Android 5.1 seemed like a very minor update when it was announced, but there are actually a lot of cool little changes throughout the OS. For example, you can now (finally!) change the system volume while you have audio playing. Google added a new button to make this happen.
Left: 5.0 volume, Middle: 5.1 with volume button, Right: 5.1 changing system volume
Back in October, we posted a quick look at some of Google's very early plans for multi-window functionality on Android Lollipop, a feature that had apparently been in the works since at least KitKat. The system, in a nut shell, would allow users to have two apps open at a time, scaling the apps to take up more or less space on the screen, and interact with the overview or Google Search, passing text or other data back and forth.
Today, a reader pointed out an interesting Android commit that makes mention of the feature (about which we've heard nothing official). The commit in question, made January 27th 2015, mentions "multiwindows" briefly, implying that it's a feature destined for some unspecified future release.
You've probably seen that default icon an uncountable number of times. That little 3D Bugdroid with the cube on its chest—it's what Android assigns when something doesn't have its own icon. It's gone in Android 5.1, replaced with a new icon much more in keeping with the style of Lollipop.
You're sitting in a bar, spending $30 on beer and nachos because you're too cheap to spend $100 on a month's worth of cable for Monday Night Football. Despite the fact that the place is tiny and the walls are so thin that you can hear drivers in the street swearing at each other, it's somehow also a black hole for cellular service. So you ask the bartender for the Wi-Fi password, then ask him for the right password, then finally get connected... only to discover that the owner hasn't reset the router since the Bucs won the Super Bowl, and you'd be better off on an EDGE connection.
When it comes to alternative launchers based on the standard Android homescreen design, I think it's safe to say at this point that Nova Launcher is the best available. But developer TeslaCoil isn't resting on its laurels: the app is constantly being updated, tweaked, and improved. Today the biggest update to Nova Launcher in years is going out on its Google Play Store beta channel... and yes, it has Material Design.
Among many, many other improvements. Just about every portion of the app has been expanded or tweaked. Visual elements have been borrowed from the Google Experience Launcher, and the whole thing has been recoded onto a newer, faster Launcher3 base.
There are already a number of ways to test the capability of your Android device's hardware, but one more isn't going to hurt. Rightware has released Basemark ES 3.1 for Android in both free and paid versions. Do you need a paid graphics benchmark? Probably not, but maybe someone does.
Even while the more corporate side of CyanogenMod makes new deals with smartphone makers and OEMs, the original "CM Team" continues to expand the ROM's lineup of officially-supported phones and tablets. Today the original Moto E (from 2014) and the Oppo N3 both get their first nightly software builds, and yes, both of them are CyanogenMod 12 (based on Android 5.0 Lollipop AOSP code). You can download and flash them now.
The Moto E is an obvious choice for a custom ROM; its rock-bottom price and relatively "clean" Android software have made it a favorite among budget-minded enthusiasts, and it doesn't feature the notifications, voice, and gesture-based extras of its big brother the Moto X (which CyanogenMod doesn't duplicate).
Budget phones used to be the bane of Android's existence, embarrassments that gave buyers horrible first impressions of the platform and sent them running, tears in their eyes, towards the nearest iPhone they could catch on sale. Things have changed. Low-end phones may not offer the looks or build-quality of their flagship counterparts, but they provide plenty of screen real estate and power for average folks to stay connected.
In the wake of Apple's big watch announcement, Google is wasting no time talking about what it has planned for its more mature Wear platform. In the next update to Wear, Google will deploy a feature we've been anticipating for some time, as well as some previously unexpected additions.