The wait is finally over. Google has announced Android L (‘Lollipop’), along with the devices it would launch on. In what follows, we have analyzed the various facets of the new Android platform and the supported gadgets.
It won’t be ‘Lime Meringue Pie’ after all. On Wednesday, Google unveiled the latest version of its Android mobile OS – the Android 5.0 Lollipop – putting an end to months of speculation regarding what ‘Android L’ would stand for. The three devices on which the new platform would debut were also showcased (two of them were expected, the third was a bit of a surprise). Let us do a roundup of everything new related to Android that happened a couple of days back:
- Biggest update since Ice Cream Sandwich – Lollipop is the most significant OS update for Android, after the launch of Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0), nearly three years back. Material design is one of the biggest overhauls that the engineers have gone for in the new platform – to provide Android-users a more intuitive experience than ever before. There would be greater uniformity about the features of the software across devices powered by Lollipop.
- Arrival of new Nexus phone and tablet – Motorola Nexus 6 will be the very first smartphone in the world to run on Android 5.0 Lollipop. The handset has a 6” inch screen with hi-res display, and would be available from next month (the exact date has not yet been specified). It is expected that other Motorola devices, including the two Moto X phones, will get the new update soon. Pre-ordering for the first Android L tablet, HTC Nexus 9, starts today, with shipments starting from the 3rd of November. Interestingly, this is the very first Nexus device from HTC after the first-edition Nexus One.
- Availability on other handsets – Android Lollipop will gradually be rolled out to other phones over the next few months. The new Samsung Galaxy phones are almost sure to get it – albeit at a slightly later date (Samsung always brings new Android updates relatively late). LG G3 would probably be the first smartphone after the Nexus devices to get the Android L upgrade. There is an outside chance of G2 phones getting the upgrade option as well. HTC One M7 and M8 will be getting the update within 90 days. Among the Sony smartphones, users of Xperia Z2 are certain to get the option to move to Lollipop the earliest. It would be rolled out to all the three Android One phones too. Nexus 4, 5 and 7 users will be able to upgrade their phones, of course.
- The price points – Nexus 6 is being hyped up as a prime challenger of iPhone 6 Plus (note the 6” screen as opposed to the 5” display that Nexus 5 had). Google has priced the new phone at $649 (off-contract) – a whopping $300 more than its predecessor. The price tag of the 8.9” Nexus 9 tablet (a direct challenger of iPad Air) will be $399. The official release from Google has confirmed the leaks and and pre-release rumors in Android app communities that the tablet would be compatible with the 4G LTE framework. The 32 GB 4G LTE version would probably cost more than $550.
- Arrival of Android TV – Now, for the surprise. The third device on which Android 5.0 is debuting is the world’s first Android TV – the Nexus Player. It will have high-end streaming features, and would have a user-friendly graphical user interface (GUI). Content syncing across devices is a major point about Nexus Player (you start watching a video on it, and finish viewing it on your Nexus phone). The gadget will also be compatible with Google Cast, and it will come with a game controller (optional) and remote handling feature. Priced at $99, the Nexus Player is a worthy challenger to both Roku and Apple TV.
- Promise of a better battery performance – Something that every smartphone user craves for. According to Google, devices running on Android L will have around 90 minutes of extra battery juice – thanks to the presence of the all-new battery-saver mode. There is a question mark over how this mode might affect the functionality of the phones/tablets though. Nexus 6 comes with a powerful, quick-charging 3220 mAh battery. Finally, a reason to not tag along the phone charger everywhere?
- A larger stack of APIs – The thing that has got Android app developers from all over really excited. There are nearly 5000 new APIs in Android 5.0 for mobile app developers to play around with. Making apps and games for the new Android platform is also likely to be easier, due to the portability feature of practically all forms of content (images, videos and audio files) across different devices. The developer previews of Android L had received rave reviews from tech geeks over the last few months.
- Carrier support – Hesitant to fork out $649 for the new Motorola Nexus 6? Don’t worry – you can get it with a contract at a much lower price – from leading carriers like T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint. US Cellular and Verizon will also be offering Nexus 6 at discounted contract prices. Motorola Mobility will be having Android L handsets as well. Installment payment plans for both Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 would be present.
- The security factor – Google has ramped up the game, as far as the security features of Android L are concerned. Smart Lock has arrived as an in-built part of the mobile OS (it was earlier available on select Motorola handsets). This means, people would be able to unlock their Lollipop-powered phones via their Android smartwatches, Bluetooth earphones, and similar other accessories. To prevent misuse of stolen Android L devices, the option to reset phone settings to factory defaults has been made more complicated. Users will be able to disable their phones remotely as well. This feature is called Factor Reset Protection (compliant with the upcoming kill-switch law, California).
- The date of the release – The arrival of Android Lollipop might have happened a week or so later, if an Apple event had not been scheduled on October 16. With the new iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 being two of the top releases during that event (along with OS X Yosemite), Google decided to launch its new Android platform a day earlier. The only factor is – the new Nexus devices will have to play the catch-up game with iPhone 6/6Plus, which started shipping about a month ago.
- Tech specs of the new devices – In addition to the 8.9” display screen, HTC Nexus 9 boasts of a maximum display resolution of 2048×1536 pixels. The crystal-clear display is certain to encourage experts from Android app development companies to make newer, more intuitive apps that make the most of the improved phone graphics. The tablet runs on a 2.3 GHz camera, and has a 8-MP camera (with a 2 MP front camera). The battery (6700 mAh) also impresses.
The Motorola Nexus 6 phone, on the other hand, has a 13 MP rear camera and a 2 MP ‘selfie’ camera. The speed of the device is likely to be good too, thanks to the built-in 2.7 GHz processor. The max display resolution of the 5.96” smartphone is 1440×2560 pixels. The storage capacities would be 32 GB and 64 GB for Nexus 6, and 16 GB and 32 GB for Nexus 9. Google seems to have dropped the 16 GB model from the Nexus line of phones.
The Nexus Player Android TV has a high-speed Intel Atom processor (quad core), and can be easily plugged on to compatible television sets. Vevo, TED and YouTube services are provided by the Player, along with videos from several other vendors. Since the remote is voice-activated, finding specific TV programs and shows is likely to become very quick and easy too. $39 is the price of the game controller that is available with Nexus Player.
12. Recent track record of HTC and Motorola – The choice of Motorola and HTC as the vendors on which the new Nexus phone and tablet will be hosted makes things interesting. HTC had already tried its hand in the Android tablet market with the HTC Flyer – which turned out to be an abject failure. There is also speculation among software analysts and mobile app developers that the existing line of HTC One phones are not doing as well as expected. In such a scenario, the success of Nexus 9 would put the company on a much firmer footing. Its predecessor, the Nexus 5, was an LG product.
The choice of Motorola over Asus (which had the Nexus 7 tablet) for the Nexus 6 phone is even more intriguing. This is the first Nexus handset from the Motorola Stable – which, till now, had only two Android devices – the Xoom and the Droid. Only time would tell if dropping Asus from the Nexus tablet line is a smart decision.
13. Android L will reach both ends of the market – At the lower end of the spectrum, there are the Android One phones, which are priced at sub-$100 levels. On the other end, the price of Nexus 6 is nearly 75% more than that of Nexus 5. For long, there had been a clear demarcation between Android phones (cheaper handsets that everyone could afford) and Apple iPhones (premium, high-priced devices). Android 5.0 Lollipop is Google’s biggest step yet to stake a claim in the higher end of the market.
14. Nexus Player is an Asus product – What Asus has lost in its range of tablets, it has gained in the smart TV tector. Android’s first-ever set-top box will be an Asus gadget, and from first looks, it seems like a handy extension of Chromecast. Apart from videos, the Player would be able to stream games (including 3D games) from paired tablets and phones. The remote does away with the need for a keyboard, to operate this Android TV.
Android 5.0 Lollipop (it was codenamed Android L till 2 days back though!) was unveiled in June this year, during the annual Google I/O event. The formal announcement of the platform, along with the first set of supported devices, has come after a wait of more than four months. The new set of high-priced Nexus devices also opens up the possibility of app developers earning more from Android applications. iOS 8 came out a month back, and after initial troubles, is showing signs of stabilizing. It’s biggest challenger – Android L – has arrived as well. It will be riveting to see which of the two mobile operating systems is able to trump the other!
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