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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.

You can then touch the notification controls to adjust them. They give you the option to toggle between a normal notification mode, a priority-only notification mode and a mode in which no notifications are delivered.

If you select either of the latter two, you're then given the choice to stay in that mode indefinitely or to set a specific amount of time for it to last. Think of it as a "do not disturb" option with the ability either to go fully silent or to allow certain high-priority interruptions through. By default, a high-priority notification includes any alarm, event or reminder; you can expand it to include calls and messages as well — either from anyone or from specifically approved contacts — and you can whitelist entire apps so their notifications are always allowed through.

You can also define recurring periods of time when your phone will automatically shift into priority-only mode — if, for example, you want to keep your phone quiet except for emergency calls or messages overnight.

All in all, the system is powerful but somewhat complex, with lots of settings in different places. Some of it is a little confusing, too, like the fact that the only way to silence your phone in Lollipop is to select the mode in which no notifications are delivered; simply turning the volume down all the way will put your device in a vibrate-only state but won't set it to silent.

If you take the time to learn the system and figure out its nuances, it has a lot of potential — but I do worry it'll be a bit overwhelming at first, particularly for casual users.

Multilayered multitasking

App switching has always been one of Android's strengths — and with Lollipop, the way you multitask gains even more muscle.

Lollipop's Recent Apps command brings a whole new look to multitasking on phones and tablets. When you tap the Recent Apps button — the square icon directly to the right of the Home key — you're now presented with a series of large cards, each of which contains a live thumbnail of a recently used app or process. You can scroll through them and tap one to quickly jump between tasks.

There's a lot more going on here than initially meets the eye, though — namely the fact that Lollipop's Recent Apps tool splits apps apart into numerous standalone pieces, all of which appear individually in the list.

It's a strange concept to wrap your head around, so let me provide a couple of examples. Say you start up Google Drive and open a document to edit within the app. If you tap the Recent Apps key after that, you'll see two new cards — one for Drive and one for the document itself. So you can jump directly to either step.


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