Google Execs Talk to Ars About Android 5.0 Lollipop

Google Execs Talk to Ars About Android 5.0 Lollipop

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Android 5.0 Lollipop is right around the corner, and it’s expected to hit AOSP shelves on November 3. This release is one of the most significant in Android’s relatively long history, so we are pretty excited to see this bad boy in action. The folks over at Ars Technica had the pleasure to speak with Android’s head honchos: VP of engineering for the Android platform and Nexus devices Dave Burke, VP of product management Brian Rakowski, and Android team group product manager Gabe Cohen. The Ars team learned some new tidbits and behind the scenes info about this release, which we will now share with you.

As you might have read already in our previous features recap, WebView is now unbundled from Android for the first time. According to the Android execs, executives, WebView is used in somewhere around 70 to 80 percent of apps available in the Google Play Store. WebView encapsulates Blink, which is Chrome’s rendering engine. Google wants to prevent users from being exposed to vulnerabilities stemming from outdated instances of WebView, so keeping it updated through the Play Store was high on Google’s to-do list. Updating it twice a year or thereabouts is far from acceptable, since we’ve seen several attacks on WebVierw over the past few years. Now, we’re likely to receive updates that come alongside Chrome releases.

WebView might be just the beginning of a larger unbundling process. Gabe Cohen added that Google has done some groundwork to exclude other elements from the Android source code, and thus make it available through the Play Store. A significant portion of lock screen functionality has been unbundled as well, so Google can keep a closer eye on security-related matters.

Another thing that has been overhauled is the setup wizard. From now on, Google will push critical updates right after the device acquires an Internet connection. This greatly elevates sign-in security. The new OTA-based process, combined with two-factor authentication, makes Android a much safer OS.

Google also is aiming at resolving a problem with carrier-specific updates. You might recall the situation where the Verizon Galaxy Nexus received firmware updates, but only after a rather significant (and un-Nexus-like) delay. The engineers came up with an idea for a smart auto-installer that downloads carrier-specific bloatware onto the data partition once your SIM card is detected. You can easily get rid of these apps by simply uninstalling them. So now, Google is able to take responsibility in providing updates on certain carrier-purchased devices such as the Nexus 6 purchased on-contract, which should speed up the update process significantly. This will also make it possible for carriers to stop muddling around in the system partition with their preinstalled bloatware. As a corollary to the above, Burke also mentioned that the Nexus 6 will be sold by all major US carriers, and there will be some testing before updates are launched. This should hopefully only result in a minor delay of a few days, though it’s unknown as to what the situation will be like with carrier-specific phones.

As mentioned in the aforementioned Favorite Lollipop Features article, you will be able to restore profiles from other devices using both NFC and your Internet connection. The restore process will be available on Android 5.0, while the source device must be running the newest version of Google Play Services.

The next topic covered was the Nexus 6’s large physical size. As you may have already noticed, the Google Nexus 6 is a rather large device, coming in at a massive 5.9 inches. That’s even big by Samsung’s standards. However, the overall size of flagship devices has been changing over the past few years–from 3.5 inches on the iPhones of yesteryear to massive devices now reaching 6 inches or greater. Dave Burke admitted that the Google Nexus 6 isn’t intended for everyone. After all, that’s why the still fantastic Nexus 5 is still on sale. Google believes that having a bigger smartphone lets the device inherit some duties from other device classes such as tablets and even notebooks. Users with bigger phones will then use other devices less frequently, so the Google Nexus 6 has quite a big role to play, and perhaps the biggest role of a Nexus device to date!

There is a big difference in price as well. While the Nexus 5 sold for a rather paltry sum of just $350, Nexus 6 is almost twice as expensive. But despite the downsides of a more expensive device, Google wanted to truly give the device a premium feel (hence the aluminum frame), and also give it class leading specifications such as its QHD, Super AMOLED panel and so on. The Google Nexus 6 is more expensive, but for many, it’s still worth it. While many were hoping to see another $350-$400 device, Google is now clearly targeting a different market demographic.

The Google Nexus 6 is a top-tier device that will prominently feature top-tier hardware–both inside and out. It’s produced by Motorola, so the phone will come with a Ti C55 hotword processor for voice recognition. This chip was previously seen in the Moto X. The presence of this dedicated piece of silicon should lower power consumption and speed up the process of voice recognition–something we’ll soon get to see in practice. The new Nexus devices, which were made available for preorder earlier today, should be available for direct purchase next week, so you will be able to share your thoughts about them and Android 5.0 alike.

[via Ars Technica]