It’s that time of year again for all Android fans, especially for developers owning any of the iterations of the Nexus smartphones. Google has officially announced its latest hardware and software offerings to the tech world. Although the next version of Android was announced at this year’s Google I/O event some months back, the OS was still in beta version and has been undergoing an extensive preview period leading up to the launch. As has been the case in previous years, Google has also announced their latest smartphone offering, the Nexus 6, this time manufactured by Google’s previously owned OEM, Motorola.
Along with the official launch for Android 5.0, the new moniker was also finally revealed, known as Android Lollipop. While early rumours suggested Lollipop to be the latest alias, recent reports indicated that Google may change it at the last minute, which wasn’t to be the case. The Material Design has made all the headlines on Android L, the driving force behind the new update. Essentially, this is a change of interface, quicker animations, and more minimalistic approach. Google has been on an optimisation mission since it launched Ice Cream Sandwich some time back, with continued improvements on performance and multitasking. Lollipop is no different, and, along with the above-mentioned improvements, has also enhanced the battery life and graphics capabilities at the same time.
Although I was sceptical of these enhancements when they were first announced back in June, I was glad to be proven wrong, even using the beta version of the software. Having been running the various beta versions (now in its 5th iteration), battery life and graphics were improved right off the bat on my Nexus 4. I will provide a more in-depth review when the final version is released a few weeks from now. In the meantime, take a gander at a few of the new features and enhancements for the update:
- Material Design: Material, the “new design language” for Android. Much cleaner, smoother, and simpler navigation. Many of Google’s native apps have already seen parts of the update of late.
- Enhanced Notifications: Improvements when receiving notifications for unlocked and locked screens. Ordered by priority (which can be set) and time. Swipe to remove, tap to open app.
- New Lockscreen: As specified above, the lockscreen has improved on notifications. There are also easier access to apps such as camera and dialler. If you have a PIN or Pattern, you won’t need it to take a photo, but you won’t have access to anything else once completed.
- New Multitasking: Google has introduced a 3D app scrolling feature (card syle) to switch between currently open apps. Individual cards will also be shown for apps with multiple windows/tabs, such as Chrome.
- New Notifcation Bar: While it appears to look the same, the notification bar has changed somewhat, which is triggered when swiping down. The two-stage drop down now first displays your notifications, and a second drop down shows the additional menu shortcuts.
- Security – Personal Unlocking: This feature is mostly enhanced to include Google’s Android Wear devices, which allows your device to be locked when out of range, or unlocked when reaching for it, etc. The feature has also been improved when using multiple user accounts on a single device.
- Battery Life – New Saver Mode: Even without the battery saver mode, the improvements are noticeable, codenamed Project Volta. The saver mode is alleged to provide an additional saving of around 90 minutes per charge when used.
- Performance: Android L now provides support for 64-bit processors. Graphics improvements are achieved by switching to the ART software library, which Google says is twice as fast as the previously used Dalvik.
- Android TV: With Google announcing their Apple TV rival, Nexus Player, there’s no surprise that support for it has been integrated into the OS.
As for the Motorola Nexus 6, one of the most talked about features is derived from Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 and Motorola’s Turbo Charging accessory, which is said to provide up to 6 hours of use on a mere 15 minute charge. The battery, a 3220mAh non-removable Li-Po unit, is able to provide around 24 hours of daily usage on a full charge. As has been the trend of late, unless you’re Apple (not a dig, just stating the obvious), Motorola has also provided a water-resistant feature for the Nexus 6. What many developers, and Nexus fans, may not enjoy about the Nexus 6 is its premium price tag, which will now set you back $649 for the 32GB model. This is almost double that of the Nexus 5 when it was launched last year at $349.
What you get for the extra cash, though, is quite a lot. Other internals include 5.96-inch QHD screen with a 1440x3560px, 493ppi display, protected by Gorilla Glass 3, Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 2.7GHz Krait 450 CPU, Adreno 420 GPU, 3GB of RAM, 13MP camera with OIS and dual-LED ring flash, and dual front facing speakers. The device does measure and weigh slightly more than the usual, at 159.3x83x10.1mm, and 184g, respectively, which is more than the new Note 4.