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Why Android 5.0 Lollipop is already coming to phones and tablets

Just a year or two ago, you couldn’t read tech news without hearing about how excruciatingly slowAndroid updates were. Tablets and phones that were only a few months old were languishing on versions of the platform that were nearly a year old, which of course made them completely unsuitable for use by human beings. It wasn’t just about being on the latest and greatest, though, as there are demonstrable benefits to having an up-to-date device. This year, the update to Android 5.0 is going very smoothly — almost suspiciously so.

Motorola has started pushing Android 5.0 to the new Moto X Pure Edition, LG is updating G3s in Europe, and Nvidia is rolling it out to the Shield Tablet. All this before some Nexus devices have even gotten the update. So, why such a turnaround in just a year?

The first factor is something many users and app developers can speak to, not just OEMs. Google opted to release developer previews of Android 5.0 (at the time known only as L) to help developers get their apps ready for the new platform. Google has never done that before, and it paid off. There are a ton of apps implementing material design and Android 5.0-specific APIs. In addition, OEMs had a chance to test their own internal apps, services, and UI tweaks. It’s not the same as having the source code to build from, but Google was kind enough to provide that too.

Right after the developer preview went live, Google pushed the open source code for Android L to the Android Open Source Project. That’s where OEMs, developers, and curious users can go to get all the core components of Android to build ROMs. This allowed OEMs to start fiddling with their custom interfaces and services on the system level. This was far from final code, but the fact that it existed at all gave OEMs a big head start on developing system updates.

Google has also been working on a set of tools known as the Platform Developers Kit (PDK) for the last few years. This package gives OEMs access to APIs and code samples early on that help them make Android updates more smoothly. There’s also word that Google has gone beyond the original scope of the PDK with Lollipop, and delivered frequent updates to the in-process code for its closest partners like Motorola, LG, and Nvidia. This, in combination with the developer preview code, is largely responsible for the rapid turnaround this time.

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Why Android 5.0 Lollipop is already coming to phones and tablets

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