After giving us all a taste of Android L in June 2014, at the I/O developer conference, Google is finally releasing the next version of Android to the world, version number 5.0, code-named Lollipop.
The release, which comes nearly one year after 4.4 KitKat, ushers in a brand-new design throughout the operating system, enhanced notifications, changes to how you multitask, and handful of other features.
Editor from CNET October 15, 2014 9:06 AM PDT
The most obvious change in Lollipop is the fresh design aesthetic, called Material Design. It uses a lot of bright, rich colors and adds depth with shadows to give Android a sleeker, more minimal look.
There’s more white space, especially around text, and more transparent touches. There’s also and animated effects when you interact with the screen, such as ripples of color. It’s the first real makeover Android has had in several years — not counting the design changes from the KitKat Google Now Launcher.
Lollipop also introduces a new notification setup, with notification cards in the middle of the lock screen, similar to iOS. You can respond to notifications from the lock screen and control what kind of information appears there, to protect your privacy. Google promises that your phone will prioritize notifications that it thinks are important to you, while keeping less important updates hidden away.
There’s also the new Heads Up notifications that pop up at the top of the screen, showing you a glimpse of an email, text, or incoming call while you’re watching a video or playing a game. You can respond to the notification and then move on, without even needing to open the notification drop-down menu. Or, if you’d rather not deal with it right now, just swipe it up to store it in your notification menu for later. The new priority mode, which you can turn on with your device’s volume rocker, only shows the most important notifications. It’s like a “Do Not Disturb” mode, where only calls and text from select contacts show up.
Multitasking gets a makeover in Lollipop. A new menu called “Recents” shows apps that are running in the background as a stack of cards, instead of the previous list view. The design is similar to browsing open tabs on Chrome’s Android app, and you can scroll through the stack to switch between apps quickly.
Android Jelly Bean introduced multiple user profiles for tablets, and now phones can use them, too. You can create multiple accounts for you, your family, and your kids, and control which profile has access to which apps and settings. What’s more, if you don’t have your phone, you can now log in to another Lollipop device to access your contacts, messages and photos. There’s also a guest mode, where someone can access only certain parts of your phone or tablet, and not others.
The swipe-down quick settings is getting a makeover, with new controls. Just swipe down with two fingers from the top of the screen to bring up controls for a flashlight, hotspot, screen casting and more. The Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Location services toggles have been improved and you can now manually adjust your brightness for certain situations, without turning off automatic brightness.
Lollipop adds the new Battery Saver mode, which clocks down the CPU and turns off background data when your phone needs a little extra juice. You can turn it on manually or program it to turn on automatically when your battery drops too low, and Google says it can add up to 90 minutes of extra life.
You can now also see how much time your phone has left before it’s fully charged when you pull it in, and in the battery settings menu, you can see approximately how much time your phone’s battery has left before you need to charge it.
Other additions to Lollipop include a new way to unlock your device using a compatible Bluetooth device, such as the Moto 360. With the personal unlocking feature enabled, your phone will automatically unlock when your Bluetooth device is close by. When you’re too far away from it, your PIN, password, or pattern lock will switch back on.
Here’s a run-down of the other added features in Lollipop:
“OK, Google” voice command works when the screen is off on the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9.
A faster set up process for a new device, using NFC to tap your new phone to your old one to migrate your accounts over.
Improved multimedia performance, including lower latency audio and USB audio accessory support.
Professional photography features, including support for raw images; control settings for the camera lens, sensor and flash; and capture full-resolution frames at 30 frames per second.
You can switch between tap and pay NFC payment apps more easily.
Print preview and the ability to select a specific page range when printing.
Improved network handoffs when moving from a Wi-Fi signal to a data signal. For example, you can continue a Wi-Fi call or video chat when you leave your home Wi-Fi and switch to data.
You phone will now connect to Wi-Fi if there’s a verified Internet connection available, instead of searching for any available network.
A more power-efficient scanning protocol for searching for Bluetooth low energy devices and beacons.
New ART Android runtime, which improves performance and responsiveness in your apps.
Support for 64-bit devices, like the Nexus 9, and 64-bit native apps.
Support for more than 68 languages. Google added Basque, Bengali, Burmese, Chinese (Hong Kong), Galician, Icelandic, Kannada, Kyrgyz, Macedonian, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Sinhala, Tamil and Telugu in this release.
When you can get it
Google announced Lollipop with the launch of the Nexus 6 smartphone and Nexus 9 tablet, and those devices will be the first to get 5.0. The Nexus 5, Nexus 7,Nexus 10 and Google Play Edition devices, including the HTC One M8 and Moto G, will also get 5.0 in the coming weeks. There are few definitive details about when other Android devices will get the update, but you can expect most high-end phones to get Lollipop eventually.