With Android Lollipop’s upcoming final release, we will see many changes that will make this OS even more complete than it is today. Google made efforts to reduce the fragmentation and implement some exciting features.
Android 5.0 Lollipop features: notifications, multi-tasking and access
Android 5.0 Lollipop features include a revamped notifications system, which puts notifications on the lock screen, prioritizes them according to how often you interact with them and also enables you to take action without leaving the app you’re using, so for example you can swipe notifications away if you’re in the middle of something else or respond from where you are and continue what you were doing.
Android Lollipop features some nifty access features too. If you’re using an (Android!) smartwatch you can use it to keep your phone unlocked, and if you aren’t you can set your phone to automatically unlock when it knows you’re at home or when it hears your voice.
Android 5.0 Lollipop design and interface:
The most dramatic and obvious change in Android Lollipop is the new Android Lollipop user interface, which is based around what Google calls “Material Design”. It’s a flatter design than we’re used to, but it makes extensive use of shadows and 3D views to make on-screen elements distinct from one another. The Roboto system font has been tweaked too, and all new animations including touch feedback and transition animations between apps.
In addition to appearing in Android 5.0 Lollipop, the new Material Design language will make its way to Google’s various apps on the web too. There are already a number of apps using Material Design. Google has also updated the Play Store to incorporate Material Design, giving the app a much flatter look.
Since its commercial debut six years ago, Android has undergone a number of major visual overhauls. None of them, however, has had an effect as pronounced as the move to Material Design in Android 5.0 Lollipop. This is what Google calls its current UI philosophy, which is governed by the principles of flatness and minimalism. But unlike other UIs based on the same ideas, Google’s solution is also sprinkled with a hint of depth that can be felt throughout the user interface – while switching between apps, while interacting with notifications, while scrolling through the contacts list, for example. This effect has been achieved through clever uses of shadows under objects and by layering elements as if they’re stacked on top of each other. All of this graphical goodness is accompanied by smooth animations and elegant transition effects. Seriously, even the error messages are pretty.
So by now you’ve probably figured out that we’re happy with Android’s new look. Material Design adds personality to Android – personality that was mostly lacking in previous releases. The platform feels familiar, yet fresh. It is engaging, but does not distract you from whatever it is that you’re doing. And no less importantly, it is consistent in its visual presentation. You won’t really find a menu or screen that feels out of place (save for the apps that have not had their UIs updated yet).
But of course, the changes brought by Android 5.0 Lollipop aren’t merely superficial. New features have been added, while ones we knew from 4.4 KitKat have been improved. The lock screen, for example, now holds a shortcut to the dialer in addition to the one for the camera application. Lock screen notifications are displayed at a glance, in their own space in the middle of the screen, so you don’t have to swipe down to see what you’ve missed anymore. Tapping on a notification launches the respective app, and a swipe to the side dismisses it. On the downside, lock screen widgets have been scrapped, but these were kind of confusing anyway, so their loss isn’t that big of a deal.
As for the Android 5.0 home screens, nothing much has been altered. As before, you’re free to personalize your space with app shortcuts, folders, and widgets, backed by a static or a live wallpaper. What’s changed, however, is the multitasking screen. It is one of the things that you’ll either like or hate – recent apps are listed as cards stacked on top of each other, and you scroll through with a swipe up or down. On one hand, the design looks great with its large app snapshots, but on the other, the old solution could fit more app snapshots on the screen. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t take long for your brain to re-wire itself and adjust to the redesigned recent apps list.
In a typical Android fashion, swiping down from the top of the screen displays a list of notifications. These are now listed by priority, not in a chronological order, with the most important notifications at the top of the list and the least important ones pushed to the bottom. For example, email notifications have a higher priority than those letting you know that a new app has been installed. The button for dismissing all notifications is still present.
Swipe again (or use the two-finger swipe-down gesture from any screen) and you’ll be taken to the redesigned quick settings menu. We’re glad to see that the toggle buttons for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth make more sense now – tapping one of the icons toggles the feature on or off and tapping on its label shows the list of available networks or devices. We’re also happy to welcome dedicated buttons for locking the screen orientation and a flashlight shortcut.
Now, you might notice that your personal profile picture is displayed in the UI’s upper right-hand corner. That’s neat, but it gets even neater when you tap on the icon itself. You’re taken to a screen letting you switch between users. Yes – with Android 5.0, multi-user support is enabled on phones as well! Each user has their own personal space and home screens customized to their preferences. What’s more, you can easily switch to a guest account at the tap of a few buttons. This should come in handy in case somebody wants to borrow your phone, and you don’t want them messing with your personal stuff.
Another feature we find highly useful is the built-in interruptions filter. It works like a Do Not Disturb mode, muting beeps and boops that shouldn’t go off at the inappropriate time – during sleepytime hours, or during meetings. Activating the mode couldn’t be any easier. Pressing the volume down button gives you the option to filter out non-priority notifications or to mute all interruptions, either indefinitely or for a given period of time. What makes the feature even better is that you can set your own schedule and have the filter activate itself automatically at a specified time.
Multi-User Support for Phones:
Multi-user support has been available in Android ever since Android 4.2. Unfortunately, it was historically available only for tablet users. Bringing this feature to phones has been highly demanded by the community, and Google finally decided to give the users what we want. The core functionality is pretty much the same. The first user is considered the owner of the device and controls who else can use the device. Every profile has its own welcome screen, application settings, wallpapers, and such. Profiles can be switched by pressing the head button into top right corner of the screen. Now, you can stop worrying about your kids and friends seeing private content on your phone.
Speaking of children and friends… Starting with Android 5.0 Lollipop, users can now pin to lock the currently running application. If your device has some kind of protection (PIN, pattern, etc), any other potential user will have to breach its security in order to access other applications once pinning has been enabled. This is a very convenient way of protecting your data. Now, not everybody has to check your browser history or gallery before handing off the phone.
Google Search in Recent Apps:
Google also added its Search prowess to the Recent Apps screen. Android developers are really trying to make Google Search accessible from every screen. As such, you are now just one tap of your Recent Apps menu away from search at any time. Furthermore, even the “OK Google” function can be used from that screen (if you haven’t already enabled it from all other screens). The motivation behind this feature addition is clears, as the Search engine was Google’s original claim to fame and still one of its major revenue sources.
Under the hood:
So far we’ve been commenting solely on Android 5.0 Lollipop features that we can see and experience. But the fact of the matter is that the OS’ new version has also undergone some serious changes under the hood. We won’t be going over each and every tweak as the list is a lengthy one. We will, however, highlight the most notable ones among them.
Project Volta is what Google calls its new set of tools and APIs made to enable apps to run efficiently, thus using less battery power. Among these APIs is the Job Scheduler which allows a developer to optimize the power use of their apps while running in the background. And with Battery Historian, devs can get a visual representation of when and how their software is using energy.
Android 5.0 is the release that makes ART (Android RunTime) the system’s default, thus replacing Dalvik. ART takes advantage of ahead-of-time (AOT) compilation, effective garbage collection, and improved development and debugging features. Switching to ART should result in improved device performance without that requiring any app modifications.
Another improvement in Lollipop that is projected to boost performance is the added 64-bit support. Java apps will run immediately on 64-bit architectures with no need for developers to modify them. In addition, the extra address space will allow RAM capacity in Android to reach the 4GB milestone.
And game developers can benefit from the added support for OpenGL ES 3.1. This would give them the option to use new shader and texture tools while making their games’ visuals. Plus, there’s the new Android Extension Pack (AEP), which is a new set of extensions to OpenGL ES that promise to bring desktop-class graphics to Android. Games will be able to take advantage of tessellation and geometry shaders, and use ASTC texture compression across multiple GPU technologies.
Android 5.0 Lollipop: system performance and battery life
There are really big changes under the hood of Android Lollipop. The trusty Dalvik runtime, Android’s app engine, has been replaced by the ART runtime. That doesn’t sound like a big deal but it makes a big difference: ART supports the latest 64-bit processors, pre-compiles apps when you first install them for faster app launching, and according to Google it runs at twice the speed of Dalvik.
Backed Up Preferences, Applications, and More:
If you are purchasing a new Android device, you likely already have your own favorite set of apps and more. Google has for a long time backed up your list of applications and WiFi networks, but importing this has never quite worked as it should. For example, some applications are automatically downloaded even when you haven’t used them for ages. With Lollipop, Google refined the system considerably. You can now transfer all relevant settings and applications (even Google Now Launcher settings) through NFC at the time of initial login or selectively through the Internet connection. While unavailable, applications that are to be downloaded will be shown as gray icons that launch their Play Store listing when clicked. After they are restored, they will look and behave like they did before. Furthermore, since Android has offered cloud backup of app data for some time, applications that are coded to use this feature will behave just like they did on the previous device or installation, without the need for third party app data backup and restore apps!
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