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Six Nifty Android Lollipop Features, and Flappy Android

November 19, 2014 - Written By David Steele

Some of our readers will have Android 5.0 Lollipop and some of you won’t, so will be reading this in anticipation of getting the over the air update at some point in the near future. Let me present seven nifty new features and improvements to try and I’ll start off with two features great if you ever let somebody else borrow your device: Screen Pinning and Guest User mode. Screen Pinning is a way to pick the device to particular application and is great for when somebody borrows your application for a quick call or to look something up. Sometimes, the last thing you want is for that person to start flicking through your messages, pictures or email! Screen Pinning prevents this from happening (providing you have a security lock on your device, which you do, right?). To enable Screen Pinning, visit Settings, Security and toggle Screen Pinning to “on.” To use it, tap the multitasking (sorry, Recent Apps Overview) button: the last application you’ve been using has a pin icon. Push to activate. To exit, tap the Back and Recent Apps Overview button at the same time, feed in your security code and you’re done.

Guest User Mode is designed to allow somebody else access to more of the device without your user data. To activate this, slide down from the top twice to go into quick settings, then tap the avatar at the top right corner and select “Guest.” That’s it! When you want to switch back, repeat the process but provide the device with your passcode or swipe lock.

Now, I’d like to write about the improvements to notifications as Google have made many. The first is the most obvious: interactive lock screen notifications. You can swipe a notification away from your lock screen left or right, you can swipe down to see additional information (such as replying) and you can double tap on it to open it. In addition, Android now uses Priority Notifications. Priority Notifications can be used as an advanced do not disturb mode: when your device is set up into priority notification mode, only those established priority notifications will alert you with sound. Normal notifications will show up but will be silent. Setting priority notifications mode is easy: use the volume key with the screen on, tap priority and then set the device with a time limit (the default is forever). You can set any combination of notifications as high priority events including only allowing calls and messages from a restricted whitelist of contacts. Another Priority Notification improvement is the ability to schedule these: you can specify when the device should switch to this mode from the Settings, Sound & Notifications, Interruptions area, where at the bottom you can specify the days and times. Also, from Settings, Sound & Notifications you can customize individual application notifications as well.

Phew! The improvements to notifications will take some getting used to, but my next two cool features are easier. One is Trusted Bluetooth, a means of ensuring that your Android device does not require the lock code when paired ed up to a Bluetooth device you tag as trusted. Once you have a PIN or other password system, set up Trusted Bluetooth from Settings, Security, Smart Lock and Trusted Devices. From here, tap the add symbol to set up a new Trusted Bluetooth Device. We know that there’s a Trusted Place option too, but as at the time of writing this isn’t yet available.

I’ve written about having a secure device through using a PIN, slide code or similar and it’s an important part of owning any mobile device. So let me write about the Improved Face Unlock, which is accessed from Settings, Security, Smart Lock and Trusted face. Google have significantly improved how quick Face Unlock works; it was always sluggish with older versions of Android. Android Lollipop now starts scanning your face as soon as you activate the screen, so that by the time you’ve used the slide touch function, it should already recognize you and you won’t have to wait for it to take a look at your face.

Android Lollipop now supports system-wide voice commands, providing the hardware supports it. This is supported even with the ‘phone off. You’ll find the option for this in Settings, Language & Input, Voice Input and then in the Enhanced Google Services, under “OK Google.” You’ll need to train the device to understand and recognize your voice, so that it won’t respond to everybody saying “OK Google.” You can also specify if the device will listen with a locked screen, too. Always listening voice command could be effectively combined with an in-car Trusted Bluetooth device. Another of the small improvements to Android is that Android Beam now appears in the “Share With” menu, whereas before it was never explicitly shown. Android Beam is a way of using NFC to share website links, YouTube clips, images and more by holding two devices close together. Now, if you tap Share, the device will guide you through the process of bringing the other NFC-equipped device closer so that it will transmit the data across.

My final feature is a Flappy Bird clone, which is Android Lollipop’s Easter Egg. You activate this, go into Settings, About Phone (or perhaps About Tablet) and tap “Android Version” several times. You’ll see a large Lollipop graphic appear on your screen. Tap this repeatedly, five or six times, then hold your finger over it. You’ll be transported to the Flappy Bird game. That’s one part of Android Lollipop I won’t be going back to!

Okay; I’ve been through a lot of new features. Some of these might not be relevant, some may well be. Many can be combined, especially the notifications area. If you have Lollipop, go ahead and have a play with some of the new tricks. If you don’t, but you’re due it soon, this should whet your appetite for the upgrade!