It's official: Android 5.0 Lollipop is here.
Google (GOOG -2.23%) (GOOGL -2.40%) took its sweet time finalizing the next candy-themed moniker for its mobile platform, referring to it as Android L until now. The search giant has just announced Lollipop along with a trio of new Nexus devices made by a slew of different manufacturers.
L = Lollipop
With Lollipop, Google is focusing heavily on developers, just like Apple (AAPL -1.42%) did with iOS 8. Lollipop includes 5,000 new APIs for developers to use (compared to 4,000 new APIs in iOS 8). Google is also adopting its new Material Design aesthetic that it described earlier this year at Google I/O, improving the way that users interact with their Android devices.
Lollipop will also include better ways for devices to communicate with each other, not unlike Apple's Continuity feature. Starting an email on one device and finishing it on another is now table stakes for both platforms. There will also be more controls over notifications, improved battery saving technology, and the ability to create multiple user accounts.
Android and iOS both continue to see feature convergence, a trend that's been playing out for years. One platform may introduce a new feature, only to have the other replicate it shortly thereafter. Don't expect this to stop anytime soon.
In line with a long string of leaks, Google's new flagship Nexus device is the Nexus 6. As suggested by the name, the Nexus 6 will sport a 6-inch display. Motorola is making the device, which will feature a Qualcomm Snapdragon and 13-megapixel rear camera.
With a 6-inch display, the Nexus 6 appears utterly massive, but that seems to be where the market is heading. Like with previous Nexus phones, the Nexus 6 is a slightly tweaked version of an existing model from the OEM. In this case, the Nexus 6 resembles the Moto X. Unlike with previous Nexus phones, the Nexus 6 is not priced as aggressively as its predecessors. Most prior Nexus phones have priced in the neighborhood of $350, but the Nexus 6 is priced in line with other flagship devices at $650.
Google also announced the Nexus 9, which has a (you guessed it) 9-inch display and is made by HTC. The Nexus 9 represents a transition from the Nexus 7's 7-inch display to a larger format (the Samsung-built Nexus 10 is still available). Google and HTC are positioning the Nexus 9 as a productivity device, offering a keyboard accessory (sold separately) that attaches magnetically.
The Nexus 9 is powered by an NVIDIA (NVDA -4.71%) Tegra K1, which is easily a big win for the graphics specialist as its Tegra business has been suffering lately. The tablet is now the first 64-bit Nexus device. In fact, this device could be a boon for both NVIDIA and HTC, as HTC has failed to gain any traction in the tablet market and Nexus tablets sell quite well. Just ask ASUS.
Speaking of ASUS, that brings us to the Nexus Player. The small set-top box that ASUS is building for Google is the first device to run Android TV, Google's latest attempt to invade the living room. Google will sell a gamepad separately, which can be used to play a wide range of Android gaming titles on your TV, and you can naturally stream to the Nexus Player from Android devices.
The Android camp has long been known for offering a wide range of hardware configurations to satisfy broad consumer preferences. At this point, Google now has the Nexus 5 (LG), 6 (Motorola), 7 (ASUS), 9 (HTC), and 10 (Samsung).