On the good ship Lollipop: A sweet week for Android fans

If your sweet tooth was starting to ache when earlier reports emerged that the next Android would be boringly dubbed “Android L”, you can start licking your lips again in anticipation. Android 5.0 has now been officially announced, and it’s been moved back into the tasty treats aisle thanks to its designation as “Lollipop”.

If that wasn’t enough to salivate over, there are also new Nexus devices to sweeten the pot: the Nexus 6 smartphone, the Nexus 9 tablet, and the Nexus Player streaming device.

The launch of Lollipop

We got a sneak peek of Lollipop back at Google IO in June of 2014. One key update was the introduction of “Material Design”, an overhaul to the look and feel of Android that’s designed improve the user experience, and to provide a consistent design language across different devices in the Google lineup…from smartphone to smartwatch to car.

As part of Material Design, there have been tweaks to the onscreen animation, and the typography. There have even been elements of the UI that have been enhances by lighting and shadows (typically the domain of gaming) to provide separation between onscreen elements, as a way of making navigation more obvious.

Lollipop also updates how your notifications work, and is designed to give you greater control over what appears on your lock screen…or on your screen at all for that matter. By adjusting your notification settings, you can filter out all notifications except for contacts you consider a priority. You can also choose to automatically hide sensitive content. These two features are smart choices for business users who don’t want to be interrupted during important pitches, or to inadvertently reveal sensitive information on the lock screen.

All new devices will also ship with encryption automatically turned on, to keep any sensitive data safe, even if your phone or tablet goes walking out the door with an unauthorized user. And as mentioned during the Google IO launch, you can link your device with a smartwatch or other compatible “token” for smart lock/unlock functions.

Of course, there are a ton of other new features, both big and small; you can read more at android.com to see what else has been added/updated.

A new Nexus (or three)

Along with a new version of the operating system, Google has announced a few new hardware treats.

First up is the Nexus 6, built by Motorola. This new Nexus smartphone comes with a whopping 6-inch screen (and you thought the iPhone 6+ was big!), which checks in with a screen resolution of 1440×2560. Inside, there’s a 2.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor, an Adreno GPU, and either 32 or 64 GB of onboard storage. The 6 will ship with a 3220 mAh battery, but will also have some power-saving software onboard as part of Lollipop, which means runtime should be pretty decent. Pricing won’t be cheap though: it’ll start at $749 in Canada if you buy the contract-free version.

There’s also the HTC-built Nexus 9 tablet, which comes with an 2048×1536-resolution 8.9-inch screen (yeah, just shy of 9 inches, but Nexus 8.9 doesn’t sound quite as smooth). The 9 will come with 16 or 32 GB of storage onboard; there’s also an LTE-connected version of the 32 GB model. The tablet will come with the 64-bit Tegra K1 chipset, for better performance. Pricing starts at US$399 (Canadian pricing TBD.) A magnetic snap-on keyboard will be sold separately.

Both the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 will come with Lollipop onboard; the new version of Android will also cascade to a few older models shortly after the new Nexus hardware is available. (Pre-orders for both are mid-to-late October, with delivery starting in November.)

Lastly, there’s the Android TV-powered Nexus Player, which is essentially Google’s version of the AppleTV…with gaming. Designed to attach to your television, the US$99 Google Player can be controlled from a handheld remote, a gamepad (optional, for US$39), or from your compatible Android device, just like a Chromecast device.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Sean Carruthers
Sean Carruthershttp://www.globalhermit.com
Sean Carruthers is a freelance writer, video producer and host based in Toronto, Canada. Most recently, he was a Senior Producer at butterscotch.com, where he was responsible for the conception, writing, production and editing of a number of web video shows, including Lab Rats, How Do I?, Status Update, The Noob, and more.

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