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Six licks of Google's Android Lollipop

It's not shipping yet, but you can run a pre-release of Android Lollipop, and it's already looking pretty tasty.

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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 7 Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Take a lick of Android Lollipop

Google's new to come out of its wrapper for developers with the release of its SDK. While ordinary users shouldn't try installing it on their Nexus 5 phones or Nexus 7 (2013) tablets, experts and programmers can download and install Lollipop now.

I did it and while I found that Lollipop still needs some work, it's already very tasty. Here's an early look at what you can expect from this new version of Android. 

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Tap and Go!

Tap & Go is a really, really cool feature. When you first set up your Android device, you can simply turn on your old phone or tablet, if it supports Near Field Communications (NFC), put it back to back with your Lollipop gadget and hit Go. After you enter your password, most of your applications and many of your settings will automatically migrate to it. No fuss, no muss.

I was successful in moving my programs from a 2012 Nexus 7 running KitKat to my test 2013 Nexus 7 with Lollipop. I have friends who've also done it from a Nexus 6 to a 2013 Nexus 7. My one concern is that, in this prelease state, it doesn't support Google two-factor authentication. Hopefully this security glitch will be fixed in the final, shipping version.

You can also add your old apps and settings by downloading them from your Google Cloud backup. It's not as fast, nor as cool, but it's a heck of a lot easier to add your favorite apps to your Lollipop-powered device this way than downloading them all over again. 

One other cool feature that's been promised, but isn't working yet in this release, is the ability to wake up your Lollipop device by saying "Hello Google." I'm looking forward to being able to start a search even before I grab my tablet. 

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Lollipop Home Page

The default Lollipop home page looks a lot like Android 4.4.2 KitKat's home page, but I've already found two nice practical improvements under the surface. 

The first is that Lollipop's built-in functions run faster than their KitKat equivalents. The increase in speed is especially noticeable when you're launching apps.As new apps start using Lollipop's new default Android Runtime (ART) instead of the older Dalvik Android runtime, I expect to see other apps pick up speed. 

The other new under-the-hood feature is longer battery time. My Nexus 7 using Lollipop got a good hour more of useful battery time than it did using KitKat. I don't know about you, but anything that offers more battery power is a big win in my book. 

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Lollipop App Move

A nice, small improvement is that it's even easier and faster to move apps from one page to another. 

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Lollipop Page

Setting up a page on Lollipop just the way I wanted it took me half the time it did on KitKat.

I also found that while most apps don't take full advantage of ART yet, most of them run just fine on Lollipop. The one exception for me was DroidFish, a chess program.  

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Lollipop Material Design

The new  with its flat elements and bold colors is only present in a few applications at this time. I only noticed it in Google+ and the Play Store. Google is encouraging its independent software vendors (ISV)s to use Material Design as common ground to build their own unique apps. The idea is to give users a common interface while not putting user interface designers in a straitjacket.

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Lollipop Recent Apps

The recent apps page now has a Google Now card-based interface. This gives multitasking a web browser tab-switching feel. I took to this immediately and I quite like it.

Those of you who aren't used to flashing devices and techie tricks will have to wait until early November before Google starts automatically upgrading  the Nexus 4; Nexus 5; Nexus 7, both the 2012 and 2013 models; and the Nexus 10 will be updated to Android 5.0 in "the coming weeks." The forthcoming  will, of course, come with Lollipop pre-installed.

As, for the rest... well, that's always the question isn't it? We know that some popular smartphone and tablet models, such as the HTC One M8, Moto X, and Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5 will get it, but we really don't know when the vendors and carriers will be upgrading their devices. 

Me? I'll be upgrading my devices myself, but again, I do this kind of thing for a living. I don't recommend that you try it. 

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