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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.

When you turn your device on, Lollipop shows you the current time and date in the center of the screen. Basic enough, right? What's different, though, is that you'll also see any pending notifications immediately below that — in rectangular cards, just like they'd appear in the Android notification panel (more on that in a moment).

This means you can view things like new emails and text messages right then and there — and you can interact with them, too: Just tap twice on any card to jump directly into its corresponding app or swipe horizontally on it to dismiss it from view. (If you're worried about privacy, there's a setting that lets you hide "sensitive" info — in other words, the actual contents of messages, reminders and so forth — or lets you disable lock-screen notifications altogether anytime the device is locked.)

Suffice it to say, having immediate and interactive access to that type of info is quite handy — and it makes an awful lot of sense. It does, however, come at a cost: First, the customizable lock screen widgets introduced with Android 4.2 are now gone — though I suspect only a small subset of users actually understood and used those. The notifications seem like a more broadly beneficial use of the space.

Second, and potentially more significant, if you use a security pattern, password or PIN on your device, you now have to swipe away the initial lock screen before inputting your code. It's an unavoidable extra step — present even if you disable lock screen notifications — and it's bound to annoy some users.

There are also a few areas where the Lollipop lock screen is just a teensy bit confusing. One is the way the system behaves based on what direction you swipe: If you swipe upward on the lock screen, all of the content is pushed off the top edge of the display and the device unlocks. That seems sensible.

If you swipe downward on the screen, though, you're taken to a full-screen view of all your pending notifications — essentially the same thing you were already looking at, only without the clock. That strikes me as an unexpected and somewhat odd behavior; there are no visual cues indicating that'll happen, and it took me a few minutes of trial and error to figure it out. (My initial assumption was that a swipe in any direction would simply unlock the device.)

The Lollipop lock screen also has a camera icon in its lower-right corner and — provided you're using a phone — a phone icon in its lower left. Based on that visual, my instinct was to try to swipe upwards diagonally from those icons to open their respective apps, but doing so just unlocks the device normally. It turns out you have to swipe horizontally to activate the shortcuts — something that again took experimentation to understand and wasn't immediately clear.


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