Google just announced the release of the latest version of Android. It's called Android Lollipop and, boy, is it pretty. There's a lot more to the updated operating system than a flashy look-and-feel powered by the new Material Design interface, though. Android Lollipop is also a powerhouse.
Google describes Lollipop as its "largest, most ambitious release on Android". The company touts its flexibility and says it wants Lollipop to excel across multiple platforms. While the new Android release hits at the same time as three brand new Google-designed devices, the slick operating system is actually designed to work even on entry-level devices, as it's capable of running on just 512-megabytes of memory. It's a push that started way back with KitKat, and is continuing on to make sure Material Design's slickest features should work on low-end devices, too. This ensures that the Chinese and Indian markets don't miss out on the best features and that Android devices everywhere can look and feel the same.
The operating system is also very much tuned to the post-Snowden era, since it comes with encryption on by default. It also features the ability to switch between different user profiles on the same phone, which is a nice little feature for parents who want to let their kids use their phones without them read their text messages.You can even pin a particular screen so that the guest can access that content but nothing else. Finally, a new Android Smart Lock feature also lets you unlock a device with a smartwatch, car, or even facial expressions.
That idea of quick, easy switching works across various devices as well. Lollipop is designed to make moving from one Android device to another a completely seamless experience. These features will even work with the Nexus Player, the first official Android TV. So you could start watching one movie on the Nexus Player, switch to a Nexus tablet when walking around your house, and then pick up where you left off as you head out the door with your Nexus phone. It's a lot like Apple's OS X Yosemite feature, Handoff.
Speaking of flexibility, Android Lollipop doesn't disappoint when it comes to the ability to customise new features like notifications on the lock screen. While these have been available for ages on iOS, Android is expanding its previous lock-screen widgetry to notifications as well, offering characteristically impressive level of control.
You can pick what apps and people generate notifications, because you may not be interested in being interrupted at dinner by a notification from your friend from university, but you do want to know if your mum calls. This new level of flexibility is called Priority mode and can be triggered with the device's volume button.
Otherwise, notifications will be ranked on your Lockscreen depending on the type of communication and who's sending it. Gamers will also be glad to know that an incoming call will no longer interrupt gameplay. Instead, a notification will pop up on the top of the screen to be dealt with at your discretion. This is all to say, you can more easily make your device do what you want it to do with Android Lollipop.
All that said, Material design and all the 3D-interaction is still a pretty exciting addition to the Android ecosystem. The innovative new standard primarily standardizes and simplifies the Android UI, but it also takes an innovative approach to how design should work across multiples devices. Material design operates on several layers with animations, shadows, and effects that mimic the behavior of real material. That kind of three-dimensionality is geared towards making Android design as useful on a smartwatch as it is on a tablet.
Android Lollipop comes with all three new Nexus products—the Nexus 6, the Nexus 9, and the Nexus Player—which hit shops in November. From there, expect individual networks to roll out their own Lollipop-powered devices in the months that follow.