The latest Lollipop incarnation may been have around for more than a month now, first arriving on Android One smartphones slated for Indonesia, but Google only yesterday made the official announcement, and revealed the much-awaited changelog. The good news doesn't end there, as the search giant also released a number of Android 5.1 factory images.
Android 5.1 Lollipop packs some pretty major changes. Among them are support for multiple SIMs, a feature that lots of Android vendors have offered for years now, and Device Protection, a feature designed to deter smartphone theft.
Getting the latest Nexus smartphone from Google in the first few months of availability can prove to be a real adventure. You know how it goes, as the same thing has happened before with its predecessor. You have to be either extremely lucky to get one early on or extremely committed to the brand to put up with the perennially insufficient stock by waiting your turn at finally getting one. It's insane.
Because of these issues, I have long given up on the thought of buying the latest Nexus smartphone while it's hot -- including the Nexus 6 phablet, as much as I would love to grab one. The fault lies consistently with Google. The search giant is terrible at selling smartphones. Even worse, it comes up with a crappy excuse to justify it.
Just like any other first iteration of a major operating system release, Android 5.0 Lollipop is not without its fair share of problems. The main issues that users are reporting are related to battery life, responsiveness and Wi-Fi. Like other 2013 Nexus 7 users, I also have problems every so often with video playback on YouTube, something which did not crop up back in the Android 4.4 KitKat days.
Naturally, most issues will go away with the first or second update. Google is actively working on squashing the reported bugs, proof being that the company just pushed Android 5.0.1 Lollipop to AOSP (Android Open Source Project) and released the accompanying factory images for a number of its devices.
Encrypting your device may make it more secure, but it also makes it slower due to the added overhead. This is not much of a problem on a fast PC or laptop, as its hardware is able to cope with the extra load. It, however, is a major reason for concern on Android 5.0 Lollipop devices, such as Google's new Nexus 6. Android 5.0 Lollipop is at fault here.
Anandtech has discovered that the difference in performance can be as high as 80.7 percent, and as low as 50.5 percent, between Nexus 6 with encryption turned on and with the feature disabled. Meanwhile, those who update to Android 5.0 Lollipop on Nexus 5 will also notice a notable difference in performance, albeit not as big, even with encryption disabled.
After launching alongside Nexus 6 and Nexus 9, Android 5.0 Lollipop is now making its way to the rest of Google's family of smartphones and tablets. So, naturally, you want to get it up and running as soon as possible on your older Nexus devices, now that it is finally ready for prime time. And why wouldn't you? The latest version of Android packs lots of sweet changes, chief among them the new design language dubbed Material Design, the new, faster default runtime called ART, battery life improvements, 64-bit support, beefed-up security, new APIs and much, much more.
There are two ways you get Android 5.0 Lollipop on your Nexus device. You can use the OTA update file to update or the factory image to make a clean install. This article will explain how can leverage both to run the latest version of Android on your Nexus 4, Nexus 5, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10.
The point of the Nexus line is ambiguous now. Is it a developer line? Does it showcase what Google wants in an Android phone? Does it showcase the cutting edge of Android? Maybe in the beginning the purpose was clear, but now I don’t think even Google knows. The one thing I am certain of is that the forthcoming Nexus phone will not be just another phone.
The Nexus line so far has helped to give developers a pure experience of Android to work on. One where the OS followed and fostered an environment that placed emphasis on the guidelines set forth by Google, such as on-screen buttons and leveraging full screen mode. A developer using a Nexus would get a very different impression of Android than one using Samsung's TouchWiz on a Galaxy phone -- which would reflect in the app produced.
A few weeks ago I took a look at Lumsing's harmonica battery pack. Now from the same stables comes the lengthily titled DCH-5U 5-Port USB Travel Wall Charger. This is a slightly different twist on the idea of providing power to travellers' devices -- this is a wall charger rather than a portable battery pack. If you're going on vacation, taking a trip, or even just hitting the office, there are your devices to consider. Your phone, tablet, MP3 player, and other bits and pieces all need power, all need their own charger.
Except they don’t. Leave all of your chargers at home, and just take a selection of USB cables -- this 5-port hub allows for up to five USB devices (obviously) to be charged from a single wall power point. The 31W/6.2A unit has two 5V 1A ports for phones, and three 5V 2A ports for tablets and devices with higher power demands. Oddly, the ports are labelled, left to right, iPad, iPad, Samsung Tab, iPhone, and Android. It would have made more sense to simply indicate which of the five were the high-powered ports, but this is a minor niggle in the grand scheme of things.
Something of a quieter week this week -- perhaps because of Independence Day and preparations there for. Still, there was plenty of news to keep us busy, including the NSA releasing a transparency report -- for what it's worth. Facebook found itself in the firing line after it transpired that the social network had been conducting psychological experiments by meddling with users' newsfeeds. Security is an on-going concern in technology, but it's something we have tendency to think about only in relation to computers and smartphones. One of the latest targets for malware and attacks is the power grid, and it's hard to tell what sort of havoc could be wreaked.
Microsoft tried to do its bit for security -- arguably in a misguided fashion -- by taking control of dynamic DNS service No-IP, and accidentally taking out a number of legitimate sites in addition to those malware-related ones -- the intended targets. In more positive Microsoft news, enhancements were made to Office 365's collaboration options. Windows Phone is still struggling in the smartphone market, but Microsoft will be hoping that this month's launch of Windows Phone 8.1 will help to improve things -- will the addition of folder support be enough? Looking further into the future, Joe pondered what Microsoft should do with Nokia. He also decided to give Windows another chance, helped along by his new Surface Pro 3.
After making factory images available for Nexus 5 and Nexus 7, Google releases the source code for the Android L preview through AOSP (Android Open Source Project) for most of its compatible Nexus devices. And for many enthusiasts this means development for the next CyanogenMod version should kick off shortly.
The team behind the popular custom distribution, however, announces that CyanogenMod 12 development will not start until the final bits of code are available. "'So let's get the flood-gates started on CM 12!' -- right? No", says the team in a new blog post, aptly named The "L" is for Later.
Google plans to make many more Nexus products despite rumors that it wants to abandon the line in favor of a partnership to work closely with Android manufacturers on bespoke smartphones.
Head of Android engineering Dave Burke confirmed that it is "still invested in Nexus" products even though Android Silver is on the way leading some to speculate that it would be the replacement for Nexus.
Google Nexus 4, 5, 7 and 10 users are in for a treat, as Android 4.4.3 KitKat is now rolling out. The latest version of the operating system is also available to customers of US mobile operator T-Mobile, which has revealed the sort of changes users can expect from the upgrade.
Android 4.4.3 KitKat is not a major upgrade over its predecessor, as T-Mobile says there are no new features in tow, but only improvements related to security and the customary fixing of bugs. The US mobile operator lists the upgrade as rolling out starting June 2, for its Nexus-toting customers.
It should come as no surprise that this week's big news was Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 unveiling. Brian had been looking forward to the NYC event and was at the event to get hands on with the new device. There's certainly a lot to love about Microsoft's third generation tablet, but there is that price to consider. If you like the look of what you see, the device is available for pre-order right now -- and if you're undecided between the Surface and a MacBook Air, Mihaita compared the two. Maybe you're one of those who thinks it’s a niche product.
The Surface Mini failed to make an appearance, but there are still lots of other tablets to choose from -- although they are yet to make much of an impression in higher education, unlike Chromebooks which have found their way into Welsh schools. Will Microsoft's tablet manage to attain the longevity of Apple's iPad? You'd be forgiven for thinking that hell itself had frozen over at the news that work is underway that will make it possible to run Android and iOS apps side by side on the same device.
If you believe the rumors -- and I rarely do, unsubstantiated -- Google+ and Nexus are over. Gossipers claim the social network will lose identity and prominence, while the Nexus 6 smartphone is no more than dust in the wind. Who is writing the script here? George R. R. Martin? Because the Google killing-spree has a "Game of Thrones" (aka Song of Ice and Fire) feel to it -- you don't know which product will be killed next. For sure, the death count is mighty since Larry Page's return as CEO three years ago.
But Google will make a huge mistake if it backs off Plus, or worse, puts Nexus to the sword. These assets' value is immeasurable. Enthusiasts are any company's best marketers, and these products command large and vocal fan bases. Enthusiasts are crucial to Google gaining and maintaining brand charm, particularly as government overlords answer competitor complaints: "Antitrust! Antitrust!" Fans aren't just good marketers, they are foot soldiers rallying against invaders, like European or U.S. trustbusters.
Tablets are über cheap these days. It seems as though just about every electronics company has them flying off the production lines. But even if you manage to pick up a cheap tablet, you still want to keep it protected -- no one wants to end up with a screen that is scratched to the point of being unusable, or a body that's smashed to smithereens. The need to protect is even greater if you have handed over a few hundred dollars / pounds for something from the Apple family, and there are all manner of cases to whet the appetite of those keen to keep things safe.
One such offering is the 360° Case from Everything Tablet (operating in the US and Canada as well as the UK) which features a folio-style wrap-around design. I took a look at the Nexus 7 model and my previously svelte 7 incher was transformed into something resembling a leather-bound personal organizer from the 80s. Such is the price one pays for protection, I guess.
It seems that the world of technology is much like the world of politics and religion -- oh yes, we are going down that road -- you pick your side and you stick to it. While it is great to be decisive in what you believe in, it can also be very limiting. It creates a sense of black and white, ignoring the myriad shades of grey that undeniably exist. It stunts the palate and narrows the mind. This is the effect that Google has had on the world, or the world of technology at least. Just as many people will unquestioning accept what is proffered by their religious text of preference, too many people fail to look outside of what Google has to offer.
It seems that Google is a god to many people, and this is worrying. My colleague Joe Wilcox has written extensively about the importance of writing for one's audience rather than for Google. Refusing to tailor one's content to meet the demands of Google's ever-changing algorithms may mean fewer hits, but it will almost invariably mean higher quality content and a more enjoyable, readable and unique experience for readers. And at the end of the day, that is what matters. Google is not my god. I'm an atheist -- and I'm extremely glad to be.