Android 5.1 Details: What’s changed?

Android 5.1 Details: What’s changed?

Android Lollipop is an impressive piece of software but it didn’t arrive without its problems. The adoption process was slow, even for Nexus devices which for the first time got beaten by OEM phones in their own game of fast updates. Then there’s the fact that the Nexus 6 that functioned as the insignia-device for the new platform iteration faced serious performance annoyances due to NAND bottlenecking through forced encryption. Early reports of the Nexus 9 also showed performance inconsistencies with occasional stutters and redrawing. Some didn’t like the design changes that came with it – and I’m not talking about aesthetics: silent mode was butchered for no apparent reason, when this was a feature that came very handy in plenty of contexts and instead was replaced by a priority mode that just didn’t cut it. And to make things worse, there was an infamous memory leak bug that creeped over peoples’ launchers with imminent redrawing or lost app instances. Lollipop was pretty, but it wasn’t all pretty.

The good thing about Google is that they are somewhat quick to address these changes, and they are known to offer various small revision updates in between major ones. While 4.4 KitKat was great, it definitely was no 4.4.4 which had truly fixed plenty of annoyances and added plenty of enhancements. The same is likely to happen with Lollipop, and in just a few months we’ve seen two updates hit our phones. But some design nuances and bugs still remain; Android 5.1 had a changelog leak last year from sources allegedly close to Google. The following was promised:

  • Silent mode added after missing on Android 5.0
  • General improvements in system stability
  • Improved RAM management
  • Fixes for sudden app closures
  • Improved battery management
  • Excessive consumption of network devices when used Wi-Fi fixed
  • Issues with wireless connections fixed
  • Problems with Okay Google function solved
  • Notifications problems solved
  • Some sound problems experience by certain devices fixed
  • Other improvements and changes

 

This update looks like a god-send, given that most people want silent mode back, stability of the system also needs some work, and memory problems causing app closures are probably one of the most frustrating issues I’ve had to face on my Nexus 5. Early talks discussed a late February or early March release, and on this they were quickly proven correct: the Indonesian Android One promotional pages were put up to reveal upcoming One devices running Android 5.1 straight out of the box. And later on, the program also expanded to the Philippines were the devices would also come with this newest version. So you’d think it’d only be a matter of time before we got some details, right?

User Report

Reddit user luag made a post today where he claimed to have an Android One device running Android 5.1 Lollipop. He linked an unboxing photo session to further prove he is the owner, where we have a look at the Mito A10 Impact. This One phone has humble specifications like most of its brethren, as it packs a 4.5″ 480p display with 1GB of RAM and a Cortex A7 Quad Core processor by Mediatek, clocked at 1.3GHz. The last bit would make some skeptical, given that Mediatek chips usually fall behind Qualcomm’s despite similar or higher clock frequencies and core count, but so far there are indications pointing towards a good experience regardless.

Sadly there weren’t that many juicy details in the Q&A, but what we know can give you a good indication of where this update is heading. First of all, the system is said to perform super smoothly. Transitions and animations sound pretty fluid and luag has said that so far, multitasking has also given him no problems – which is great considering the now-outdated amount of RAM this device has. Google apps like Google Play Music reportedly run very well, and I personally have problems on both my CM12 S3 and TW5.0 Note 3 with this particular app, so hearing it runs without hitches in a stock budget device is not just a breath of fresh air, but also a reason for jealousy on my part. OP also tried out SwipePad, SwiftKey, Reddit News, AnTuTu, BBM, QuickPic and VLC and none gave him trouble, so for a budget device it sounds like it holds up rather well.

While that’s more of a subjective anecdote, there’s some neat changes under the hood that have nice results. The kernel details are:

Kernel version:
3.10.57+ android-build@vpbs1.mtv.corp.google.com
#1
Thu Jan 29 18:43:34 UTC 2015

 

The performance reports of luag seem to be corroborated by a rather impressive AnTuTu score of 18,398. Since this device retails for about $90 USD (IDR 1,199,000) (and you can get it for even less), it competes with budget phones like the Moto E which are around the $100 price tag in most markets, and after looking around at some benchmarks for that device running Lollipop 5.0.2, the superiority this budget phone brings is clear as the XT1022 only seems to score about 14,700. With the promised performance improvements of the changelog, plus so many memory tweaks and an updated kernel, it isn’t too unlikely that the 5.1 software is a partial reason for the good performance behind this phone from both subjective and objective reports. Lollipop updates on my Nexus 5 also almost always came with some noticeable benchmark improvements, the most prominent ones being the jumps from Developer Previews to the real deal, so I wouldn’t cross it off the list.

Performance aside, there’s also some new information regarding interface, design and features. This phone does not come with default encryption like the Nexus 6, so it seems that either Google is aware of how much it impacts the user experience (even on high-end phones) or simply changed their mind for this particular market. This could mean that future Lollipop smartphones (especially those from Google) will drop forced encryption on hardware that can’t effectively support it. What doesn’t sound promising is luag’s response to questions regarding silent mode which suggests it still hasn’t been re-introduced. This is probably the biggest annoyance and something that we can cross out off the promised changelog.

Something else that many requested yet wasn’t introduced was an expanded or advanced power menu. This is easily one of my biggest complaints against stock Android and whenever I transition between my phones it is always a staggering and jarring change in user experience. There’s no report of a fix for the memory leak yet, but given that this information was gathered and based on less than a single day worth of use, this is understandable. Same goes for battery life reports – now this is a budget device with a mediatek processor, with a decent battery of 1780mAh, so it’s hard to predict what kind of life it should be getting and reports on this device would most certainly not yield information to judge the update on. Nevertheless, if you are interested, OP claims the battery life looks very promising. Finally, this particular device also supports Camera2 API features and is able to run apps like Manual Camera, but RAW support is not present.

Hype or No Hype?

We learned a little bit more about Lollipop 5.1 today, but we are still left wanting for more data. Luag hinted at a possible video and ongoing coverage on his experiences, so we will update this feature accordingly if we hear anything worth noting. So far, Lollipop 5.1 seems to bring the typical expected improvements (after all, a Google changelog of any kind is incomplete without their obligatory  “performance and stability improvements” entry). What I think is more remarkable, however, is not the software that we learned about, but the hardware. For just $90 you get a rather good back-up phone or secondary driver, and Android One seems to be achieving its goal of bringing a genuine, pure and awesome Android experience to emerging markets. This redditor even got his phone on a special offer for about $50 – one of the best Android deals I’ve ever heard of.

While there are many things that reportedly haven’t been fixed, there’s still much we have to learn. The disappointing bits are mostly confirmed, but ongoing coverage may find work-arounds. And if there’s none built-in, don’t forget that Xposed is back for Lollipop now! If you want an extended power menu, you’ve got it. And I’m sure that many of the annoyances present in current and future Lollipop builds will find work-arounds this way. After all, stuff like this gives our developer community something to do, and if Android was perfect the XDA forums in general would get pretty boring. Overall, those wanting a big improvement might not be fulfilled, but this is certainly something to look forward to and one can at least be happy that this hardware means thousands can now get a great Android experience for an affordable price.

Special thanks to u/luag and the reddit community for providing the insight for this article

Looking forward to this new Lollipop version? What do you want changed? Tell us below!

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