Android Lollipop: At The Top or a Sure-Shot Flop?

by March 26, 2015 0 comments

More than a month after Apple released iOS 8, Google released Android’s next major version to the public, Android Lollipop (version 5.0). In the first of this two part series we discuss the improvements to the previous version
– Hiren Mehta, Manager, Buckapps

 

The next version of Android however, which some of you might have already received by now, takes a different approach in doing what an OS can (or should, for that matter).

 

Old wine in a new bottle?
If you dislike the way your Android device behaves, the more curious amongst you might have tried to flash custom builds of Android from third-party sources. Recently, none other than homegrown vendor Micromax has announced the `Yu’ series of smartphones, which will come pre-installed with CyanogenMod instead of stock Android. This is in addition to the fact that Micromax already is a part of the `Android One’ ecosystem, e.g. the Canvas A1. Android 5.0 brings with it certain tweaks built-in right into stock Android (such as the ability to dismiss all notifications in one go) which weren’t available in certain earlier versions of stock Android but indeed were in the then-contemporary builds obtained from third-party sources (whose manual installation yourself as a customer can very likely void your device’s warranty). Exactly which of such neat little tweaks are now available in stock Android, would vary largely depending on your chosen source of third-party build (if any) as well as it’s own version. However, one thing is clear: You now have a lesser need to go for a third-party Android build (that is, unless your device already came pre-installed with it).
Talking of homegrown, Android now supports more Indian languages than earlier, the additions being: Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu. But localisation aside, which are the 5 improvements (or otherwise) which can determine this Lollipop’s sweetness? Let’s take a look:

 

1: (Almost) Cross-device hibernation
Many windows and tasks running on your device, battery on it’s last leg and you are worried about how you will remember to open each of the apps and tasks currently running, in case your device just switches off itself abruptly. If you are able to relate yourself to this situation, Lollipop has taken care of this worry. It allows you to pick up things (including songs being played, photos being watched, last opened apps as well as recent searches) from one device to another, and also across reboots. Please note that this won’t apply in case you dismissed the concerned app yourself from the `Recents’ list before switching off the device. Also, although it will remember which apps were open before powering off, it hasn’t yet been firmly determined (based on first impressions) as to whether the apps themselves open in the same state which they were in (such as at a certain level in the middle of a paused game or at a specified message in your inbox).

 

2: Some `material’, with substance
‘Material design’ has been widely discussed as the most ‘visible’ change in Android 5.0 which users can expect, and rightly so. Let’s take another situation: A device heavily used since a long time with lots of apps and games, and you are performing certain actions in an app (with many other resource-intensive tasks in the background) and the device (from your observation) seems to have turned unresponsive suddenly. If you can relate to this, Lollipop can’t by itself directly control everything in a third-party app but yes, it will give you feedback, that much-needed `response’ indicating acceptance of your actions. This is presented in many small but subtle ways where you can immediately realise that your command/touch has indeed been `registered’ and you no longer need to repeatedly mash the screen wondering what happened to the device.

 

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The learning curve for this is almost non-existent but is pretty intuitive. From a fluid animation indicating that you have reached the end of a scrolling list to a light glow upon choosing an item from a menu, you will realize the difference right from day one. Take the following image for instance.
Each of such feedbacks and response animations aren’t meant to simply add eye-candy. As you continue using the device after the update as you were doing so earlier, you will gradually realize that they are built with a specific purpose in mind. After all, there are enough skins, themes and custom UIs available already for adding as much eye-candy as you want to, or for that matter, even for tricking others into thinking that you have managed to install iOS on your device. Also, in Lollipop, expect too see more instances of full-screen immersive imagery and apps.

 

3: Cross-device experience
Android Wear was released after the last minor update, i.e. KitKat. Hence, it is natural to expect that the next major release, i.e. Lollipop, would take advantage of the synergy between phones/tablets and smartwatches. So if you have a smartwatch, you can now expect to be able to catch a glimpse of what is happening on your phone/tablet, with just the right amount of information, while leaving you free to explore the actual phone/tablet to see the bigger picture. It is interesting to note here that many of Google’s system apps (such as GMail) were updated one-by-one just a few days before Lollipop was released, and based on first impressions, there isn’t really much of a difference between their latest-updated KitKat versions and how they appear in Lollipop. So while Google appears to showcase certain apps while praising Lollipop’s design, their UI looks almost identical to how they were the last time they received an update in KitKat, and GMail, Play Store, etc. are no exceptions to this.

 

4: `Firewalled’ notifications
You certainly don’t want any unnecessary interruption from your device when you are in a brainstorming meeting, only to find out that it was a text message from your telecom service provider luring you to buy another number having similar digits as yours. Or, even worse, you might have kept a certain ringtone for specific people calling you and when you are applying for an interview, you don’t want to allow your phone to play the ringtone of a laughing infant just when the interviewer was waiting for your answer to a tricky question. Neither do you want a pushy telemarketer to call you when you are about to make an online purchase through a mobile app and the session will soon time out if you don’t enter the required information soon.

 

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Help is at hand. Similar to how a firewall checks incoming and outgoing packets to decide what should be allowed and what should be rejected, the new notification system in Lollipop gives you a `priority’ mode of notifications wherein you determine which interruptions should notify you come what may (of course, that is assuming your device is powered on) and which are not as important. And you will be able to deal with priority notifications from your lockscreen too. If you know beforehand how long the meeting/interview is likely going to be, you can set a pre-defined trigger to schedule the priority mode on and off for a certain period of relative time (beginning now) or based on the absolute time/day of week, etc., as shown in the image., e. g. allowing only priority notifications while you are asleep.

 

5: Better battery utilization
With Lollipop, you can expect your battery to last longer and charge faster. This of course is subject to your usage pattern, and if your battery is about to reach the end of its life-cycle of recharges, then you need a replacement battery more than you need the Lollipop update.

 

Screenshot_2014-11-23-21-18-04

 

That being said, Lollipop does have a built-in `Battery saver’ mode which Google claims can help extend your battery life by up to 90 minutes. So no, if you had expectations that your device which would typically run down during a day’s work would now (after the update) have enough juice to last for an entire movie at night, that won’t happen. But you will indeed begin to see a marked improvement, along with estimates which you see in your laptop/notebook, such as how likely your battery is likely to go further without charging, and if already being charged, how long is it likely to take to become fully charged.

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