Google Nexuses and Android Lollipop

Tech companies release new and updated products every year, some more useful than others. But all new products are cool or just interesting, and as a techie I try to keep up with what is happening in the market even if I am not buying. Sadly, this year’s line-up does not feature anything particularly new and noteworthy for students, thoughApple did announce the Apple Watch and launch the iPhone 6 and the iPad Air 2. Last week, Google chimed in by providing more information about Android 5.0 nicknamed Lollipop and announced the Nexus 6, 9 and Nexus Player. All of these should arrive in time for Christmas and I will introduceeach of them here.

Android Lollipop focuses on a “Material Design” which simplifies the interface and is hopefully more intuitive. The main design elements are plain, geometric shapes, offering a crisp, clean feeling. The latest animations for responding to touch, opening apps, and browsing multi-tasking panes illustrate more clearly how the device responds to touch input. For example, the screen shows a lot of movement response when swiping and app transition reveals what is opening where usually a window from the bottom of the screen.

The focus on animation helps develop a mental path of movement through the interface, which especially benefits non-visual people who struggle navigating UI. Furthermore, it appears in the preview that the home screen acts as an easy point of reference by actingmore like the desktop of your PC or Mac than before. Animations create the feeling that menus and apps cover the home screen and rest on top of it like a desktop window, rather than replace the home screen altogether, thus users are less likely to become lost. If these types of changes are successful in the UI, Android could be really inviting for first-time users.

Next we have the hardware which will run Lollipop: the new Nexus 6 made by Motorola. It looks a lot like the Moto X, naturally, but it’s much bigger and faster. The Nexus 6 features a larger screen than the iPhone 6 Plus, at 5.96″ vs. 5.5″ and 2560×1440 493 PPI vs. 1920×1080 401 PPI. Inside, the CPU is the latest Snapdragon chipset with a Quad Core up to 2.7 GHz and 3GB of RAM, which means this device handles like a dream. For added bonus, Google claims you can charge fifteen minutes for six hours of additional use. These specifications make the Nexus 6 entirely capable of replacing a tablet and even a laptop. Large phones can appeal to individuals who use their computers only for web browsing, e-mail and video, and are interested in consolidating. For everyone else like myself, I hope they make a more pocket-friendly version of this phone.

Another potential laptop replacer is the Nexus 9, which is working hard to strike abalance between work and play. With a 8.9″ screen, you can still hold it in one hand like a reader though you might grow tired and the optional attachable keyboard/folio $129 adds work functionality. Interestingly, the Nexus 9 only has 2GB of RAM, compared to the 6s 3GB, and sports a 64bit Nvidia chip at 2.3GHz. Though the specs differ, performance between the 6 and 9 will be comparable so customers are left selecting between sizes and prices. Price hasn’t been announced yet for the Nexus 6, but you can pre-order a Nexus 9 Wi-Fi, 16GB for $399.

Finally, Google’s latest product line extension is the Nexus Player, another entrant in the streaming device market, similar to a Roku Player or Amazon’s Fire TV. The Nexus Player takes the success of casting and adds video streaming from apps like Netflix, Hulu, TED and Crackle, as well as gaming through apps from the Google Play store. I think that means you can play Candy Crush on your TV… It will be interesting to see how many users purchase the additional game remote for this purpose. The Nexus Player could provide a console gaming experience for budget conscious users. However, even more budget conscious users who already own a laptop can invest in an HDMI cable and connect a laptop to their TV for a similar experience.

mcmanis@stolaf.edu

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