Google has been very busy with their expansion of Android as a platform this year. At Google IO we saw the announcement of endeavors like Android TV and Android Auto. But the stars of the show were a preview of the next version of Android, code named Android L, and Google's new Material Design principles for interface design across all of their products. In the years since Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich released, we've seen the launch of Jellybean and KitKat, but both of these versions were very iterative improvements upon 4.0 and had equally iterative version numbers with Jellybean being major versions 4.1 through 4.3 and KitKat being 4.4. Lollipop is given the major version number of 5.0, and it's quite fitting as it's arguably the biggest advancement to Android in a long time. It comes with an entirely new interface based on Material Design, a new application runtime, and many new features that I could not hope to summarize in this paragraph. 

It can be difficult to begin a review of Android, as the definition of what Android is can be very dynamic. Android as an operating system that performs a set of functions is fairly well defined, but it's nearly impossible to define what Android looks like based on how it appears on most smartphones. The interface that Google has created for Android has matured greatly from its original iterations, but OEMs continue to put their own interfaces on top of Android to differentiate their devices. What applications are part of Android is also an interesting question. We can look to what applications are included in AOSP, but truth be told even Nexus users with "stock Android" aren't really getting an AOSP experience.

That may not be a bad thing for users, because many AOSP applications are quite bare compared to the Google applications that have superseded them. However, it poses a problem when deciding what should be discussed in a review of Android, and it has implications relating to how much of "Android" truly is open source. Google has also moved many applications over to Google Play so applications can be updated independently of the operating system, which bypasses many of the concerns about fragmentation from the days when application updates would come with Android updates that a user might never get. This adds an additional level of consideration when deciding which of these Google Play applications should be considered part of Android and discussed during a review.

For the purposes of this review specifically, I've attempted to take a look at most of the applications that come pre-loaded on a Nexus device which includes applications like Gmail that other people may contend are not actually part of Android due to them not being part of AOSP. It should also be noted that Google has been updating their applications to have a Material Design interface since it was originally revealed at Google IO, and some of the earliest updated applications have been excluded from the review as users are already very familiar with how they look an act by this point. We have covered many of these over the course of the year, and so readers who wish to see changes that were made to apps like Gmail and Google Sheets can look to our past coverage from when those applications were updated. To begin the review, we need to explain exactly what it means for something to have Material Design.

Material Design
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  • pgp - Friday, December 5, 2014 - link

    After reading the whole review, I'd like to point two omissions I noticed:
    - Play Store and Calendar were named as the applications causing the most noticeable stutter during animations, but in my opinion Google Keep is far worse than the other two. In particular, scrolling always results in evident freezes of the UI, and even opening and closing notes is really painful.
    - The new multitasking view doesn't just add the possibility to view Chrome tabs as separate apps, but this feature is extended to many other google apps; for example, tapping on the "new mail" button in Gmail brings you to a new application window, and opening Overview shows that actually the previous view is still open "underneath" the current one. That's pretty cool and really functional, in my opinion, because it gives you the opportunity to compare the mail you're writing with the ones in your inbox. Settings app also works similarly, but maybe it's a bit less useful.

    Anyway, it's always a pleasure to read a review by Anandtech, they're always thorough and very pleasant :)
  • Ethos Evoss - Saturday, December 6, 2014 - link

    i hate stock android .. horribl eicons horribl esymple two color layout.. horribl estatus bat icons .. settings black n white like in WW2 ..
    thnx good that manufs can have their own gui style of everything
  • insultar - Sunday, December 7, 2014 - link

    I'm sorry but this an absolute horrible review. The reviewer has no clue about UI design. So please stop making reviews if you have no clue.
  • Fidelator - Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - link

    I can't imagine what's been going through the minds of the guys who work on the play store updates, for years they have continued to release stuttery, jittery terrible performing updates for what's possibly the most important app in all Androids, Google should be ashamed of keeping that trend up for so long
  • rakesh_hocrox - Friday, December 12, 2014 - link

    Check out the latest Android 5.0 Lollipop update for nexus :
  • MarkColby - Saturday, December 13, 2014 - link

    Sounds like you think change is good just because it is change. That's fine, but some of us would prefer not to sacrifice functionality just to be fashionable. I couldn't give a bout of aerial coitus whether I add a contact via a floating button or a plus sign somewhere else, but if my SMS or email app is "improved" to use less screen real estate for actual text (causing me to see less context without having to scroll, despite the fact that devices are getting bigger with higher resolution screens so you could actually fit MORE and stay readable) that's not "moving on" - it's moving backwards. Same goes for changes to calendar or camera apps that completely remove features some of us use regularly. Almost everything I've heard about L makes me want to avoid it for as long as possible because I care what about my device DOES more than how it LOOKS. And yes, we are forced to upgrade eventually if we want the latest security patches or devices.

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