Lollipop is the name given to Google’s latest Android operating system update. Also known as Android 5.0, it will become the sequel to Android KitKat, which ran from versions 4.4 to 4.4.4. The OS was announced along with three new Nexus devices via the company’s official blog on October 15th and will start to become available to compatible devices via an over-the-air update in the coming weeks.
Google’s Android updates tend to be impressive, feature-rich affairs. Given that Lollipop will also mark a complete break from Android 4.x JellyBean/KitKat, it is certain to be even more impressive than normal. So, what features does the new release have in store for its lucky users?
Battery Saving Mode
A smartphone with a battery saving mode is hardly revolutionary — Samsung and HTC have been offering such a feature on their devices for several years. Oddly, stock Android on Google’s Nexus range never had such a feature integrated. Instead, you had to use other tips and tricks to improve battery life.
Not only will the device switch to a power-saving mode when the available battery level drops below 15 percent (thus giving you an extra ninety minutes of usage), but developers can take advantage of Android Runtime (ART), which is what Google uses to convert developer code into a functioning app.
The benefits of ART over the old Dalvik Runtime are two fold; firstly, it allows devices to more effectively distinguish between important activity and everyday activity, telling the device not to wake for the latter (initial testing suggests that the Nexus 5 will last 36 percent longer with Lollipop installed). Secondly, developers will be able to better understand what is draining the battery in their apps and tweak it accordingly. It means we should see more power-efficient apps becoming available in 2015.
One of the biggest etiquette faux pas of mobile phone usage is browsing through other people’s photos, messages and apps without the owner’s permission. Everyone knows it shouldn’t be done, but sometimes the urge to start swiping after borrowing a friend’s phone to make a call is just too great.
Screen pinning finally puts an end to the problem. It enables you to pin a single app into the foreground of the phone’s screen, meaning whoever is borrowing your phone cannot get overly curious and start looking at your holiday snaps after using it to order a takeaway.
It works by removing the functionality of the home and recent apps buttons so the user can only interact with the app on the screen. To exit a pinned screen, you’ll need to press recent and back at the same time, then enter the PIN code.
This feature also has parental control benefits — for example, parents can give the phone to their kids to play a game without the worry that the child will call someone or delete something accidentally.
There are numerous reasons why someone might want to use multiple accounts on a device. Perhaps the device is a shared family tablet, perhaps your kids keep stealing your phone, or maybe your employer uses Google Apps but you want to keep work and play entirely separate on your gadget.
Whatever the reason, it’s not been possible on phones until Lollipop. With the release of Android 5.0, however, you’ll not only be able to add multiple user accounts, but also guest and temporary accounts. Aside from practical benefits such as those listed above, it also has security benefits — no more worrying about configurations being changed, data being deleted, or personal emails being viewed.
There are three types of accounts that you’ll be able to set up on Lollipop. Firstly there is the standard user account, which has full access to settings and apps and is identical to how you use your Android 4.x device. Secondly, there is the guest account. A guest/temporary account uses sessions, and when the session ends no data is recorded or saved. Thirdly, there is the profile account. This account lets the main user determine how the device is used — for example, disabling certain apps or restricting phone calls.
We’ve all done it and been frustrated by it — you’re in the middle of using your phone to write a text or surf the Internet when you get briefly distracted by something else. By the time your attention returns to your phone it has locked itself, meaning you need to re-enter your pin code to get back to what you were doing. When done once it’s okay, when done several times per day it gets annoying.
Lollipop addresses these annoyances with Smart Lock. Smart Lock will allow Bluetooth enabled devices to unlock your device when they are within signal. In practice, this means if you’re at home and your partner’s phone is nearby, your Android 5.0 device will not lock itself, saving your time and frustration. The feature will also work with Chromebooks or desktops that are running Chrome OS.
The notification system is due to get a major overhaul in Lollipop, removing the need for third party notification managers like Floatify. The idea behind their redesign is to bring a user’s attention to a notification without interrupting their workflow or current project.
In practice, this means that instead of seeing an incoming call or text message take over your entire screen, you will instead see a small bar pop up at the top of the screen that gives you the choice of either ignoring or responding to the event.
Lock screen notifications have also been revamped. It is now possible to view, manage, and respond to individual notifications without fully waking the phone or actually opening the specific app. Of course, this can be disabled if you have privacy concerns. Say goodbye to all those lockscreen replacement apps.
Finally, there is a new “Interruptions” feature. It allows you to decide which apps you want to let interrupt you, and which you don’t care about. It means there will be no more games that continually pester you with spam notifications and thus helps ensure the important stuff doesn’t slip through unnoticed.
Multitasking has become more streamlined with the Chrome experience. It is now more akin to looking at all the open tabs when using Chrome on a mobile device rather than the traditional scrollable list of recent apps.
Not only does this mean you can switch apps faster, it also means you can see multiple tasks within individual apps. For instance, in Gmail, if you’re drafting a new email as well as checking your inbox, you will see two separate Gmail tabs displayed — one for each separate task.
Moto G LTE edition — confirmed, expected by end of 2014
Moto X — confirmed, expected by end of 2014
HTC One — confirmed, within 90 days of receiving the Android Lollipop source code
HTC One M7 — confirmed, within 90 days of receiving the Android Lollipop source code
HTC One M8 — confirmed, within 90 days of receiving the Android Lollipop source code
Samsung has not yet formally announced its release schedule, but leaks suggest the Galaxy S5 is expected to get Android 5.0 Lollipop in December and the Galaxy S4 will reportedly receive the update in early 2015. They also recently hinted in a tweet that Lollipop would be available on its new flagship Galaxy Note 4 phablet.
Sony has committed to offering Lollipop on its Xperia Z range and has already shown off an early development version of the new OS running on the Z1, Z2 and Z3. There are no official release dates in place.
LG G3 — confirmed, late November or early December
What Is Your Favorite New Feature?
Android 5.0 Lollipop packs a lot of goodies, but which is your favorite? Will you be picking up a new device or waiting for the update to hit yours? Let us know in the comments!