A few hours ago I flashed the latest preview version of Android 5.0 (aka "L," aka "Lollipop") onto my trusty old Nexus 7 tablet. Devices aren't scheduled to actually start getting updated to 5.0 for a few more weeks – and many devices may never see this version – but I'm impatient. So I took the plunge and flashed my tablet manually.
And, holy moly, is Lollipop fantastic. (I originally wrote "This is one delicious Lollipop"...but then I immediately felt like a bad person for writing something so horrendously dorky. So I deleted it with extreme prejudice.)
I'm not going to inundate you with all the new features – you can get those all over the place. But there are a few goodies in here that are just too awesome to not talk about.
First of all, it is crazy fast. The speed difference between 4.4 ("Kit Kat") and 5.0 is huge. I don't have any FPS or number crunching benchmark to back that statement up (though I'm sure someone will take care of that shortly) but everything is, quite simply, a whole heck of a lot faster. Games that used to stutter a little are now silky smooth. It's like my N7 just got a major hardware upgrade. That's not marketing speak, Google doesn't pay me a dime. The speed improvement truly is instantly noticeable.
Apparently that new Android Runtime (ART) was worth the investment. RAM usage by the system is now a teensy, tiny 134 MB on first boot (I don't know how big that number was before, but I seem to recall it being larger than that).
Supposedly the battery life is also better, though I'm going to need to use this for a few more days to know for sure. How the battery life can be better while, simultaneously, the performance shoots through the roof is beyond me. But, hey, I'm not going to question whatever black magic Google has employed to accomplish this mystical feat.
Instead, I'd like to talk about a set of features that thrills me endlessly. Audio.
Android 5.0 has added official support for USB audio devices (both input and output) along with lower-latency audio input and the ability to mix up to eight audio channels. All of which means one, amazing, thing: Android is now a platform that can be seriously considered for professional audio production work.
Granted, this is only the first step. We still need developers to create audio editing software that utilizes these new features, but it's a really, really big first step.
If Google had asked me a year ago what features they could add to Android 5 to make me really excited, USB audio device support would have been my number one request. Followed by low-latency audio input. And then, in a close third, general performance improvements.
In other words... Google's Android team somehow managed to provide me with exactly what I wanted without ever even having asked me. Which means one of two things:
- They're really smart.
- They have a chip implanted inside my brain that they're using to record and index every thought I've ever had.
Both seem plausible.