Android Lollipop review
Lollipop is the fifth version of Android and it's the biggest update yet. Visually, it's much more different than the update from Ice Cream Sandwich to KitKat. Here's our Android Lollipop review.
Along with the new 'Material design language' Google has made quite a few tweaks to the interface and added some genuinely useful features.
We've based this review on a near-final version of Lollipop running on a Google Nexus 5 and the release version running on a Nexus 9, so it covers both smartphones and tablets.
Android Lollipop review: Material Design
Although existing Android users will be right at home with Lollipop, there's a new flatter look which Google calls Material. It isn't just a makeover with some new colours and icons. No, Lollipop represents the biggest Android update ever. Material design offers a much more coherent and consistent experience. Animations start from wherever you tap, and action buttons are highlighted in bold colours. It's exactly the same principle developers use to make their apps feel native on iOS or Windows Phone but from what we've seen so far, Lollipop is the winner in terms of design focus.
Material isn't limited to Android, either. You'll see it in the Google Play store, on Chromebooks and Google Wear smartwatches so if you'll get a consistent, familiar experience if you buy other Google devices.
As well as bright colours, Google talks of 'meaningful transitions' and 'responsive interaction'. Mostly, the changes in interactions are subtle, but even if you barely notice them the new animations and effects do help you feel in control of what’s going on.
Floating buttons mean controls can be ever present in an app, instead of forcing you to go to a different menu to find controls and options.
For example, in the Contacts app there's a floating 'Add new contact' button which stays in the corner even when you swipe between Favourites and All contacts. Similarly, in the Dialler app, the keypad button floats at the bottom of the screen when you switch views between Speed Dial, Recents and Contacts.
The design isn't completely flat. There's judicious use of drop shadows where menus scroll behind titles and to delineate items in a list.
A change that may not be as popular is the redesign of the three 'Android' soft buttons at the bottom of the screen. Not only are the new shape icons meaningless to new users, they're also smaller. Samsung, Sony, HTC and others will likely change these in their overlays but phones and tablets which run plain Android will have to keep them.
Naturally, app developers can use Google's SDK to build their apps with Material design.
Next section: Android Lollipop review: Notifications