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Originally published November 14, 2014 at 4:39 PM | Page modified November 15, 2014 at 9:10 AM

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Review: Android’s ‘Lollipop’ upgrade is sweet

A look at the features you’ll get from the new Google software for mobile devices, which include security improvements and easier ways to view and respond to notifications.


The Associated Press

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Android’s sweet new “Lollipop” flavor brings security improvements and easier ways to view and respond to notifications. The new Google software for mobile devices even lets you lend out your phone without worrying about a friend circulating your naked selfies on Facebook.

I tested Lollipop on Google’s new Nexus 6 phone, released this week. I can only hope that as other phones get the upgrade over time, it will be as good as what you get on the Nexus.

It’s a shame many phone manufacturers that use Android believe they have to tweak it extensively to make the software theirs and not Google’s. Mucking around with it only confuses customers and steers app developers toward working on iPhone versions first, where there is more uniformity — and thus incentive to incorporate the latest features.

Assuming your phone maker is running Lollipop in its purest form, here’s what you’ll get:

Notifications

You used to have to pull down the notification tray from the top, as you would a window shade. With Lollipop, notifications appear in the center of the lock screen. You can expand messages and reply right from the lock screen.

If you’ve set up a passcode — more on that in a bit — you’ll be prompted to enter it before composing that reply. You also have the option to block all notifications or just those from specific apps if you’re worried about privacy. Or you can choose to hide sensitive content. In those cases, you’ll see you have an email or text, but you won’t see who sent it or what the message says.

You can also choose “priority” mode and get notifications only from apps you mark as priority. In that mode, you can also choose to accept calls and texts only from known contacts or favorites.

Too often, I’ve turned off the passcode on my Android phone because I get tired of entering it every time I pick it up. With Lollipop, you can keep your phone unlocked when it’s near a trusted device of your choosing — say, a Bluetooth-enabled car. Bluetooth range can extend 30 feet or more, so be sure you trust your friends if you step away without your phone. Or delete those naked selfies first.

Multiple profiles

If you lend out your phone or share it with a family member, you’ll now have profile options. You can set up to four profiles, each with its own settings, contacts, photos and apps.

Some options are disabled if you’re not the owner. For instance, your kid won’t be able to restore the phone to factory settings and wipe out all your data. But friends or family can update your apps and accept permissions on your behalf. It’s your choice whether they can make calls and text, as they would be using your phone number.

Shortcuts

Lollipop adds several shortcuts above the notification tray. You can get quick access to the flashlight and the setting for airplane mode. There’s also a new “Cast screen” button to send video from your phone to a TV with an Android TV streaming device.

Unfortunately, you can’t change the options. Those without an Android TV device won’t need “Cast screen,” but might want a screen-rotation lock instead, for instance.

The new Android software also removes some of the distinctions between apps and content. Previous versions of Android offered ways to scroll through open apps to pick which goes to the foreground.

Now, individual tabs in the Chrome browser and individual documents in Google Docs appear separately, so you can go straight to your content without having to go to that app first.

And there’s more ...

Lollipop comes with an updated Calendar app that integrates with your Gmail service so that flight reservations, concert tickets and other confirmation emails get automatically turned into calendar events. The app is also more visually pleasing and fun.

Still missing, though, is the ability to decide whether individual apps can access your location. I might want Google Maps, but not Starbucks to have my location. Apple’s iOS software lets you choose on an app-by-app basis, but it’s all or nothing with Android.

Nonetheless, Lollipop is a worthy upgrade that I hope will come to your Android device — unfettered — soon.



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