Android 5.0 Lollipop has officially launched, and we've got all the details on new features - plus when your phone or tablet will get it
Google has finally confirmed Android 5.0 'Lollipop', the biggest update to Android in years, will be arriving in the next few weeks. Announced earlier this week alongside the Nexus 9 tablet and Nexus 6 smartphone, both of which will ship with Lollipop out of the box, it's one of the most hotly anticipated Android updates ever and one that promises to give Google's mobile OS a major visual overhaul.
Lollipop, which was first announced back at June's Google I/O conference as Android L, will also introduce 64-bit processor support and make battery life a priority as it goes up against Apple's iOS 8.
Google has been drip-feeding new features and announcements over the past few months, but now that an official release is almost upon us, we've rounded up all the facts to let you know what to expect – and when you'll be getting it on your smartphone.
Android 5.0 Lollipop release date
Google made Lollipop official on the 15th of October, confirming it would be available first on the Nexus 9. The 9in tablet can be pre-ordered now, with a launch date set for the 3rd of November. The Nexus 6 smartphone will follow a few weeks later, with pre-orders starting in 'late October' ready for a 'mid November' release. The Nexus Player will follow at some point too, although there aren't any concrete details on the Mysterious Android TV set-top box.
Anyone with an older Nexus device such as the Nexus 5 smartphone, or Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets, will get over-the-air (OTA) updates 'in the coming weeks'. Google Play Edition handsets are also expected to get swift updates, and we're pleased to see the older Nexus 10 still getting some love from Google – even if it has now finally been discontinued.
According to AndroidPolice, the first OTA update will be released on the 3rd of November, but only for the Wi-Fi versions of the 2012 and 2013 Nexus 7, and Nexus 10. The Nexus 5 and two-year-old Nexus 4 will have to wait, as Wi-Fi and cellular devices take a little longer to develop updates for. Google seemingly confirmed that date in a note to app developers, revealing that the Lollipop software development kit (SDK) was available and that they could start testing their apps or publishing them to the Google Play store. It closed by saying consumers would get their first lick of Lollipop on the 3rd of November.
Android 5.0 Lollipop updates for other phones
Major Android releases are always eagerly anticipated, which makes being stuck on an outdated version because your phone manufacturer doesn't plan on releasing an update even more frustrating. We've listed every major manufacturer's official position on Lollipop below, and while it's good news for HTC, Motorola and Sony, it's grim reading for Samsung and LG.
HTC has pledged to update both the current HTC One (m8) and last year's One (m7) within 90 days of receiving the Lollipop source code from Google. Considering that code was made available on the 17th of October, that means HTC customers should get an update by the 15th of January at the latest – assuming mobile phone networks don't slow down the process. The HTC One Mini and One Mini 2 will eventually get Lollipop too, but likely at a later date.
Sony has made big promises for Lollipop; it plans to bring the update to every phone in the Z series, going back as far as the original Xperia Z. The rollout will begin with the more recent Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z2 devices starting early 2015, then eventually filter down the Z1 range and older Z-series devices.
LG has also confirmed via Twitter that G3 owners can expect an upgrade to Lollipop some time during the last quarter of 2014. LG also hinted that the G2 may be receiving an update to Lollipop as well, but said the company "didn't have an exact schedule for the G2 just yet" and that G2 owners should "stay tuned for more updates". Meanwhile, theG Pad 8.3 will be updated alongside Google's own Nexus range, but there's no news on when.
There's been no official statement from Samsung regarding Lollipop, meaning the only confirmed phone due for an update the Google Play Edition version of last year's Galaxy S4. It should get it in the next few weeks. Despite the silence, it's safe to assume the current crop of available handsets, including the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 4 will get an update eventually: according to Sammobile, both will get Lollipop in November.
Can't wait? Get the Lollipop developer preview now
Although there's now only a few weeks more to wait before the official OTA release of Lollipop, there's nothing stopping you getting it today - if you own a Nexus 5 or Nexus 7, and you're prepared to get your hands dirty. The Android 5.0 Lollipop developer preview is available to download right now, for free. With a bit of fiddling you can even install it on handsets from third party manufacturers; there's already a custom ROM for the HTC One (m7) and others are appearing every day on the XDA Developer forums. However, if you aren't already confident with firmware flashing and custom ROMs we'd recommend waiting, to avoid bricking your handset.
Android 5.0 Lollipop Material Design
Android 5.0 Lollipop has over 5,000 new APIs ticking away behind the scenes, but the most obvious changes will always be the visual ones. The new 'Material Design' scheme is set to appear on every Google platform, not just Android. Apparently Google drew inspiration from pens and inks, with every icon and user interface element casting an accurate shadow to give a sense of depth. Everything animates as you touch it, with objects flying into view and tapped icons rippling like puddle. The onscreen interface keys are now simple shapes, rather than the slightly skeuomorphic icons for home, back and recents seen in previous versions of Android.
The home screen, lock screen, settings pull-down menu, main settings page and even the onscreen navigation buttons have received a makeover. Lollipop will also include new system widgets to match the design scheme. Finally, every Google app will be redesigned to match the new look, with some having already been upgraded in time for the developer preview release. More apps are being updated every week, with Google Play Books being one of the latest - it joins Gmail, Google+, Google Play Newstand and Chrome, but we're still waiting on other Google apps to join the ranks.
Out of the box, Lollipop will put Google's apps front and centre on the home screen. They will be separated into three folders; Google, Play and Create. All the apps, folders and icons look like they have been cut out of paper; we're hoping third party app developers will follow suit, as otherwise installed apps will stick out against Google's own. The app drawer has an opaque white background, apearing like a piece of paper and making it much easier to read text versus transparent app drawers.
The notifications system has been completely overhauled for Lollipop as well. Currently, Android users have to unlock their device to check, respond to or dismiss notifications, but with Android L they will be able to do this from the lock screen. They will appear as a stack of Google Now-like cards, which can be scrolled through rather than flooding the screen. Each one has an in-line preview, giving context. It doesn't look as though Google will adapt Motorola's quick glance notifications, but that's unsurprising; although the feature helps save battery on AMOLED displays, the majority of Android handsets use LCD panels that wouldn't see any benefit.
You'll be able to manage notifications in Lollipop, preventing all but the most important notifications from appearing. That's great if you're constantly bonbarded with social networking notifications but only want to be alerted to emails, for example. Swiping down from the top of the screen will reveal notifications first, then quick settings - previously users had to tap a button to show quick settings.
Other visual tweaks include removing all borders between letters of the keyboard and numbers on the dialler app.
Android 5.0 Lollipop features
Lollipop isn't all about looks; it will also include lots of clever new features. Personalised unlocking is one of our favourites. Essentially it makes your smartphone or tablet search for familiar Bluetooth gadgets, Wi-Fi networks, locations and even voice imprints to deactivate any lockscreen protections, letting you jump straight into your phone when it knows you're nearby. If the device can't detect any of these metrics, anyone trying to use it will be presented with the standard lockscreen.
The recent apps page will become the recent content page, displaying all your content in one list of Google Now-styled cards. You'll be able to jump between apps and the web, with links in Google search results jumping straight from the browser into the relevant part of an app. Although not strictly built into Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google will also be giving its mobile webpages and search an overhaul in time for its release. The Material Design will be carried across, along with smooth animations and a slicker interface.