Android Lollipop vs. Android KitKat: New Features & Material Design Explored

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Ah, Google Android, “from tiny acorns” and all that; the platform has gone from some pretty humble beginnings to one of the dominant mobile platforms in the smartphone and tablet space. And the future is even more diverse, the recent Google I/O 2015 showcase revealed more of Google’s ambitions to embed Android into many more connected devices via the Internet of Things and “smart” homes, vehicles, appliances and so on.

The platform has gone through several major revamps since its first baby steps, but to date Android Lollipop (version 5.0) has by far been the most signficant. By the time Lollipop rocked up Android had been around for a while and could boast a vast content, app, and game library via Google Play, backed up by legions of developers. Lollipop saw that entire block of heritage get a fresh new face; Material Design, an entirely new aesthetic but one which isn’t just skin deep – it actually impacts how the user interacts with the platform.

On top of this, Lollipop has way more support for sophisticated technology and features, including 64-bit system architecture to keep things bang up-to-date.

The first wave of updates is now in full swing with Motorola and Samsung confirming release schedules for all of the 2013/14 hardware. We covered the wider plans of HTC, LG and Sony inside our Where’s My Lollipop feature, which is updated regularly with news about update scheduling and rollouts. 

Apple’s recent earnings call is stuff of legend. The company made more money in three months than Tesco has made in the past 10 years. Impressive don’t cut it; Apple is making cash like nobody else on the planet. 

Android Lollipop Review –– Extract

Here’s an extract from our full Android Lollipop Review:

“Google promised big things with Android 5.0, and on the whole it has delivered. The new Material Design means that Android isn’t second-best to Apple’s iOS when it comes to appearance, and a vastly enhanced notification system makes it easier than ever to keep track of things. Other new features, such as Smart Lock, User accounts and App pinning, come in very handy too, and we’re sure to see them copied elsewhere. 

“One thing we did notice running the software on the Nexus 5 is that there are occasionally stutters and pauses, and the whole experience is arguably less smooth than Android 4.4. This is perhaps not massively surprising, as Google is launching the shiny new Nexus 6 alongside its latest OS.

“Minor grumbles aside, Android 5.0 has changed the game – again. Google’s titanic struggle with Apple goes on regardless, but for the time being, it’s Android, which should be considered the mobile OS to beat. Android 5.0 is packed with functionality, boasts impressive customisation options and increased security. It really is one of the most impressive –– and satisfying –– updates I’ve ever tested.” 

But it’s not just Apple that has something to brag about in Q1 2015. Nope! Google does too, after its Android platform hit the ONE BILLION shipment mark. We just received word from Strategy Analytics that one billion Android smartphones were shipped in 2014 –– the first time for any mobile platform. 

Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “Android shipped 1.0 billion smartphones worldwide in 2014, rising from 0.8 billion units in 2013. Android has become the first ever smartphone operating system to ship more than 1 billion units in a single year. Android accounted for a huge 81 percent share of all smartphones shipped globally in 2014, and Apple iOS remains its only serious threat for now. Apple iOS shipped 192.7 million smartphones worldwide in 2014, capturing 15 percent share. The new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models have recently re-energized Apple’s growth and their bigger-screen designs have swiftly gained traction among wealthy consumers.”

The Android Lollipop update itself is massive and, if you’re running a Motorola or Nexus device, you will see it in all its glory. Mercifully, a lot of Android’s BIG players have began toning down their custom skins in view of Lollipop. The most notable, however, is Samsung which confirmed plans to make TouchWiz aboard the Galaxy S6 more like the UX found on Google’s Nexus 6. 

The BIG deal with Android Lollipop, or, the thing most people, providing they’re running a handset with a stock Android UX, is Material Design –– Google’s end-to-end redesign of Android from the ground up. It’s a huge visual change that’s packed with tons of new features and improvements. We detailed a selection of Android Lollipop’s Best New Features. And There’s loads more beneath the hood waiting to be discovered too.  

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Android Wear is also a pretty significant addition to the Android fold too, and Google has made developing apps for wearables as easy as possible. At launch, Google confirmed developers would able to easily rejigg their applications with simple coding to leverage the growing number of wearable devices running Android Wear.

Google just pushed out the first major update to Android Lollipop. Called Android Lollipop version 5.1, the update was released with ZERO fanfare and just sort of happened. Initially targeted at Android One handsets, 5.1 is believed to bring with it plenty of updates and tweaks –– though most will live in the back end. 

Not much is known about the update itself, officially, anyways, but Android Pit has done some digging and uncovered specific build numbers for the Nexus 5, Nexus 9 and Nexus 6, which are as follows:

  • Android 5.1; Nexus 5 Build/LMY29C
  • Android 5.1; Nexus 9 Build/LMY22E
  • Android 5.1; Nexus 6 Build/LMY22E

Google didn’t publish a changelog but multiple reports now claim this update is the one we heard about late last year. That update was scheduled for a release in February and featured the following tweaks, updates and changes: 

  • Silent mode added after missing on Android 5.0
  • General improvements in system stability
  • Improved RAM management
  • Fixes for sudden app closures
  • Improved battery management
  • Excessive consumption of network devices when used Wi-Fi fixed
  • Issues with wireless connections fixed
  • Problems with Okay Google function solved
  • Notifications problems solved
  • Some sound problems experience [sic] by certain devices fixed
  • Other improvements and changes
  • Changes in the Material Design color palette (after users complaints, possibly for a higher version though)

Android One will come to Indonesia later this month, and with the launch comes an Indonesian-specific version of the Android One site. If you read it closely, you’ll see the site mention—over and over—”Android 5.1 Lollipop.” The latest version of Android is 5.0.1 or 5.0.2, depending on your device, so “5.1” comes as a surprise,” reports Ars Technica.

This move should ensure there are tons of applications and content available on wearable devices like the LG G Watch, Moto 360 and Samsung Gear Live once they become more prevalent later on this quarter. Google I/O 2014 was certainly a memorable one, and if you want to know how Android Lollipop shapes up against Android 4.4? Look no further – we’re putting them head-to-head. 

Android 5.0 Lollipop vs. Android KitKat: Design

The big news regarding Android Lollipop is the fresh look, dubbed “Material” by Google. While there are some similarities between Material and the look of “stock” Android KitKat, the designers at Mountain View are clearly forging a new path here, in purely aesthetic terms. 

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The flatness seen in KitKat is still present and correct, but it comes with a twist: realism. Animation is going to play a big part in the new design, and Android Lollipop will adopt real-time shadows to give its interface more depth and make it look a little more dynamic. The shadows are there because Android Lollipop will make much more use of layers in the UI, allowing developers to do all kinds of visual customisation within their apps.

Another big change is that the famous Android “soft” buttons have been given a face lift, and look even more stylish than before – even if they do call to mind the symbols we used to see on our old VCR players. Android Lollipop is clearly an update on the existing KitKat style, but Google is embellishing it with new visual tricks to make things even more alluring. From what we’ve seen, it strikes us as massive improvement over the often flat and uninspiring Android 4.4.

Android 5.0 Lollipop vs. Android KitKat: Battery Life

Project Butter was Google’s way of making Android feel smoother and slicker, and now the company has revealed Project Volta – a system which will provide developers with a better means of determining what elements of their apps are draining battery at an unnecessary rate. Because Volta will open up the battery stats to devs, they can tinker with their code to make apps more efficient and spot potential problem areas.

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Android Lollipop will also take a leaf out of HTC and Samsung’s books by coming with a battery saving mode by default. This will help users get as much mileage out of each charge as possible by throttling certain functions when juice is low. Such improvements will ensure that Android L is leaps and bounds ahead of KitKat, at least on most devices, which only offers the most basic stats on what process is gobbling up the most power.

“When it comes to endurance,” reports GSM Arena, “the Samsung Galaxy S5 has 83 hours of standby time on Lollipop, up 11 hours from the 72 hours of standby time on KitKat. The HTC One (M8) received a six-hour boost from the update, as its standby time rose from 71 hours on KitKat to 77 hours on Lollipop. However, the LG G3 saw its standby time drop six hours, from 69 on KitKat to 63 on Lollipop. The Nexus 5 saw its standby time dip two hours, from 40 hours on KitKat to 38 hours on Lollipop.”

Android 5.0 L vs. Android KitKat: Security

Google has made massive strides with Android when it comes to overall security, coming up with innovations such as pattern unlocks and facial recognition. KitKat didn’t bring much new to the table in this respect, but it worked well enough. Android Lollipop’s big advance is going to be about making security more convenient, and it will do this using two methods: Android Wear and your current location.

In the first case, you can use your shiny new Android smartwatch as an authentication tool to automatically bypass your phone’s passcode when it detects the watch nearby. In the second example, you can designate safe zones – your home, for example – where your phone will switch off your lock code. While both of these features could potentially create a security risk, if someone steals your phone and your smartwatch, they have access to all of your personal data, for instance, but they will overcome the irksome issue of having to continually unlock your device every few minutes.

Android 5.0 L vs. Android KitKat: Notifications 

Notifications have been Android’s strong suit since day one, and Google is making them even better in Android Lollipop. The big change here is that they’re being integrated into the lock screen – something Google previously experimented with when it developed lock screen widgets which allowed you to view emails and events without actually unlocking your phone.

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As well as making notifications the first thing you see when you pick up your handset, Google is working on making them smarter when the phone is in active use. For example, in KitKat a call would totally interrupt whatever activity you were involved in, be it reading a book, browsing your emails or playing a game. In Android Lollipop, events such as these will pop up at the top of the screen, a la Samsung’s Galaxy S5, meaning you can choose to jump to that event or ignore it with a quick tap without leaving your current task.

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Compared to Android 4.4, notifications are going to be smarter, more intuitive and less intrusive than before. KitKat’s notifications system is decent enough, but it was basically recycling what had come before, so it’s good to see some out-of-the-box thinking from Google in this respect.

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