Android 5.0 Lollipop release date, news and features

All the info on Android Lollipop, Google's latest OS iteration

Interlocking apps on Android Lollipop

Google wants your apps to be able to talk to one another on Android 5.0 - it used the example of searching for a place, only to have it served up in Google Earth, which is where it originally was being looked at.

The idea goes much deeper than that though - Chrome browsing has an API that other apps can take advantage of, so if you click a link to book a table in the browser you'll be taken to something like OpenTable directly, rather than the mobile site.

This feature depends a lot on app developers taking advantage of the new tools, but all the onboard Google apps will be much more dependent on one another.

Faster, better looking and more efficient

Whilst Android 5.0 comes with some nifty new features that make an immediate visual impact, Google has also put a lot of work in behind the scenes to ensure that Android Lollipop is the fastest yet.

If you're not big on codespeak then this is the upshot: a new way of putting the platform together when you're using the phone makes everything slicker, faster and more efficient.

If you're interested, here are the finer details: ART, an optional runtime in Android KitKat, has now been made the standard for Android Lollipop and works with ARM, x86 and MIPS platforms and runs twice as fast as the Dalvik runtime that is found on previous Android iterations.

Android L release date
Mega fast compared

The biggest benefit is that all apps will benefit from ART right away, without the need for them to be updated. ART is also more memory efficient than Dalvik, meaning that apps that are running in the background will benefit from megabytes of saved data.

Plus ART is 64-bit compatible, allowing Android Lollipop to benefit from the larger number registers, cross platform support and the increased RAM support that 64-bit architecture allows for.

Android Lollipop also allows mobile devices to further close the gap not only between mobile and console-quality gaming, but between mobile and PC graphics.

Working with Nvidia, Qualcomm, ARM and Imagination Technologies, Google has designed the Android Extension Pack with the sole task of closing the gap between mobile and desktop-class graphics, which will result in "more realistic environments, more realistic characters and vastly improved lighting".

Testing it out on the Nexus 9 we found that Android 5.0 was impeccably smooth. Of course that's a high end device, so it will be interesting to see how it runs on lower end hardware, but we're optimistic that it should run pretty well on even devices with just 512MB of RAM.

Messaging and keyboard

Hangouts is still the main messaging app on Android Lollipop, but the keyboard has been given an overhaul, with punctuation appearing by default. In our tests we still didn't find it the most fluid of keyboards, but there are always alternatives available on Google Play.

Priority Mode

Priority Mode

One nice new feature is Priority Mode. It takes the 'Do Not Disturb' functionality to the next level by letting you choose priority senders which can still get through to you with it activated, as well as letting you choose which apps and notifications are allowed to make sounds or vibrate. Once you've got it all set up it's easy to toggle too as it appears alongside the volume control.

Android Lollipop battery life

Batteries on phones running Android Lollipop are now more efficient with Project Volta, Google's new way of showing why and how a phone's power pack is juicing down.

It opens up the battery use to developers so they can see what's ruining the experience, which should in turn help plug the gaps in power leakage.

Battery Saver mode is integrated by default too, which can lengthen your use during the day by up to 90 minutes. It's not extreme power saving like on Samsung or HTC phones, but it's still useful to have baked in, even if all and sundry already have a likely more efficient version on board.

Even without Battery Saver mode Android 5.0 could do wonders for battery life. ArsTechnica put the new OS version to the test and found that a Nexus 5 running Android Lollipop had around 36% more battery life than one on Android 4.4 KitKat.

We also found that the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9, which both came with the sweet new OS installed out of the box, have excellent battery life, though of course it's impossible to say how much different it would have been with an earlier version of Android.

Camera and photos

Android Lollipop camera

While the stock camera is still a fairly basic affair it has undergone some improvements in the move to version 5.0 of Android. Highlights include support for RAW files and an enhanced Photo studio, allowing you to add filters and change the tone and colour of a photo the second it's snapped with intuitive controls.

Android TV now baked right in too

Android Lollipop also supports TV. It's called Android TV, unsurprisingly, and despite the failure of Google TV the brand is having another go, such was the popularity of the Chromecast.

You can already get a taste of it with the Nexus Player, though in future it's expected to be baked right into smart TV's.

It brings content (games, films, TV shows etc) straight to your big screen and you have a home button to get you back to the main display whenever you want.

Search is well-integrated too, in the Nexus Player's case there's a remote, but you could also theoretically search using your mobile phone... or even an Android Wear watch), with Android TV very much powered by voice.

So say you search for something like 'Breaking Bad' on the phone (when connected to the Android TV) it will show you the option to watch it on Google Play or any other compatible app installed. You can also ask it questions related to media, such as who was in a certain film, then you can select an actor's name to get their filmography and select a film to see what supported apps and services it's available on.

Nexus Player

The demo showed that Netflix was installed, but didn't appear in the search options - perhaps it was just a dummy app for now, but certainly that would be where the info would show. We've since got our hands on the Nexus Player and it's available on that, so presumably it will make it to other Android TV devices, though notable apps like HBO Go and Amazon Instant Video are missing.

And here's the great news: Android TV has been signed up to by some big names - the likes of Sony, Philips and Sharp have whole 4K ranges based on Android TV. Asus and Razer promise to have set top boxes to achieve the same thing too and again there's already the Nexus Player.

So once Android TV becomes more widespread it could really ramp up the smart TV game and the good news it's already begun, with Sony launching new Android TVs at CES 2015 with more to follow suit in the near future.

Android TV is looking to snap up the mobile gamer too as you can take the games to the bigger screen in the house, though you'll need a separate gamepad. Invest in two controllers and you can even play multiplayer games.

Android 5.1

What's this? Android 5.1 already? Well not quite, but it's rumored that we may see the next version of Google's mobile OS as soon as February.

That seems questionable since most phones still won't even have Android 5.0 by then and Google is staying quiet, but there's no denying that Android Lollipop has had more than its share of issues.

According to the rumors Android 5.1 will add a silent mode, improve stability, improve RAM management, fix sudden app closures, improve battery management, fix Wi-Fi issues, solve problems with the 'Okay Google' function, solve notification problems, fix sound issues and include other improvements and changes.

So for the most part it sounds like it's focused on fixing features rather than adding new ones. That is, if the rumours are even true. What isn't mentioned is whether it will keep the same name or already usher in Android M.