Google, making it sweet with Lollipop

Published: November 23, 2014
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Everything flows like butter with those gorgeous animations which take you all the way from the point of touch to the point of action. PHOTO: GOOGLE.COM

Google unveiled its new 5.0 also known as Lollipop at its I/O in July, this year. The reception was amazing and like many others I could not wait to give it a hands-on trial. Finally on November 2, Google released the source code for Lollipop and so began the race between Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to roll-out updates.

As most OEMs would take three months to rollout the update, Nexus and Google Play edition devices have the edge of being first in line and receiving the update within days.

I have been using Lollipop for a few days now and it’s amazing. Google has long been the ugly duckling and they had this ‘we don’t care what people think about us’ attitude but the new design methodology and designing ethics under the ‘material design’ idea proves that Google has moved on from that attitude.

The new material design is sweet, smooth and pretty. Everything flows like butter with those gorgeous animations which take you all the way from the point of touch to the point of action. Material design is by far the best thing that has happened to Android.

Everything is now flatter and smoothed out. It feels as if Google has moved on from the shady college years and become this mature young adult who just got his first job. So you see a lot of maturity.

Photo: Hassam Tahir

This is Google’s stock version of Lollipop – basically the Google Now launcher. The first thing you notice is that everything has become lighter from the earlier darker themes; so it will take some time to get used to it.

A lot of developers are still working on adopting the new material design. Social networking apps such as Twitter and Tumblr have also been updated to the new design methodology. Google now has to work on this further. As of now we don’t know how Google will convince developers to follow their ethics as they can’t enforce it because that would go against their new slogan ‘All together, not the same’.

Photo: Hassam Tahir

Google has partnered with some developers to bring this consistency in design and animation.

The apps in the pictures above are some of the updated ones that are using the methodology and everything looks nice, clean and consistent. The notification bar can now change colours according to the app. This, however, does not seem to work in all apps yet. The cleaner look has its disadvantages as well like the upper border of the apps look bigger now and it seems as if they are wasting too much screen real estate. Also, there is less information is now shown so I do believe they could have easily fit in two more message threads in apps.

Taking a look at the image below you will realise that two extra threads could easily have been placed in the SMS app, which can be annoying.

Photo: Hassam Tahir

The stock app has improved vastly and now has blocking and archiving tools by default.

The next thing that has significantly changed are the notifications and lock screen. Notifications had always been a strong point in favour of Android but had been lagging behind in recent times. It takes the lead once again with Lollipop. We have an all new notification bar which is transparent and double finger swipe brings in the power options. Power options are the same, except for cast screen and flashlight which weren’t available before as a power option

The lock screen now shows your notifications, they are intractable and you can dismiss them or just swipe down to have look at them. This concept has been adopted from Apple’s iOS. Although there weren’t any system settings for this, by adding widgets third party apps do bring notifications to your lock screen.

Speaking of widgets, you can no longer add them to the home screen; this was one of those distinguishing features between Android and Apple products – the feature will definitely be missed.

Photo: Hassam Tahir

Lollipop now uses ‘smart notifications’, showing you the most important notifications first. It’s basically a ranking of notifications based on your priorities. You can also manually set priority apps for notifications.

There are also these new ‘interruptions’ settings under which there is the ‘priority mood’ which you can turn on indefinitely or for a specified time or for a pre-set day and time (which could be recurring) and notifications only from your priority apps will be displayed. Also you can shutoff notifications completely under the same settings.

They also introduced this ‘heads-up notification’ which shows you the notification without you leaving any app or going through the notification bar and you can interact with the notification there. This also works during calls, so if you are playing a game you won’t be disturbed by a ‘phone call receiving screen’ but get a heads up notification.

Photo: Hassam Tahir

We also have new multitasking panels – in the form of cards, and this lets you close apps by swiping left or right.

Lollipop also has a new keyboard, with better and precise predictive texting.

There is also a new ‘users’ functions for people who share their phones. Each user can use the phone and install his or her own set of apps onto it without affecting the other user’s apps. The device administrator can set limitations for other users. The guest account is populated by default. This feature however is more useful on tablets because phones are not normally shared between people. What I noticed, however, was that it takes quite a while to shift between users and the user cannot be logged off unless you restart your phone.

Lollipop is an effective new software that every Android user should use to see what new things Google has to offer. Sure, it might take you some time to get a hang of it, but it’s worth the trouble!

Hassam Tahir

Hassam Tahir

A chartered accountant in training, working at PricewaterhouseCoopers, who has recently discovered his love for blogging. He tweets @hassamt (twitter.com/hassamt )

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.