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Android 5.0 debuts on phone, tablet, and Nexus Player

Oct 16, 2014 — by Eric Brown — 6,194 views

Google unveiled a Motorola-made Nexus 6 phone, an HTC-built Nexus 9 tablet, and an Asus-made $99 “Nexus Player” Android TV device, all with Android 5.0.

Android 5.0

In Oct. 2011, Google released Android 4.0 (“Ice Cream Sandwich”), the first version of Android that spanned smartphones and tablets. Now, the Android steward has revealed Android 5.0 (“Lollipop”), which expands beyond mobile devices to also run on smartwatches (Android Wear), TVs and set-tops (Android TV), and car computers (Android Auto). Google originally announced Android 5.0 as Android L back at Google I/O in June while also introducing the three specialized versions of Android listed above. With Lollipop, Google says, you can write for one of these platforms and easily port them to the others, while providing a consistent UI.

The first major Android release since last November’s Android 4.4 (“KitKat”) Android 5.0 will be released Oct. 17, and then will appear on newly announced Nexus 9 and Nexus 6 devices. The HTC-manufactured, Nvidia Tegra K1-based Nexus 9 tablet will go on pre-order Oct. 17, starting at $399, with general availability on Nov. 3. The Motorola-built, Qualcomm Snapdragon 805-based Nexus 6 phone will open for pre-sales Oct. 29 at a whopping $649 without contract, and will launch in November.

Android 5.0 is also heading to the Nexus Player — the first device to run Android TV. The Player is Google’s fourth attempt at the media player and TV set-top box market after the failed Google TV, the still-born Nexus Q, and the popular, but limited, Chromecast. Built by Asus, the $99 Player, which features a gaming add-on and Google Cast support, is also notable for running on an x86 processor: a 1.8GHz, quad-core Intel Atom.

Nexus Player
(click image to enlarge)

In the coming weeks, Android 5.0 will become available on the Nexus 4, Nexus 5, Nexus 7, Nexus 10, and Google Play Edition devices. Google had previously announced that owners of the first, low-cost Android One phones, which launched last month in India, would also get an early update to Android 5.0.

Android 5.0

Lollipop “is our largest, most ambitious release on Android with over 5,000 new APIs,” says Google in its Android 5.0 announcement. The release offers a revamped interface developed by Google designer Matias Duarte referred to as “Material Design.” Similar in some way to Windows Phone’s UI, the design is both “flatter,” featuring a grid-based layout and flat colors, while also generating an illusion of depth. The UI includes smoother animations, new special effects, and improved multitasking and voice interactions.

Android 5.0 (“Lollipop”)
(click image to enlarge)

Android 5.0 is also notable for offering the first Android optimization for 64-bit ARM, x86, and MIPS processors. Google notes that the Tegra K1 in the Nexus 9 is 64-bit. In fact, the dual-core system-on-chip is the first 64-bit “Project Denver” version of the Tegra K1, which was not expected to arrive until 2015. The Denver version of the K1 has a 7-issue superscalar design, 2.3GHz clock rates, and a large L1 cache of 128KB/64KB. Like the 32-bit version, it offers a powerful, 192-core Kepler GPU.

The Snapdragon 805 in the Nexus 6 is 32-bit. Qualcomm is coming out with 64-bit Snapdragon 615 and 610 SoCs by the end of the year, and 64-bit Snapdragon 810 and 808 SoCs in 2015 using hybrid, Big.Little Cortex-A53 and -A57 designs.

Google did not mention the Player’s quad-core, 1.8GHz Atom as being 64-bit, although Intel’s software VP and GM Doug Fisher confirmed this as a 22nm, 64-bit Silvermont Atom core in an Oct. 15 blog entry. It’s unclear whether this is the embedded focused Atom E3845, the tablet-focused Z37xx (Bay Trail-T), the smartphone-focused Z34xx (“Merrifield”), or another variety such as the upcoming Moorefield.

Android 5.0’s 64-bit support comes from replacing the Dalvik runtime with a new, 64-bit ready Android Runtime (ART), which uses an AOT (ahead-of-time) compiler instead of Dalvik’s JIT (just-in-time) compiler. This should result in up to four times the performance, which seems awesome, but unlikely, as well as better battery life, says Google.

Android 5.0 video

Lollipop also introduces a native battery saving mode called Project Volta that delivers up to 90 minutes more battery life per day, claims Google. Project Volta can work harmoniously with manufacturer supplied power-saving modes, says the company.

Other Android 5.0 novelties include a new lock screen with notifications that do not require that you open an app to take action. You can also unlock your phone via Bluetooth using a paired smartwatch or Android Auto device, or flip a kill switch to disable a stolen phone. Other security enhancements include automatically activated encryption and “SELinux enforcing for all applications,” which is said to improve protection against malware.

Synchronizations have been extended to apply to songs, photos, apps, and even recent searches across Lollipop infused devices. You can also set up multiple user accounts for each device.

Nexus 6
(click image to enlarge)

Nexus 6 and 9

Despite — or perhaps due to — owning Motorola Mobility for several years before selling it off to Lenovo, Google never released a Nexus built by Motorola. That changes with the Nexus 6, which is also the fastest and most expensive phone in the history of the stock-Android Nexus line of devices.

Nexus 6, side view

The Nexus 6 builds upon the tradition of the Moto X, and runs Android 5.0 on a quad-core, Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 clocked to 2.7GHz, featuring an Adreno 420 GPU. The device initially ships with WiFi only, in 32GB ($649) or 64GB configurations. 4G versions are due in the coming months from AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular, and Verizon Wireless

Nexus 6 video

The 6-inch display on the Nexus 6 features quad HD (2560 x 1440-pixel) resolution. There’s a 2-megapixel front-facing cam, as well as a 13-megapixel rear camera with an f2.0 lens and optical image stabilization. The 3220mAh battery is claimed to provide over 24 hours per charge.

Nexus 9
(click image to enlarge)

As noted, the HTC-built Nexus 9 tablet stands out with its 64-bit “Denver” version of the Nvidia Tegra K1. The dual-core SoC is clocked to 2.3GHz, and is accompanied by the usual 192-core Kepler GPU. More details were available on the Nexus 9 than on the Nexus 6, including the availability of 2GB RAM, and either 16GB ($399) or 32GB storage. The 8.9-inch IPS display has a relatively low QXGA (2048 x 1536) resolution, and the 6700mAh battery is said to last up to 9.5 hours under typical use.

The 154 x 223 x 8mm Nexus 9 tablet is further equipped with 802.11ac 2×2 (MIMO), Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, GPS, and a variety of cellular options, including LTE. You get an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 1.6-megapixel selfie shooter, both with f/2.4 aperture lenses.

Nexus 9 video

Nexus Player

Android-based media players are everywhere these days, filling the gap carved out by the failed Google TV, so it’s unclear whether Google can herd vendors back together again for Android TV. It helps that the requirements are less rigid than with Google TV. The first Android TV device is the Asus-manufactured Nexus Player, which runs on a quad-core, 1.8GHz, 64-bit Intel Atom SoC with Imagination’s latest PowerVR Series 6 GPU.

Nexus Player (left) with remote and optional Gamepad
(click image to enlarge)

The simple, disc-shaped device is equipped with 1GB RAM, 8GB storage, 802.11ac 2×2 (MIMO) WiFi, and HDMI out. It’s accompanied by a refreshingly simple, voice-activated remote with a round trackpad. An optional Gamepad for Nexus Player ($39) appears to offer a typical gaming layout.

Android TV running on Nexus Player
(click image to enlarge)

Like the somewhat similar Amazon Fire TV media player, the Player sells for a modest $99. Like Google’s $35 Chromecast, it offers Cast support, and you can even start watching video on a mobile device and then cast it to the big screen using the Player or vice versa. A full suite of services are provided including Netflix and Hulu, but there does not appear to be HBO Go.

Nexus Player video

Google did not have much more to say about Android TV. Back in June, however, Google said that not only does it run Android L (Android 5.0), but it’s much more integrated with the main Android SDK than Google TV ever was. The search feature is now driven by the Google Now voice actions feature. There were also said to be more personalized suggestions, as well as integration hooks with Android Wear smartwatches.

Asus PadFone X Mini

Asus appears to be a big fan of Android-on-Atom, as the company is now featuring Android 4.4 running on a dual-core, 1.6GHz Atom Z2560 in the latest version of its hybrid phone/tablet PadFone design. The newly announced PadFone X Mini is a 7-inch, 1280 x 800-pixel tablet that features a removable 4.5-inch, 854 x 480 smartphone housed on the back. AT&T will sell the device starting Oct. 24 for $200 on its GoPhone prepaid service, with data plans starting at $40 per month.

Further information

More information on Android 5.0 and Google’s related announcements may be found in this Google blog entry. More on the Nexus 6, Nexus 9, and Nexus Player may be found on Google’s Nexus page.

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