According to most early adopters of Android 5.0 Lollipop, the new OS version is the best and the most fundamental evolutionary leap Google has ever made with Android, setting the benchmark for competition as well. That said, Google announced the new OS without actually rolling it out to existing Nexus devices without much explanation why, but it is pretty obvious the company rushed with the announcement in an attempt to out-loud the iOS 8 roll out. It is still too early to assess the new facial recognition that is supposed to be significantly more efficient, but is ultimately not safe; or Google Wallet that still fails to gain traction; or the Google health tracking system.
Also, Google Wallet and Voice lag in a way that they are extremely US-centric, with Google Voice supporting calling feature in US and Canada only, and Google Wallet being mainly adopted in the US due to how limited Wallet-enabled devices functionality is in Europe.
Nonetheless, Lollipop brings back the micro SD card support – something KitKat carelessly has done away with.
The Material Design
Lollipop looks fresh, new and extremely fun to toy with, but that’s novelty that wears off. The animations are the most impressive part while the re-mastered Back, Home and Recent Apps soft keys will either make you love them, or hate them.
In previous versions of Android, they were clearly visible and large on the black background, whereas in Lollipop, that black strip is gone and replaced by the wallpaper, and the buttons are tiny specks of light font. I anticipate many users will have trouble spotting them.
Other than that, the design is outstanding, but in chasing simplicity and clarity it creates yet another controversy – data available on one screen. The new Material design aims to make things look clean, but the adverse effect is less buttons, less options and less content available on a single screen.
Gmail, and the all new Inbox for that matter, are affected most of all by this un-cluttered design. If before Lollipop your Gmail app displayed some 8 emails on a single screen, now with all that cleanliness it barely squeezes 5. To make matters worse, you can only access Compose and Search buttons with one tap, while everything else is literally buried. It’s not a problem if you barely use the app on your mobile, but if you depend on it to stay productive you are bound to be annoyed.
On the brighter side, productivity nerds will enjoy the new Inbox, with Calendar, to-do’s, smart suggestions integration and tracking.
Among the virtues of Material Design is how intuitive it is, and even for an Android novice it feels completely second skin to navigate and customize the UI.
Mutlitasking has been addressed, and now switching between various tasks within one app is simpler, which makes productivity more streamlined and dynamic.
Another dynamic feature in Lollipop is its enhanced Notifications, which can now be expanded and muted. You can mute individual notifications for a set time, set priority or hide specific Notifications for privacy reasons.
Google takes after the multitude of third-party Android apps that have addressed the lock screen functionality, and in Lollipop you will have some Notifications from apps of your choice, provided your hardware supports the new feature.
If you are not the only one who uses your device, you can create user profiles for your kids, or parents, or spouse, and this is not the same as adding another Google account to your device. A user profile contains the accounts and apps specific to user settings, but what is more important is the ability to quickly switch to the Guest mode, which does not reveal any of your personal apps and settings, or data to someone who borrows your device for a short time – a very neat feature privacy-wise.
Encryption On By Default
A populist move, but nonetheless a welcome one – Lollipop has encryption on be default, which makes hacking significantly harder for both hackers and state surveillance.
Project Volta promises to boost your battery life up to 90 minutes, and some testers report it actually works as promised, but a quibble that made Nexus 5 devices’ batteries actually die significantly faster than before with WiFi enabled. Google admitted the issue, and said the fix is in the works, but pulled over the OS roll out for now.
You will be able to wake your device through touchless voice controls, provided your device supports digital signal processing. So, you will be able to make a phone call without even unlocking the lock screen – hands-free.
Unlock With Android Wear or Bluetooth Headphones
If you go as far as to buy an Android Wear smartwatch, you can set your smartphone to unlock when the smartwatch is in its range. This can be both a protective measure, and convenience, or a nag depending on whether you need your phone unlocked each time you come near.
In Lollipop, you can have the most frequently used Settings available at a single swipe down gesture. An icon displaying the remaining battery percentage is another neat solution to display when accessing settings.
Lollipop 5.0 adds 15 languages to its gallery, with Basque, Chinese and Marathi, in an obvious ambition to conquer more developing markets.
Even though I am still not persuaded a smartphone camera is better than a digital camera, which is only camera, Lollipop comes closer to actually making its camera app enjoyable, with RAW image format support, standalone settings for lens, sensor and flash for every frame.
Added is also support for USB audio peripherals – headphones, microphones, amplifiers, speakers and 5.1 and 7.1 sound systems. Lollipop also supports more keyboards and emoji apps.
As of now, only the new Nexus 6 and 9 run Lollipop 5.0, while the HTC, Motorola, Sony and Samsung are working on their versions of the OS you will receive if you sport their devices, and when those become available is yet to be confirmed. It is important to understand that those manufacturers will alter the stock experience, for better or worse. This means Android 5.0 Lollipop will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Stock Lollipop 5.0 is an overall success story that sets the new benchmark in productivity and efficiency, introducing some inspiring innovative ideas for rivals to envy. If you are impatient about getting it, you very well should be because it is awesome despite a few complaints in how the handsome Material Design has done away with a few buttons it deemed as clutter.
Update: apparently, Motorola is beginning to roll out Lollipop 5.0 to Moto X 2014.