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My Smartphone Just Got Android 5.0 Lollipop: First Impressions

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By William Peacock, Esq. on November 26, 2014 9:46 AM

Man, this is a beautiful update.

Android L/Lollipop (5.0) represents the biggest overhaul of the operating system since the jump from Gingerbread (2.x) to Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0).  We talked about the visual overhaul after previews of the new "Material Design" interface leaked, and were especially intrigued by rumors of Project Volta: the effort to make my phone last longer than 20 minutes on a battery.

Lollipop is here. And as promised, here are our first impressions:

Visual Overhaul: So, So Pretty

My first impression was lag. Of course, that's to be expected when a new operating system is installed and Android is trying to update a dozen or so apps in the background. Fortunately, after a few more minutes of updating over Wi-Fi, my phone was ready to go and damn -- it is stunning.

The obvious comparison is to Apple's flat-ification of iOS 7.0 (and onward). And Apple's flattening of its desktop operating system, OS X Yosemite. And Microsoft's flattening of Windows with version 8.x. Google already did a lot of its flattening with its last few releases, but now, the overhaul is complete: no shadows, no faux 3-D buttons, nada.

Another huge plus: the user interface is very white and bright, much like iOS, but without all the pastel colors.

As for the most welcome change, for me, that would be the tweak to the notifications center and settings panel. (H/T to Android Central for the video.) Swipe down once to see your notifications. Swipe down a second time to bring up your quick settings, including a built-in brightness slider and the feature I loved most from Cyanogenmod (a third-party modification of Android): the built-in flashlight button.

Battery Life: Only Time Will Tell

Android L has been in my hands for about 5 hours, so I haven't had much time to really beat the battery to death. However, I did do one killer test: going for a run. Normally, a thirty minute jog, using a run-tracking app and streaming music, is enough to kill my battery due to the high amount of data use, frequent checking of the screen, and the biggest culprit of all: GPS use.

This time? The run-tracking app used two percent of my battery. Android services (including GPS and location tracking services) only used three percent. Overall, between updating apps, playing with my phone on and off for the last couple of hours, and going on a brief run on my lunch break, I only managed to kill 30 percent of my battery.

So far, very impressive. We'll see how it performs long-term.

Have you taken Lollipop for a spin? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or on Twitter.

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