Home >Opinion >Google’s Android Lollipop is no candy for rivals

Mumbai: Google Inc. certainly has a sweet tooth when it comes to naming its operating system (OS) versions. After KitKat, we now have its latest Android L or 5.0, officially called Lollipop—an update that will offer Google’s new material design features, improved battery life, enhanced security features and smarter notifications.

And Google is no baby to part with, or have competitors snatch, this candy. Having captured nearly 80% of the global smartphone and tablet OS market, Lollipop will only help it strengthen its presence in the global devices market, extending Google’s reach to the living room in a post-PC (personal computer) era by powering watches and eventually televisions and cars too—an area which Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. too have been eyeing for the last few years.

To begin with, Android Lollipop will debut on the Nexus 6 smartphone, Nexus 9 tablet, and the Nexus Player streaming media device. By the end of the year, Google hopes to have Lollipop on the Nexus 4, 5, 7, 10, and Google Play edition devices too.

This latest version of Android brings Google’s material design features that introduce a colourful and responsive user interface design for a consistent, intuitive experience across all your devices.

Not all these features are new. They have been implemented by many Android device makers over the last one year. What Google is doing is to ensure that the seamless syncing experience, which Apple devices are known for, become part of the core Android experience too.

With Lollipop, for instance, users will be able to view and respond to messages directly from the lock screen. The OS includes the ability to hide sensitive content for these notifications. And for fewer disruptions, one can turn on the “priority" mode via the device’s volume button. Also, there’s a more intelligent ranking of notifications based on who they’re from and the type of communication. Users can also see all notifications in one place by tapping the top of the screen.

Some material design features can be seen in the recent updates that Google has released for its own Android apps such as Google+. More importantly, Lollipop includes a battery saver feature which extends device use by up to 90 minutes. And all new devices will come with encryption automatically turned on to help protect data on lost or stolen devices.

Lollipop also provides for power-efficient scanning for nearby Bluetooth low energy devices like wearables or beacons. It also brings over 5,000 new application programming interfaces for developers to use.

Android continues to dominate the global smartphone market with over 255 million units shipped and nearly 85% of the market share in the June quarter of 2014, according to research firm International Data Corp. (IDC). Most of Android’s strength in that quarter was fuelled by gains in the low ($100—less than $200) and ultra low-end (less than $100) of the market, seeing those categories grow 16.5% sequentially since the March quarter.

Apple’s iOS experienced a slight drop in market share, down to just 11.7% in the June quarter of 2014 from 13% in the same quarter last year, representing the growing shift of demand towards low-cost smartphones, said IDC. The Windows Phone had a mere 2.5% market share in the same period.

Android is also a leader in worldwide device shipments by OS in mature markets with a 46.6% share in 2014, according to research firm Gartner Inc. It’s also number one in worldwide device shipments by OS in emerging markets with a 53.39% share in 2014. Mature markets include the US, Western Europe, Japan and Canada. Emerging markets include Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan), Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

Worldwide combined shipments of devices—PCs, tablets, ultra-mobiles and mobile phones—for 2014 are estimated to reach 2.4 billion units, a 3.2% increase from 2013.

The mobile phone segment, said Gartner, will continue to grow in 2014 due to strong sales of cheap smartphones. As smartphones cost less, Gartner expects nine out of 10 phones to be smartphones by 2018.

It’s here that Google will score more points with Android L’s experience, since Apple is not present in the rapidly growing low-cost phone segment.

In 2015, Gartner estimates that shipments of Android devices will reach over one billion in emerging markets, driven by sales of lower-cost products. Even the Android One phones (launched on 15 September), running the latest version of Android (4.4 KitKat), will be some of the first phones to get the new Android Lollipop release.

Meanwhile, Apple’s new devices, which target the premium market, will continue to help drive iOS volumes.

According to a 13 October note by Forrester Research, more dramatic improvements such as a larger screen or a more dramatic redesign “will have to wait until next year, but expect Apple to emphasize the Handoff feature of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite that makes it possible to start something on the iPad, switch to the Mac, and have it jump right into the right app and activity that you were doing on the iPad".

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