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Android 5.0 Lollipop review

Andrew Williams

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Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Soft keys
  • Apps menu
  • Users
  • Android 5.0
  • Android Wear
  • ART
  • Wallpapers

Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Clean, accessible look
  • Handy lock screen notifications
  • 64-bit support is important for the future

Cons

  • No clear day-to-day performance boost yet

Key Features

  • Material design
  • 64-bit native support
  • Lock screen notifications
  • Manufacturer: Google
  • Review Price: free/subscription

Originally reviewed on 12 November 2014

What is Android 5.0 Lollipop?

Android 5.0 Lollipop is Google's latest big update of its mobile operating system. It succeeds Android 4.4 KitKat and will probably be the last major change we see to the Android OS until well into 2015.

Android Lollipop is the future of Google-powered devices, in other words, but is it worth getting excited about? We’ve been testing Android 5.0 on the Nexus 9 tablet, one of the devices that launched with the software. Here's why we think it has masses of potential...

SEE ALSO: Android 5.0 Lollipop tips and tricks

Android 5.0 Lollipop – Material Interface

Having used Android 5.0 Lollipop for a while now, we think perhaps the most significant change for now is the way the software looks. Not every change made offers a dramatic shift in the way Android feels, but the design of the interface does.

Google calls this new design 'Material', and aside from freshening up the look, it’s meant to add “Responsive, natural motion, realistic lighting and shadows.”

First, let’s take a look at the new design. Here are the home screens:

You’ll notice everything is looking familiar, but a little different. Google has redesigned the soft keys – which now have a PlayStation-like flavour – and the Google app icons are different now.

It’s innocuous stuff, but tells you a lot about the aesthetic direction the system is heading in. Android 5.0 Lollipop is all about friendly curves and friendly shapes that have no intrinsic or obvious relationship with technology. They’re a circle, a square and a triangle: you don’t get much more basic than that.

SEE ALSO: Mobile Phone Buyer's Guide

Soft keys

We assume the idea is that they’re friendly compared with the rather more complicated soft keys of Android 4.4 KitKat. Despite their simplicity, the functions of two are pretty obvious even to relative technophobes.

The triangle already forms an arrow sign, and the circle is just like the Home button on an iPhone. When in doubt, copy Apple. Apple calls the one on the right Overview these days, but it has much the same function as before: it brings up the multi-tasking menu.

The movement of the homescreens has changed. The animations are a bit less severe, with greater variance in their speeds and a greater sense of inertia. Android 5.0 Lollipop is all about shaving off that geeky exterior Android is still seen as having in some quarters.

You’re also likely to see a whole lot of the two headline backgrounds of Android 5.0. These are designed to look as though they’re made from real materials with clever use of textures. Once again, it’s a step away from the sharp technical refinement that has been more a clearer visual feature in previous Android UI elements. These backgrounds are still precise and geometric, but the textures are intended to ground them in the physical, not just digital.

SEE ALSO: iPhone 6 Plus vs Nexus 6

Wallpapers

It’s not so much ‘less geek, more chic’, but ‘less geek, more family-friendly’. Its no wonder Google has opted for this style, with tablets such as the TrustedReviews Award-winning Tesco Hudl 2 plugging away at family buyers hard.

Is the new look good? Yes, it’s great. We already liked the Google Now interface used in some Android 4.4 phones, though, including the Nexus 5 and Moto G 2014.

The use of the real-time shadows and lighting promised on Google’s website is pretty subtle, too. Those expecting jaw-dropping visual flashiness may be disappointed by this lack of bravado.

Where you see the these live shadows most obviously is in the multi-tasking menu, which, as usual, is accessed using the right (square) soft key. Multi-tasking has gone 3D, folks, and each pane casts its own shadows. These are ‘design’ shadows rather than realistic ones, mind, and again are pretty diffuse. We like the look.

SEE ALSO: Nexus 9 vs iPad mini 3

Android 5.0 Lollipop – Apps Menu

How about the apps menu? From a basic design perspective it’s very similar to the Google Now interface seen in the Nexus 5. Widgets no longer have a place here – a good move given how little most of us actually fiddle with the things once we’ve discovered a couple we like.

The most obvious difference is that the translucent style of previous versions of Android has been dropped in favour of a simpler, more practical white background. It looks like your apps are being displayed on pieces of plain paper, with a bit of the home screen wallpaper visible around the edges to stop your Android 5.0 apps menus from looking too boring.

SEE ALSO: iPad Air 2 vs Nexus 9

Apps menu

This gets rid of any legibility issues caused by clashing colours between wallpapers and app icons. Android 5.0 Lollipop also seems to darken any white or near-white app icons to make sure there’s still a good amount of contrast for those without 20/20 eyeballs.

At every turn Android Lollipop is out to foster accessibility for an extremely wide audience.

Android 5.0 Lollipop – New Lock Screen

A new look only gets you so far, though. Perhaps our favourite addition to Android 5.0 Lollipop is the new notifications system of the lock screen.

When there are no notifications to see, the lock screen is pretty simple. You get a clock and, if charging, a handy little ticker telling you how long it’ll be until the battery’s full.

Receive a new notifications and they stack up as little white rectangles, not entirely unlike the cards of Google Now. Up to five are shown at once, the rest stacking up underneath. You can open up the lot if you like, without leaving the lock screen.

Tapping one of these notifications naturally takes you to the relevant app – they work just as you’d hope. These kinds of notifications are nothing new, of course, but it’s good to see them so well implemented in the standard version of the system.

It’s also important to note you can disable this feature if you’re worried about people seeing what’s happening on your tablet/phone.

Android 5.0 Lollipop – Feature Toggles

Just as lock screen notifications are things we’ve seen in custom interfaces already, Android 5.0 Lollipop adopts the dropdown home screen menu feature and brightness toggles we’ve seen in other Android phones for ages.

You may not notice it’s there at first, though. As usual, you swipe down from the top of the screen to bring down the standard notifications menu. Then you swipe down again to pull down the feature controls panel.

This panel is non-customisable, but gets you access to most basics:

  • Brightness slider
  • Wi-Fi toggle
  • Bluetooth
  • Aeroplane mode
  • Auto-rotate
  • Flashlight
  • Location
  • Cast screen (for Chromecast)

Curiously enough, there’s no silent mode. Instead, pressing the volume buttons brings up a little on-screen menu that lets you choose to silence all notifications – just non-important ones – indefinitely or for a selected number of hours.

We imagine using this might take a bit of getting used to, but it’s a neat idea that might otherwise have been relegated to the Settings menu. It’s basically a Do Not Disturb mode, brought to the surface.

Saying that, there's also a timed Do Not Disturb feature in Settings that lets you determine hours when only priority contacts can get through.

Android 5.0 Lollipop – Gmail and Calendar

Google hasn't launched any major new services with Android 5.0 Lollipop, but it has given some of the existing ones a bit of an app spruce-up. It’s also the first version of Android to launch with the Google Slides app.

This relatively little-discussed app launched in April 2014, and lets you make Powerpoint-style documents.

You also get the new Google Fit pre-installed. This is Google’s answer to Apple HealthKit, and lets you track your exercise, by either manually inputting it or using compatible health monitors.

It’s fairly limited, and doesn’t seem to support heart-rate information, just weight and activity. It’s no better than most other tracking apps, and a good deal worse than some. There's some more work for Google to do here.

Back to the stuff most people will actually use. Google Mail and Calendar have been given a slight revamp in line with Android 5.0 Lollipop’s look, although we should state that at this point Google apps are actually quite separate from the Android system. It’s perfectly possible that you’ll have an Android 5.0 device with an older version of Gmail and co.

Android 5.0 Lollipop – Profiles and Guest Mode

Android tablets have had multiple profiles for a while, but Android 5.0 Lollipop sees the feature come to phones. It lets you setup multiple areas for, most likely, different members of the family, each with access to different apps if necessary.

When you setup these profiles, you can choose whether they have access to a restricted range of apps, or can choose to download and use whatever they like.

There’s also a brand-new Guest mode, which you might want to think of as a temporary profile. This simply loads the apps preinstalled on your device – the Google suite, basically – and gets rid of your account information so people playing with your shiny new phone/tablet won’t stumble onto anything you don’t want them to find. It’s a nice embarrassment-saver.

Users

Android 5.0 Lollipop – Cross-Platform Support

While Android 5.0 Lollipop doesn’t offer particularly jazzed-up fitness features thanks to the currently quite limited Fit app, it does offer improved cross-device interaction. Google says you’ll be able to start something on one device and carry it on with another.

Obvious uses for this include carrying on web searches or watching films when switching between phone and tablet, although devs are sure to come up with some wearable application before too long. We should stress this isn’t a feature we’ve had direct experience of yet because there just aren’t the Android 5.0 devices around at the time of writing.

Android Wear

Android 5.0 Lollipop – Performance

Android 5.0 makes some important style changes that should help make at least Nexus devices a mite more attractive for the mainstream buyer. However, for the enthusiasts who regularly read sites like ours, what’s going on in the background is arguably more interesting.

The new software makes a few very important changes, although for the most part they are elements that will affect the future of the system rather than things we can see in action from using a Nexus 9 or Nexus 6.

First, Android 5.0 switches from using the DALVIK runtime to ART. What this means is the way data is compiled to run an app is different, and it’s intended to both speed-up loading apps and switching between them.

Our experiments with switching between ART and DALVIK (you can do it in Android KitKat devices with a simple Settings menu fiddle) show a very slight improvement. However, as the Nexus 9 isn’t actually as slick as we were hoping at launch, there is effectively no performance improvement that you’ll notice in day-to-day use. Android still isn’t as smooth and quick as iOS. We hope this will improve in coming months as we did find performance slightly disappointing.

ART

Android 5.0 also offers native support for 64-bit system architectures, which we’re starting to see appear with processors like the Nexus 9’s Nvidia Tegra K1. There’s a perception that 64-bit is only really needed if to bung more than 4GB into a phone, but in fact existing 32-bit architectures can use that – the Snapdragon 805 has a memory address extension that means it can make use of more memory than a ‘standard’ 32-bit system.

The real benefits of 64-bit aren’t that simple. While it also depends on the chipsets themselves, 64-bit architectures open up the possibility for much more data to be juggled at one time. It’s part of the reason why the dual-core chipsets of the iPhone 6 and Nexus 9 are able to offer such power while having just a quarter the number of cores compared to other top-end mobile devices.

Another great sign for the future is native OpenGL 3.1 support. This is the latest version of the graphics standard, and opens-up the possibility for even better graphics in the future for Android games.

Android 5.0

Should I be excited about Android 5.0 Lollipop?

Android 5.0 Lollipop is a big release that means a lot for Google. It's crucial to the technical development of the platform, especially with it rapidly moving to wearable devices through Android Wear.

However, we’re not convinced anyone chomping at the bit to get an Android 5.0 update is necessarily going to see any dramatic changes unless manufacturers ease off with their own custom interfaces. After all, a great many phones already have the style of custom feature toggles on offer here.

Seen on a Nexus device – or perhaps one of Motorola’s Moto-series ones – Android 5.0 is a solid improvement, if not an essential one.

Next, read our Best Smartphones Round-up or our Best Android Phones Round-up

Verdict

Android 5.0 Lollipop may not mean a great deal to phones with heavily customised interfaces, but it unlocks loads of future potential.

Overall Score

8
Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

chaosdefinesorder

November 12, 2014, 5:31 pm

Vibrate mode is accessed by pressing any volume key and then tap the bell icon (rather than volume slider)

Pbryanw

November 12, 2014, 9:36 pm

I may have missed this, but any idea how Lollipop's 'Project Volta' affects battery life? Google says to expect a 15%-20% increase after installing Lollipop.

RichGtB

November 13, 2014, 9:26 am

Informative article, thanks. One thing that was a bit annoying / confusing - "Android still isn’t as smooth and quick as iOS......performance slightly disappointing." I`m running a Nexus 5 (as an example) with small changes (using ART, transitions turned off, force gpu rendering on). I cant talk about other peoples experiences, but its definitely a smooth experience, apps such as chrome, email, hangouts etc load up instantly with no disappointing performance (especially for a 1+ year phone that costs < £340) and games still run great with no stutter / slowdown. And switching between apps using the multi-tasking button is instant. I work in an environment where people mainly have iphones so I get to have a quick play with all models as we put them on our network, and there is nothing special performance wise on even the top end iphone 6+ (forgetting raw (pointless?) performance numbers). And in day to day use, it feels 'slower' and apps take longer to load and it in no way feels as snappy compared to the way my Nexus 5 is. Still not forgetting the 1+ year old tech behind the Nexus 5 and its price. So I dont understand the not as quick as ios comment, or disappointing performance. Maybe its more to do with the like of Samsung / HTC / other manufacturers spoiling Android with their bloatware ?? Trying out a Samsung S5 out of the box for example, it doesnt feel great (if im being honest, it felt poor) for the price it is. And as Pbryanw pointed out, any news on Project Volta / Battery life ?

Guest

November 13, 2014, 10:08 am

Oh my gosh. Google. I hate you. Stop changing things needlessly! I don't wish to be spending 50 hours every 6 months relearning everything.

Person chap

November 13, 2014, 10:09 am

Oh my gosh. Google. I hate you. Stop changing things needlessly! I don't wish to be spending hours and hours relearning everything.

And what is this idea of picture icons that the designer understands and no one else? Because they often confuse as much as they help.

mooviies

November 13, 2014, 7:30 pm

I do :)

Jenny

November 14, 2014, 12:36 am

Then don't update to 5.0...

Stocklone

November 14, 2014, 2:01 pm

Everyone has been complaining about the Nexus 9 lagging. So I think that's where the not as smooth comment is coming from. I blame the 64-bit K1 not working well with Lollipop. There is no way it should be laggy but here we are potentially disappointed yet again with another nVidia chipset.

Stocklone

November 14, 2014, 2:01 pm

Thanks!

Josef B

November 18, 2014, 2:50 pm

Just got the update on my Nexus 5, and I must say that its utterly confusing. KitKat was much more intuitive. Lollipop is overly minimalist, leaving you having to guess what you might need to press to achieve what you want to do.

All the buttons seem smaller and without borders, meaning you can't use it fast any more because you have to aim more where to press, because its not evident where the pressing area of each button is. I don't know what to say about the new Material Design, seems sort of nice, although I don't dig that white background at all.

Commonly used features are more hidden now. Vibrate / Silent, Flight Mode and Power Off / Restart were easily accessible through the power button, simple and quick to access (especially if you urgently need to set your phone to silent). Now all of them are hidden 3 or 4 taps away. And what the hell is this thing of having to tap on the bell to turn it to Vibrate?! If I hadn't read it on a comment here I wouldn't have realised it was even a tappable button... are we supposed to tap on every possible icon to see whether it does something?!

On KitKat one downwards swipe brought up the settings if you didn't have any notifications. Very useful if you want to quickly connect to a wifi hotspot while at a coffee shop or at a station. Now you have to swipe twice, because the first swipe says 'No Notifications', as if I don't already know that if I don't have anything in the top bar! Then clicking on the Wifi icon switches it off! Instead of bringing up the wifi settings with the list of hotspots available as before, which you normally need most. To access the settings you have to aim hard for the small text underneath it... total wtf google!

The new Calendar is very nice, if it wasn't for including every birthday of every possible person in my 2000 entry contact list, 50% of which I haven't talked to over a year. You can turn it off (at least), but what about including only people from specific circles?! I only care about the birthdays of friends and family. At least GPlus would be useful for something once in a while.

Boris

November 19, 2014, 6:23 am

Has anybody figured out how to turn off the white background in the app screen? Don't like it, not one little bit.

Great article BTW guys, very informative.

Muditha

January 29, 2015, 4:45 pm

Install nova launcher. You can get the kitkat transparent look again

Dingbat

February 20, 2015, 5:55 pm

On what planet is a bright white glaring ugly battery draining background a good idea?

toboev

March 14, 2015, 10:29 am

Inside Google Towers...
Andy: Geez, Bob, mobiles these days have gotten so big. Screen sizes over 5 inches are, like, normal now.

Bob: So true Andy. Remember the good ol'days. When a postage stamp size screen was all you got? If you screwed your eyes up real tight you could just about read stuff on them?

Andy: We owe it to the world to bring back those good times! But how?! They keep on pushing out those big screens!

Bob: So how about we make the fonts, like, tiny again? So folks can't read them? How things used to be?

Andy: Sure Bob. But 5 inches? What we gonna do with the space?

Bob: Nothing.

Andy: Even better Bob, lets make it glaring white. Like blinding white.

Bob: Genius Andy!

Andy: And make the font just a few shades darker than the background, like it's just the shadow of an invisible font.

Bob: Andy, you're a true great!

Josef B

March 14, 2015, 11:09 am

I didn't notice any particular difference. I still need to charge my phone (nexus 5) as soon as I am back home in the evening.

Pbryanw

March 15, 2015, 1:02 am

Same here on a Nexus 7 2013 Tablet - no increase in usable battery life, though standby seems a bit better. I've quoted a few bits from Ars Technica below, which explain that its up to developers to utilise the new APIs in Lollipop, in order for us end users to get better battery life:

To cut down on the frequency of individual background tasks, Google created the "JobScheduler" API. This talks to and organizes background tasks from your collection of apps, aiming to batch up background tasks into a single burst. It can even offload some background tasks to times when they are more appropriate.

With these new capabilities, Google is asking for a "lazy first" mentality from app developers. Reduce the amount of background tasks, be flexible with the timing of your tasks, and if you can put the task off until the user is plugged in, even better. Apps all need to be individually updated to talk to the JobScheduler, and they need to not be so aggressive about waking up the device. Once that work is done, Google says users can expect a 15 to 20 percent improvement in battery life.

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets...

Ticked Off Android User

August 12, 2015, 12:42 am

I don't recommend Lollipop for anyone! Worst phone Operating System I've ever had to use! Don't Upgrade if you can help it. Don't believe the big "Establishment" reviews. Check for yourself on the actual user reviews. You will see there is a worrisome trend of unhappy end users. Samsung and Verizon forced this upgrade to Lollipop from Kitkat (actually a downgrade in my opinion) of this piece of crap operating system. It kills my phone resources, drains the battery, is Soooo much harder getting around now with extra and additional steps, looks horrible and seems to be designed for elementary school aged kids. Editing contacts is harder, doing most things is harder. The total phone sound level has been reduced tremendously, including the phone ring tone, the media, listening during a phoen call, etc. The vibrate function has been reduced and changed on most of my functions. I had to go search for settings and try to get everything back the way I had it, to no avail. Using "Lists" verses "graphics" is not an option so we are stuck with all the crappy graphical kiddy designs that are hard to see in bright lit or sunny areas. Using white text on black is not an option any more any where in this update. That really sucks.. This piece of crap OS now forces you to basically have a Bright Light every time you use your phone. Not good if you want to keep light levels down and it's not even any better to see in sunny situations, due to all the white & baby blue background it uses The lock screen has been changed. The home screen menu no longer has settings option. You have to go through far too many steps now to manage your settings. If you can avoid getting this OS Lollipop, avoid it at all costs. It's a piece of junk.

I'm eggsellent

August 12, 2015, 4:21 am

Lollipoop is deplorable a nightmare of diaper crap orange and honky white. It wasted my devices with a forced update by at&t sneaky turd burglar install while I slept I awoke to a locked device that couldn't exchange sd card information to my tablet or work dev it crashed constantly after factory reset and my note edge was completely unresponsive taking a minute to even register a command. The at&t rep an I went omnfw as his dev had done the same. I luckily got them replaced on my warranty. I got clean 4.4.4 devices and installed the last build of 444 ending in# BKN3 .thankful to have them working. I hate lollipoop it's crap.

I'm eggsellent

August 12, 2015, 4:24 am

Lollipoop is horrible

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