October 2014 has been a tech-geek’s dreamland with back to back surprises from the Silicon Valley Giants! Microsoft opened the show with yet another sophisticated update to its all too well known Windows product line, dubbing the next iteration Windows 10. Apple announced updates to their iPad Air, iPad Mini, iMac, Mac Mini and iOS, to name a few. Now it was Google’s turn to pull the sheets off of its works. Though the world knew about its imminent arrival for quite a few months, it was only in October that they completely revealed their update to the world’s most popular mobile operating system – Android.
There were many rumours surrounding the name of the newest update, with speculations ranging from liquorice to lemon meringue pie. Google, however, surprised the world and decided to call the new update Lollipop!
So Lollipop raises the question: what’s new? Well for starters, Google finally decided to give Lollipop a new version number (5.0), and ditch the 4.x series. Android 5.0 comes with a host of new features.
One of the biggest changes introduced with Lollipop is what Google calls Material Design. The term seems cryptic at first glance and comes off as rather odd. The material design paradigm allows developers to build rich UI experiences that automatically scale themselves with the size of the device they are meant to run on. The new design model comes with a completely different approach to motion, animations, transitions and reactivity to human interactions. This on the whole gives users a pleasing experience with their device. Realistic lighting, natural motion, edge-to-edge imagery, vivid colors and typography are some of the concepts introduced under Material Design. Google has put a lot of work behind the scenes to give Lollipop a completely revamped user-interface (UI).
The living documentation can be viewed at google.com/design/spec for complete details.
Notifications have received a significant upgrade, with the addition of the ability to view and respond to messages directly from one’s lock-screen. Priority mode allows users to control which notifications are displayed and which do not. It also lets users set specific intervals to put their phone in priority mode automatically! The next time you go to an important meeting (or in our case, attend a class with a strict teacher), you no longer have to worry about those annoying game requests.
When it comes to battery life, Android 5.0 brings in a range of statistics. Estimated time left before you need to recharge your phone, and time left till fully charged are some numbers that your phone will now yell out at times of need. Lollipop also claims to extend phone battery life by 90 minutes.
Another nifty little enhancement is the Smart lock feature, which only works when you have a PIN or pattern securing your lock screen. Smart lock comes with two basic options, being “trusted device” and “trusted face”. Trusted device is used when you have a Bluetooth or NFC device you trust, around, like an android wear watch or an NFC tag in your car. When your phone is near any such device, it will automatically bypass the secure lock screen, and save you the time of having to enter a PIN to use your phone. Trusted face is like face unlock that has existed in previous android releases. An improvement is that it runs in the background automatically. If your phone when picked up is already searching for your face while you look at your notifications, android will it will bypass the lock-screen and take you right through. Just like in the old versions, it will prompt you to unlock the old fashioned way with a pattern or PIN if Android can’t recognize your face.
Android 5.0 has yet another feature – multi-user. Although there are multi-user profiles on Android-powered tablets running on Jellybean, it’s only with Lollipop that this feature has been extended to phones. By simply touching the user avatar from the quick settings menu, one can switch between the users currently configured on the phone. There is also a “guest user” by default. So the next time your sibling wants to borrow your phone, you can be sure they don’t secretly read your messages or play a prank on you by giving them a dedicated user profile on your phone.
While this is in no way a justified overview of android L, it’s definitely a start as to what’s in store when the over the air update rolls out in November. So head over to the official android webpage to look at the new features in more detail. With 5.0, Google has really outdone itself by painstakingly carving out every niche of Lollipop to seamlessly integrate with user’s lives and give them a wholesome experience with Android.
Arjun Rao (Information Science, 1st year)
Illustration by D. Keshav Karanth (Information Science, 1st year)