translates to slightly longer powering on times, but an overall boost in phone speed and reliability, with every app ready to go from start up.
However nothing is perfect and Android 5.0 is no exception; curious ringtone volume settings have been divided up into 3 modes. “All” which behaves in the classic way, allowing for ringer volume to be adjusted, and the phone placed on vibrate. “Priority” mode allows the user to filter out certain notifications, whereas “None” blocks all alerts, including alarms.
Material Design provides an entirely new look and feel, ART increases the stability and speed of the entire operating system, and new battery features ensure your device lasts longer than ever! With Google recently shifting its focus to the wearable market, it will be interesting to see what new features will be introduced in 2015 with the release of “Android M”.
Do you think Lollipop is the best version of Android yet? Or are you an iOS user? Let us know in the comments below, or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on everything else games and tech, check us out on Facebook and Twitter.