Android Lollipop thoughts!

Google announced the next iteration of Android at Google I/O 2014.  It was shrouded with mysteries, the Internet was a buzzed with conspiracy theories on the next name of Android. From Lemon Drop to Lemon Meringue Pie to even Lasagne. The developer preview was also dropped the same week and people flooded the forums and social media with bug reports. After months of keeping us in suspense, Google finally told us what “Android L” is. Which all of you know now to be Lollipop.

 
Google also stopped all speculation and announced the most awaited Nexus. The Nexus 6, Nexus 9, Nexus Player was shown to the public for the first time, Not only that, Google gave us another developer preview of Lollipop for the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7(2013) Wi-Fi variant. I have been using Lollipop for a couple of days now on my Nexus 7, so, here are my thoughts on the next iteration of Android.

Disclaimer: I am only reviewing the stock setup with official Google Apps from the play store. I WILL NOT talk about the leaked Google Apps provided by Android Police to give a fair judgement of this entire review. Also there is something critical to note, I do not have a Nexus 5, therefore, there will be some features I am unable to talk about, like the flash light toggle in the Quick Settings toggle.Also note that I found tons of weird spacing throughout the preview. This IS A PREVIEW, the final build may change and I really hope Google change those design bugs.

Setup

The initial setup has been greatly improved a lot. It looks cleaner and brighter now as compared previously to Google’s dark scheme.

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Google did warn of us that this is a preview image and it is not final yet.

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Although, I do have bad design element on my Nexus 7.

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Sorry Google, this isn’t cool. The words “proxy” and “settings” aren’t even on the same line.

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There is a new feature called “Tap & Go” on Lollipop. This feature meant that you could restore settings from your other NFC-enabled devices just by tapping against each other. I do have to admit, I had issues with this. It doesn’t work on my Nexus at all. I tapped it against my i9505 running GPE and nothing happens, no tone or even a slightest indication that something is happening. Then I tried my mum’s i9505 running the latest stock, and nope, doesn’t work. I tried it on my brother’s i9305 Omni, nope, it doesn’t work. I gave up after looking like a idiot bumping all the devices against each other. Let’s hope Google fixed the issue. But I do read report from other users stating that they had no issues, maybe just my luck.

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It was about time for Google to implement 2 factor login without me keying my email address and password twice. This is quite a huge welcome feature as it is quite frustrating for me (and probably others) to have to key in my credentials twice just to receive my 2 factor authentication code. With Lollipop, keying your credentials once is enough.

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On Lollipop, you can choose to restore your apps from previous settings. This feature has been requested quite some time already but Google could not implement such said feature as it is challenging since Android is quite diverse in terms of hardware and software and there might be incompatibility. This is a great feature for users who change their devices regularly or people who are into flashing ROMs all the time. Previously, you cannot choose which apps you want to restore and there will be some tablet apps that you would not want to be installed on your phone installed. Now, you can even choose which apps you want to restore.

Time to roll!

The system image that Google provided was sparse with apps and it does not comes with Google’s full suite of apps, only its Play store,Camera and Search came with the system image. It is said that this is so because this is considered an “AOSP release” which means, Google does not want it to be filled with it’s own proprietary apps yet. But it does not makes sense to me as there are already proprietary apps in it. I find it strange that Google does not provide it’s own suite of apps on a near-release software but does so on it’s half-baked software(first developer preview).

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There quite a few changes of icon from Kitkat. The contacts, downloads, calculator, email, settings and clock icons were changed. Fun fact: the contacts icon no longer has Lorem Ipsum, could it be Google finally thought of a icon? For those who don’t know what Lorem Ipsum is, it is a Latin word for “placeholder”.

Nav Bar

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left:Lollipop Nav Bar         Right: Pre-Lollipop Nav Bar

First major change everyone will notice is the Nav Bar. Gone are the days when the Nav Bar shows a nice back arrow, a home icon and two squares to represent recents menu. The triangle represents a back button, the circle represents a home button and the square represents I am not pleased with the change as it looks like…..the buttons on a Play Station controller.To each his own.

           Do not disturb mode

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There is a new feature called “Do not disturb” mode. With this feature enabled, you would be able to disable notifications for a period of time or indefinitely. Useful for people who wants to work in peace without putting your phone in airplane mode and yet able to receive calls and SMS, since you are able to choose if you would like to receive priority notifications or no notifications at all.

Display settings

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There is a change in display settings. As you can see from the above screenshot, the options are no longer as simple as “Auto rotate” or “Lock rotation”. Perhaps this is much more helpful as this gives much more details on what rotation means. This change is also reflected in the Quick Settings toggle.

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Now, in the Quick Settings toggle, it is called “Portrait” and “Auto-rotate”. I guess this makes sense here for my tablet as it is meant to be viewed in portrait style. There could be an option for the Nexus 10 to be in “landscape”. As the Nexus 10 is designed to be used in landscape.

Quick settings toggle

As seen from the screenshot above, the QS toggles have gone through a drastic change. Instead of having to pull down the notification shade and tap on a button or using two fingers to pull the notification to access the QS toggles or swiping to your left and right to access either panel or swiping from the right side of the notification bar(for tablets), Google decided that we have to swipe twice now to access the toggles. First swipe gives you your usual notifications and the second swipe gives you the toggles. This makes the process much more tedious but your mileage may vary. But, you get the option to interact with QS and read your notifications. With Lollipop, you don’t have to select the brightness toggle to adjust your brightness, there is a slider the moment you access the QS toggles, giving you one less tap to adjust your brightness.There is also a new toggle called “cast screen” which is used to cast whatever your screen to the Chromecast and the upcoming Nexus Player. That is one annoying toggle that I would wish to get rid of since I do not need and have no intention of having a Chromecast or Nexus Player. Currently, I am using my computer to stream whatever songs/movies/pictures to my Xbox 360. This leads me to another point, Android is all about customisation, why can’t Google allow me to customise the QS toggles? I want the sync toggle, get rid of airplane mode toggle( since pressing the power button also has airplane mode toggle) and much more others. Google prided Android as being able to customise the heck out of it, but this is quite a step backwards. The clear all notification button has moved down to the bottom right of the notification bar. Previously, the button is on the top right edge of the screen, which means, you have to stretch your thumb to reach it. As tablets and phablets becoming a common place, it is sensible to not having to stretch your thumb to the other end of the screen to clear all notifications at once. I do notice that the clear all button do not appear when there is only 1 notification, which is a change from pre-4.4. On pre-4.4, the clear all button is there even if there is one notification to be cleared. Since there is only one notification, it is as easy as swiping once away once right? Do we need a clear all button? Google did a lot of nice UX decision in updating the SystemUI.

Developer Options

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There are a lot more options in Developer options now. I am excited about the Nuplayer as a lot of apps have widgets that don’t respond  or music will stop and stutter or gapless playback  doesn’t work perfectly. This makes the iPhone a much more superior advantage, now, with Android moving away from Awesome player, I hope this can fix the above mentioned issue. I will be testing this feature out and will keep you guys updated either on Twitter or Google+. So stay tune on our social media.

Easter Eggs

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Google loves hiding Easter Egg in Android builds. This tradition dates back to Gingerbread. Ever since then, people are always excited about Google’s latest Easter Egg. Tapping on the Lollipop changes it’s colour and I have made a gif on the colour changes. Of course, there are much more colours, but that requires me to tap again and again, leaving me no time for this review. (heh)

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Oh Google….You hid a game in the Easter Egg now? That’s right, you heard it right, Google have a flappy-bird rip off as an Easter Egg, although it is just a gimmick that just dies down after some time.

Google Apps

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Google has finally tinted the status bar while inside the Play Store. Although it is tinted on a few screens, namely, the update screen, every Play Store sections from Games to Apps to Newsstand to Music. The update progress bar has a new animation, ok, to be honest, up to this point, I have to say this. Lollipop has way too much animations and transitions effects, sure it looks pleasing and nice, but remember iOS 7? People were complaining about the over-usage of animations.

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Google Search has been bought to the recents menu too. There is this search bar available at the top. But this brought me to another point, why have this search bar here? Why Google? Does it have any significance? Accessing search can be easy as swiping up from home button on the nav bar. On devices that does not have the software buttons, long pressing the hardware menu button does the job too. This is just another attempt from Google to force its search services to you which no doubt disgusts me a lot. Speaking about the recent menu,the cards UI looks beautiful and it persists between reboots preventing you to not lose your work between reboots. Better productivity perhaps. It should be noted that Chrome tabs now appear on the recents screen.

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P.S. I am unable to get chrome tabs showing up in recents menu on  my Nexus 7 running Chrome beta.

Google Now also has new icons inside the app and is now lighter and cleaner. There is now a hamburger menu inside the search bar. Inside, we have options to select the reminders, customization, the settings and help shortcuts. Just in case you didn’t notice, the overflow menu has been moved from inside the card to now on top of the card. Previously, saying “OK Google” from any app will result in Google Now doing a solid overlay covering the screen, but now, you will have a semi-transparent overlay covering your current app.

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Take a look at Google’s new Google Now launcher. It now has white overlay background laying on top of your current wallpaper.

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Battery saver mode

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There is this new feature in the settings screen called “Battery Saver”. Yup, it does what it claims to be save battery. Google promises that this feature could extend your battery life by 90 mins. But turning on results in your status bar and nav bar turning orange. It also disables almost every animations and transitions effects.

Android beam

Android Beam was announced when Android 4.0 was released. Since then, not so much changes has taken place, however, now, there is a subtle change to the icon! Yay! Ok, this isn’t the only change, with Lollipop, you can transfer any files using NFC! Previously, it is very limited in what you can do;sending pictures, sending URL,etcs.

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More spacing disasters!

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As you can see, the text “Password” and “Identity” isn’t on the same line as it’s other characters. It looks really bad for UX design. The same happens earlier with the setup screen remember? What I suggest to Google is to shorten the text field. It’s way too long, which makes the characters appear like that.

 

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This really warrants Google to do some soul searching. It spend so much time and effort to design such a beautiful OS only to be destroyed by some weird formatting issues. Such a jarring error that one of our editor, Vardan, gave a “Dafuq” when I showed him the screenshot.

Previously saved SSID are no longer visible!

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With Lollipop, previously SSID that was saved are no longer visible to the end user. The only visible thing is the SSID that are in range. Nice feature to have to those who have tons of SSIDs saved and want to keep this screen clutter-free(not that you will see this screen frequently anyway). But to some, it is a bad idea, users are no longer able to tell which SSIDs were previously saved and may cause confusion to some. But fear not! In the overflow button, there is option that says “Saved Network”. Click on that and now you have all previously saved SSIDs settings.

New share UI

The share dialog now appears at the bottom of the screen instead of doing a full overlay over the screen. Personally, I do not like this as the menu is now smaller and I have to scroll more to click on the option I wanted.

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Smart Lock

A new feature called “Smart Unlock” allows you to disable lock screen password when your device is connected to a Bluetooth device or when a NFC tag that you the device recognizes is tapped against it. With the influx of wearables in the market, having the Smart Unlock helps save a lot of time fiddling with passwords since we are already near the device so why need to lock it? Only when the Bluetooth device(also known as Trusted Device) disconnects(presumably leaving the device’s connectivity range), the lock screen password kicks in again.

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The preview is quite stable, just needs a little touch up in the UX. Hopefully, they fix it in the final release. That’s all folks! Any features that I might missed out or questions? Hit the comments down below!

Daniel Quah

18 Year old dude, who loves cat and tech