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Android 5.0 deep-dive review: Exploring Lollipop's many layers

JR Raphael | Nov. 17, 2014
Google's Android 5.0 Lollipop release is all about the platform's move into maturity.

Everything has been recreated to match the Lollipop look, right down to the Contacts (formerly known as "People") and Downloads apps — although curiously, in the case of the latter, I'm seeing a version of the app on my Nexus 6 review unit that doesn't quite match the one on my Nexus 9. Given that the Nexus 9 received a software update prior to its consumer launch, I'm guessing that the Nexus 6 will soon be brought up to parity.

The visual overhaul isn't just within Android itself, either; it's across Google as a whole. Though the desktop evolution is still underway, Material Design has slowly but surely been creeping into Google's various apps and services for a while. The same style from Lollipop can already be seen in places like the Web-based apps for Google Docs and Sheets. Standalone Android apps like Gmail are being updated bit by bit to reflect the new vibe as well.

The first taste of Lollipop

From the get-go, Lollipop feels warm and inviting. The software's new setup procedure makes the typically tedious process of moving into a new device delightfully simple. Signing into a Google account with two-factor authentication is finally integrated directly into the OS, as are the introduction and opt-in to Google Now — which makes both features feel like parts of the operating system instead of tacked-on additions, as they did in the past.

And while Android has always given you the option to restore your apps and basic system settings, Lollipop gives you more control over the process and makes it easier to understand. When you start up a new Lollipop device, the system shows you a list of other Android devices that you've recently used. You can select any one of those devices and choose from which you want to pull apps and settings — and you can then select either to restore all apps that were installed on that device or to cherry-pick only certain titles.

If you want, you can also opt to physically tap another NFC-enabled Android device against the new one and have all the accounts, apps and app data from it copied over that way. It's not entirely clear how useful the "app data" element of that will be in practice — when I tested it, I still had to sign into each individual app and none of my in-app preferences seemed to carry over — but it's apparently something that requires developer-enabled support to function, so perhaps it'll become more relevant over time.

The Lollipop lock screen

Android's lock screen serves as your gate into your phone or tablet — and with Lollipop, it gains a whole new level of power.


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