Android is an unstoppable force! Now that I’ve got my sledgehammer statement out and Apple iOS’s ‘recruited and working for free’ warriors are about to decimate me, let me add more blows.
Android now commands more than 82 per cent of the world market. It has, for the first time, taken over the mantle of the most-used OS for all net traffic worldwide. India and China will buy more than 500 million smartphones in 2014 (half of the total sold in 47 key countries) and 90 per cent of them will be Android devices.
By 2018, 1,400 million Android devices will be sold versus 200 million for iOS. Okay, enough baiting, iOS fans. This isn’t about Android versus iOS. This is about Android’s biggest reboot and redesign, ever. Android’s new OS will affect 80 per cent of the world and almost 90 per cent of Indian mobile users. Time to find out if Lollipop is a treat or if it sucks!
The look, feel and design
They call it Material design and it looks unlike any Android ever. It’s white and clean; icons are flat and minimalist with softer edges; translucency has been abandaned for solid colours. The action buttons at the bottom have been redrawn as simple shapes and are pretty much idiot proof.
Overall, it’s a new, lighter, airier, less techie, and more consumer- friendly look. But it’s not stellar or radical or bold – just what the industry is moving to.
Android’s performance for the last few years has been a bit of an oxymoron. Most Android phones have incredible horse power and hardware but are also the most susceptible to lags. Android L promises to change all that.
While under the hood there’s a promise of real change (Android L will support 64-bit processors and also the ART software library, which will apparently get rid of the feeling that your phone has slowed down after a month or two), the real proof will lie in the pudding.
Android currently needs way too much processor power and RAM to function well and that may not change here by too much.
Rating: 7/10 here too
Battery life, or rather the lack of it, is the biggest frustration of the mobile world. And L wages a good battle to change that.
Better performance, intelligent handling of activities that don’t need the phone to come alive, letting developers come up with apps and features that can save power and a battery saving mode that automatically kicks in and can give you 100 minutes or more at 10 per cent battery life. This is a big deal!
Rating: 9/10 here
Guest mode and screen pinning
Need to give your phone away to someone to use a single app (a child to play a game or a friend to use the web)? The chances are that after they are done using the app, they’ll look at more private things on your phone.
Thwart their plans by pinning and locking that app as the only one that can be used on screen. And, if you have to give the phone away for a while, switch to Guest Mode where nothing from your private life is up for analysis by others. Good thinking here.
This was supposed to be the big deal on all systems for a long time, but is not very intuitive or useful. Plus, you can’t really control it much.
Now L seems to be making sure that it’s useful. Notifications can show up on the locked screen in order of priority; the interruption feature lets you choose which ones are allowed to do that.
On phones with OLED screens, they even float up in black-and-white while the screen is off and you can go right to the app straight from the notification. Finally, intelligent use of a critical feature.
Notifications can now show up on a locked screen, and that too in order of priority
The other big frustration on any smartphone is that moving from one app to another is tedious. On L, all apps and even activities (like reading email and an open email you are still typing) are all depicted as a stack of tab cards and you can move from one to another and even look up things on an open tab. Nice, but needs to be more PC like.
All the other things that matter
Lollipop has Smart Locking (you can use other devices like an Android Wear watch or another phone or a Chrome Laptop to keep your phone unlocked), double tap to wake, a smarter face unlock, intuitive quick settings, tap-to-go for setting up a new phone from an old one, screen cast to view your screen on a TV installed with a Chromecast device, better Google voice response and dictation (I was surprised at how accurate the dictation was) and a better implementation of pre-installed apps.
Rating: 8/10 here too
Overall, I would say that Android has done enough to pull off the headline that this is the biggest reboot of its Mobile OS, and that the Lollipop is actually very good and totally unsucky.
Does that make it the best OS for a smartphone? Well, at least 82 per cent of the people across the world seem to think so.
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3
From HT Brunch, November 16
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