Top 5: Favourite features of Android 5.0 Lollipop

Android 5.0 Lollipop is the biggest jump for the platform since Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, which was released back in 2011. Ever since then, Android has been taking small steps towards becoming a more powerful platform, such as the introduction of Google Now in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and to look more polished and elegant, with the shift towards a lighter-coloured environment in Android 4.4 KitKat. But Lollipop is by far the biggest change for the platform, as you can probably guess by the version number. With this change comes a lot of new functionality, in addition to a huge design overhaul to make "stock" Android look more like a finished product, rather than a bare bones foundation for others to build on. I won't go through every new feature in Lollipop, there are various videos and articles out there already. I'm just going to share with you the five features which I like the most, and which I think will make the biggest impact on everyday use for the average consumer.

Guest mode + screen pinning
We've all been there before. Our friend needs to borrow our phone, and we give it to them with a look of fear in our eyes. Fear that they will dig through our messages, our gallery, and other sensitive parts of our phone. Some people at Google must also go through the same thing regularly, as Lollipop now offers two solutions for when you need to share your device with someone. Guest mode is as it sounds, a guest account on your phone, similar to a guest account on a PC. All the phone's core functions and apps will be accessible, but all your personal data will be secure. The second option is screen pinning, which is more accurately described as app pinning. What this does is it pins one app to the foreground, and prevents the user (your friend) from exiting the current app and accessing others. If you have a pin or password enabled, you will have to input it to unpin the app and resume normal usage of the phone. So now you can lend your phone to your friend without worrying about them snooping around.

Together with screen pinning, sharing your device with others will be a little less painful.

Better quick settings
The quick settings panel got an overhaul, not just visually but functionally as well. There is now a brightness slider to allow quick control over the display's brightness. And when you adjust the brightness, the quick settings panel disappears to allow you to see how bright the display will be as you adjust it. The WiFi and bluetooth icons now act as both toggles and shortcuts to their respective settings menu - tapping the icon will toggle it on or off and tapping the text will open the respective settings menu. Battery percentage is also displayed, and tapping it will take you into the battery usage menu. Tapping your profile picture will bring up the user switcher to enter guest mode, and tapping your mobile data icon will show you your current monthly usage as well as a toggle to turn mobile data on or off. This iteration is much better than what it previously was.

Much better quick settings than on previous versions of Android.

More control over notifications
Notifications have also received a huge update which gives the user so much more control over all notifications. First up, notifications are now present on the lock screen. And these are not some light version of notifications, these are fully functional notifications. You can swipe them away, expand them to show more information, tap on them to open your phone directly into the app, and use the action buttons (delete, archice, reply, etc) to quickly deal with them directly from the lock screen. Notifications in general are also smarter, with a new priority mode. When this mode is enabled, all notifications will be silenced except those from apps which you have labelled as priority apps. And you can set it so only calls from your starred contacts will be received. Priority mode also doubles as a "do not disturb" mode, where you can set it to be enabled automatically at certain times on certain days. And lastly, I'm sure we've all set our phone on silent on certain occasions and forgot to turn the sound profile back to normal, which is something that won't be a problem any more on Lollipop. When you set your sound profile to either "None" (silent) or "Priority", you can set a timer for it so it will only last for that period of time. I used this when I went to the cinema just yesterday. Set my notifications to "None" and set a timer for two hours as I walked in. When I stepped out, my sound profile had returned back to "All".

Complete silence, selected notifications only, or all notifications. Together with a built-in timer, users have much more control over notifications in Android Lollipop.

Smart Lock
Probably my favourite new feature in Lollipop. Almost everyone has some form of security on their lock screen. Either to keep nosy friends out, or as the first line of defence in case you lose your phone. But you don't really need a secure lock screen 24/7. When you're in the safety of your home for example, or when you are driving in your car. This is where Smart Lock comes in. It will keep your phone secured by default, but when certain criteria are met, you can bypass your secure lock screen and instantly gain access to your phone. There are three Smart Lock methods, the first is trusted devices. With this enabled, you can set your phone to bypass the secure lockscreen whenever your phone is connected via bluetooth to an accessory, like a smartwatch, a headset, or even your car's entertainment system. The second, is trusted places. When you are within a certain geographical area, like your home, your phone will unlock automatically. And lastly trusted face. When your phone can detect your face (in decent lighting) using the front camera, you won't need to enter your pin or password. This particular feature is really cool when it works, which is most times, assuming lighting conditions are decent. So with all three methods, you can directly access your phone when you are using it, but when you are in public and someone else tries to access your phone, it'll be secured.

With these three settings you can keep your phone
secure but easily accessible to you at the same time.

Material Design
Most people think Material Design is nothing more than just a splash of colour and animations. On the surface, that may be the case. But a deeper look will show you that Material Design is also a way of transforming the digital environment our software "lives" in into a somewhat physical one. Every element on the screen will have a "place" in the software, and it will move (animations) according to "physical" rules. Elements on the screen won't just appear and disappear, the will come from somewhere and when you swipe it away, it goes somewhere else. Most importantly, Material Design is not something exclusive to Android. Google wants it to be the design language across all our screens - phones, tablets, smartwatches, computers, TVs, and in the car. It's as much a unifying design philosophy as it is a mobile operating system being redesigned.

There's a very good reason why every version of Android since Ice Cream Sandwich in 2011 has remained a 4.x version. Despite additions of new features and design tweaks, the underlying foundation has remained largely the same all these years. Unlike iOS which grows one version number every year despite how much (or little) has changed, Android's version numbers are more representative of the operating system's evolution. So when it jumps from 4.0 to 5.0 in three years, you know it's a major change. I may have just touched on five new features, but there are many more. A new ART runtime, a battery saver mode and Project Volta, adaptive brightness, a new Overview interface (the task switcher) which allows more than one entry per app for better multitasking, and many more. Not to mention all the changes under the hood. 128680 changes to be exact, which is the most there has ever been in an Android update. So if someone tells you that Android 5.0 Lollipop is nothing more than just a redesign of Android, with some bright colours and new animations, someone doesn't know what they're talking about.

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