October 15th just became one of the biggest dates in 2014’s tech calendar.
In a slightly low-key announcement on Google’s official blog, they unveiled the latest refresh to the Android operating system — codenamed 5.0 Lollipop — as well as three new Nexus devices running the platform.
Both Lollipop and Google’s Nexus devices are expected to drop at the end of the year. But can’t wait until then? Read on to find out what you can expect from them.
What To Expect From Android 5.0 Lollipop
The Android operating system has come along leaps and bounds since it was first released in 2008. Although initially the red-headed stepchild of the smartphone world, it has since become the leading platform, overtaking Apple’s iOS in popularity, and beating off any new challenge from Windows Phone 8 and Blackberry 10.
But what is the reason for Android’s dominance? Perhaps it’s because of Google’s proactive approach to introducing new features, whilst simultaneously refining existing ones on a regular basis. And Android Lollipop is no different, bringing to the table some incredible refinements of the OS’s look-and-feel, as well as features that are sure to delight users.
You can get some of Lollipop’s best features right now, but here are the five most important we’ll be seeing.
One of the biggest criticisms of Android has been that it simply isn’t all that nice to look at. Sure, that was certainly true prior to the release of Ice Cream Sandwich. Since then, it’s undergone a number of revamps of its aesthetics and its usability that have drastically improved the Android user experience. The latest iteration in this process is something called Material Design.
This standardizes how third-party applications function, making the aesthetics of said apps a bit more uniform. It also standardizes how Android should look across devices, from tablets to phones. In short, it makes the platform even more beautiful, and even more usable. For further reading on this fascinating topic, we recommend you read up on the design details of Material Design in our in-depth look.
Have you ever found yourself rudely awoken in the early hours of the morning by the chime of your phone whenever someone sends you a Facebook message? It’s annoying. Thankfully, Android Lollipop solves this once and for all, with its revamped notifications system.
You’re now able to easily adjust your settings, ensuring that only specific notifications from specific services go through. You can also set your phone to turn notifications off entirely for a set period of time. And you don’t even need to use a third-party app, like Echo, the lockscreen replacement app.
Handy if you’re in bed, trying to get some shuteye, in an important business meeting, or in class.
More Developer Goodies
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are used by developers to create the third-party applications you love to use. Part of the reason why Android has been so successful is the openness of the platform, and the ability for developers to extend and enhance it as they see fit.
That’s not about to change, as Android Lollipop introduces over 5,000 new APIs for developers to use, including support for OpenGL ES 3.1 and tools for taking advantage of the more powerful cameras found in high-end Android phones. Happy coding!
Drastically Improved Battery Performance
The battery lives of smartphones are notoriously short. Sure, there are ways to make this less of a problem. You can buy an external battery or a solar charger. You might even want to turn off mobile data entirely, to squeeze an extra few hours out of your phone.
Android Lollipop tries to fix this with a new battery saver feature. Switch it on, and you get another 90 minutes before you have to plug your device in. Developers are also able to invoke this battery feature from within their code, thus minimizing the impact applications have on your battery life.
For a while now, sales of PCs have been falling. The reason? They’re being replaced by tablets, which are often cheaper, easier, and come with a smaller risk of malware. Google is very much aware of this and has enhanced an already existing feature that makes Android Lollipop function much like a PC does. User accounts.
Much like Windows Phone’s Kids Corner, you can restrict access to applications and private files, depending on who will be using your device. Android Lollipop also supports guest sessions, so you can let people use your phone or tablet without having to give them your password or resorting to any inelegant hacks. Cool, right?
Three New Nexus Devices
As well as a revamping Android, Google also plans to launch three new Nexus-branded companion devices. These will run the latest version of the operating system, and include a phone, a tablet, and a TV set-top box.
The Nexus 6 is the flagship Android Lollipop phone, built by Motorola. Packed into this six-inch behemoth is a powerful quad-core snapdragon CPU clocked at 2.7 Ghz, backed up with an Adreno 420 GPU and a generous 3GB of RAM.
Snap-happy users will also be pleased to know it comes with an amazingly sharp 13 megapixel camera with dual-LED flash and an f/2.0 aperture. It can also capture vivid, ultra-high definition 4K video at a resolution of 30 fps. The selfie-friendly front camera can also take 2MP shots and supports high-definition video conferencing.
The Motorola-built device also looks the part, coming with a sleek aluminum frame with impeccably-strong Gorilla Glass 3 on the screen.
Prices are yet to be announced, with availability expected for later this year.
HTC, a brand you don’t usually associate with high-end tablets, was the manufacturer chosen by Google to design their flagship Android Lollipop tablet. That seems to be a bet that paid off, as the Nexus 9 looks simply amazing.
Inside the brushed aluminum frame and massive 8.9 inch screen is a blisteringly fast 64-bit Nvidia Tegra K1 CPU, with each of its four cores clocked at 2.3 Ghz. It also packs an Nvidia Kepler GPU, which is a high-performance, low-power GPU capable of playing near-PC quality video games.
The abilities of this GPU were first demonstrated two years ago at the GPU Technology Conference:
The Nexus 9 comes with an 8MP rear camera, as well as a 1.6MP front-facing camera, and it comes in Lunar White, Indigo Black, and Sand.
Details about prices and release dates are thin on the ground, but HTC is already producing accessories for the tablet, including a magnetically attached bluetooth keyboard that is oddly reminiscent of the ones for the Microsoft Surface.
The Nexus Q was a colossal failure, but Google hasn’t given up on the TV space yet. The Chromecast is selling like hotcakes, and they’re about to release their answer to the Apple TV. Meet the Nexus Player, built by Asus.
This $99 device (about a third of the price of the Nexus Q) runs a variant of Android Lollipop specifically designed for set-top boxes, and — although not yet released — will be released with a wealth of apps including Netflix, Vevo, Hulu Plus, and Youtube.
Inside the hockey puck-sized box is a 1.6 Ghz quad-core Intel Atom CPU, backed up with an Imagination PowerVR GPU and 1GB of RAM. Storage is limited — it only comes with 8GB — but Google assumes you’ll be streaming your videos.
The included remote control comes with a built-in microphone, allowing you to issue voice commands, and a gamepad is available to purchase separately should you fancy a bit of casual gaming.
What Do You Think?
Android 5.0 Lollipop and its launch devices are well on the horizon, and will be launched later this year. The revamped OS comes with a plethora of enhancements and new features that make the OS even better, whilst the new devices are a force to be reckoned with.
But what do you think? Have any of the new devices caught your eye? Tell me about it in the comments box below.
Photo Credits: Couple In Bed With Husband Suffering From Insomnia via Shutterstock