There’s an old joke about the early days of aviation. A pilot took his plane over to Africa and convinced a tribal chief to take a ride. They saw the village, the lake, the paths through the jungle. The pilot kept going on about how marvelous the airplane was. He turned to the chief and said “This airplane – aren’t you amazed at it?” The chief answered “Not really – isn’t this what it’s supposed to do?”.
And so we come to Lollipop, Android 5.1.
I have a Motorola Droid Turbo, which came with Android 4.4.4, named KitKat. Had it since March 21, 2015, and like it very much. Massive battery without massive size, and a wonderful screen. It isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty close.
I like shiny new things, and while I really enjoy the phone, I knew I’d like it better with this new Lollipop software. Simply because it was new and improved. There were false alarms about the software being available back in early June, which was either over-zealous reporting or a troll. Of course, with no official news available, everybody repeated the same story and pointed at each other as proof. June came and went with no update. Motorola had said they would bypass the buggy 5.0 version of Lollipop and jump straight into 5.1, which I appreciate, but no motion.
Last night, July 2nd, the reports of a soak test changed into “it’s here!”. Checking my phone showed yes, it is available. I put the phone on charger while the 20-minute download happened. The final “Are you sure? Phone will be unavailable.” warning and I was off.
When the phone was available again, there wasn’t much different. A few new alerts, minor layout changes, a bit of setup to work through. I use the Nova Launcher (customized to 5 columns and 6 rows, plus the home row), but tried the stock Launcher 3 to see if I liked it. Nope – I’ll stick with what I have. I keep all my main programs on one screen, so there’s no swiping sideways to get to anything else. It’s either on that screen, or I go to the app list.
Other changes I made: I tried having notifications show up on the lock screen. That also went away fast – I don’t care which wifi network I’m connected to (home, work, or the charity I help at), since I know by my own physical location which I’m connected to. I also use Adaptive Rotation Lock to keep the screen from changing unless I tell it to – and I don’t need a constant alert to tell me it’s running. I’ll notice quick enough on my own if it crashes.
The one curious thing I had to fix was that in the Chrome browser, I couldn’t open a list of my tabs. There is a new setting called “Merge tabs and apps” that I had to turn off, so that I could see a list of my tabs. That lets me close the tab I’m on if I’m done with it, and open a new one if I want to keep the prior one available. Maybe the tabs would have been available in the “prior apps” list (lower right button), but I don’t think that way. If I’m browsing, I’m browsing. If I’m doing something else, I’m using that other app. The browser is not the water in which I swim, even though it’s all Google.
Material Design? It was there. The notification icons look a bit different. No massive change, except that now Settings is one more tap away.
ART is the other big change in Lollipop. Not Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, and Alexander Calder (not to mention guys like da Vinci, Rembrandt, Monet, and Michelangelo). This is the Android Run Time – the engine behind the applications. The prior one was called Dalvik, and he compiled the applications just-in-time – you ask for it, it gets compiled, and you run it. Saves on having all these messy compiled versions around. But that method is slow – ART pre-compiles the applications so they are ready to run, quick and fast. I don’t notice the change – I had used the steps in the linked article to run ART on my phone before the Droid Turbo, and kept it up on the new phone. I believe it’s better but haven’t done any tests to prove it.
The new flashlight app is supposed to start when you do a tomahawk chop with the phone, but I haven’t gotten that going yet.
Overall, I like the new OS, but find nothing to get too excited about. It does what it’s supposed to do, with very few surprises.