My first-generation Nexus 7 tablet recently updated itself to the latest version of the Android OS, Android 5.0 Lollipop, thanks to Google’s commitment to keep the entire Nexus system abreast of the latest developments in its platform. And so far at least, despite some other reports to the contrary, the experience has been almost entirely favorable.
Lollipop is supposed to be all about a change and improvement in the user experience, with faster and smoother operation thanks to the new Android Runtime (ART) environment that replaces the old Dalvik virtual machine with its just-in-time compilation method. On that score, it does seem to deliver better performance, even on the ageing hardware. This is supposed to be complemented by the new Material Design platform, “a comprehensive guide for visual, motion, and interaction design across platforms and devices” able to “use the new components and functionality available in Android 5.0 (API level 21) and above.” Not everyone may prefer the results – for instance, the busy animations “for touch feedback in UI controls, changes in view state, and activity transitions” get a little tiresome for me – but they do at least all run smoothly, making processes that would drag on the older OS iteration quicker and cleaner. And there’s certainly no going back – Google apparently intends to bring the same animations and navigation transitions to Chrome OS and the Chrome browser.
Recents is one of the few areas touted as a step forward in the OS that still feels clunky on the Nexus 7 2012: although an ostensible improvement in Android multitasking, it does feel awkward, though this could just be a matter of familiarity. Less welcome, though, is the forced transition from the old Email app to the new multiple inbox version of Gmail. Many users have had very good experiences of Google’s latest email solutions – Chris Meadows included – but it would be nice to at least have the choice to stick with the old Email. As it is, the Email icon is now just a dummy link to Gmail, which automatically absorbs the old email settings to sit alongside your existing Gmail account.
That piece of inbox land grab aside, this is overall the step forward in user experience it was supposed to be, and I look forward to working with it more.