Android Lollipop annoys me (a little bit)

There's a way of thinking that worries me: a “new operating system” must look graphically different from the previous version of the same operating system. Premise: I have been upgraded to Android (so-called) Lollipop. (Second premise: I own a Samsung Galaxy S4 — something I regret, but it's too late and I'll keep it till I die or till it breaks — whatever happens first).


The “hey look at me, I look different, so I am better and cooler” approach makes me uncomfortable. For such a big update I expect to have a “new” system which looks basically the same, except wherever “new features” require their room… changes under the hood must make it more solid, faster, less resources hungry.

I won't analyze advantages or disadvantages of new real stuffs that power the system; here I just say that I can't notice any big difference: e.g. it still “wabbles” when I scroll long list quickly, and memory usage isn't better at all.

Anyway, I am questioning why I must also undergo a different visual look which follows debatable aesthetic tastes, after it took its time to get accustomed to the previous one…: the change isn't required and, moreover, a themes engine should manage it — thus I can keep the same theme or change it when I decide to do so, for whatever reason.

Let me rant against what I think they get wrong (i.e. what I would like to have back to how it was) or what is odd to me. For the rest and other one-step-forward-two-steps-backward details, you can read the article on Ars technica.

Squaring a folder

I have several pages (or whatever they call them) on my phone. On each page, I group apps using folders. Before Lollipop, they looked nice to me: small icons crowded on a circular dais. The general look of a page with each “spot” occupied by a folder was clean and light.

Now folders are boxes with the classical “squared” folder look, with a tab jutting a little. The visual impact is less pleasant.

You can pick a different colors for a folder, so you can recognize a specific one by a glance — nice, but I usually pick the right because of its position, thanks to the fact it stays where I've put it. Moreover, you can choose among 5 colors… do you think someone thought about a color picker? Forget it.

Contextual menu

The contextual menu doesn't work like a contextual menu anymore; it allows to add or remove pages, set wallpapers and the “transition effect” for the home screen. A waste of power (and time programming such a feature). Guess which transition effect do I use… None. All those frills, animated transitions and similar things drive me nuts also on a desktop computer; I absolutely do not want them on my phone.

Of course the default is not none.

Ok, … I used the contextual menu on the screen to access the preferences… And now? Now I have to drag the upper band (or how you call it) and push the gear. I can live with this, but still I can't consider it an improvement of any kind.


I use the phone to wake me up in the morning and I have snooze on (5 minutes, 3 times). When I open my eyes and try to figure out the right gesture to snooze it, I found the yellow filled zZ circle “button” eyes-hurting — the red one is more acceptable. Before Lollipop, the alarm had its oddities, but whoever decided its look, at least got it right one simple idea: faint glow…

There is another giant mistake, related to the absurd lock screen. Once I snooze the alarm, it may happen I open my eyes again and want to check how many minutes are left before it will ring again.

Surprise: if you configured the notification in the most obvious way (i.e., do hide texts, senders, and other “sensitive” informations), then you'll read “Clock” as a notification (ugly), and “contents hidden” below: when the alarm will ring again is an important private fact…

It's silly. So silly that it seems absurd someone thought it makes sense. Privacy sometimes is a compromise and asks for some waivers… but this is not the case.

Moreover, when screen is locked you know the fact that the alarm is set, but it does not show when. Before Lollipop, it behaved in the more logical way, showing the time of the next alarm.

Mad sad lock screen

I have my screen pin-locked.

I don't care if anyone can see that I have a notification from twitter, facebook, or a new incoming unanswered call or message, unless, of course, they are able to read it when the phone is locked.

Now it won't happen, even if the new notification system is a waste of space: instead of discreet icons in the top bar, we have full-width boxes… when you hide “sensitive contents”, you read two lines anyway, e.g. “Twitter” and “contents hidden”!

It isn't hard to think this: do not write “contents hidden”; rather, hide the content and shrink the box! But then, wouldn't it better to stick back to the previous way of notification, with improved privacy for messages and calls (hide the caller id and message sender, if I decide to)?

I have a story about how it happened.

They made the new notification system… All cool and smart and comfy. Too late somebody wondered: but if a user lock the screen to make the access to the phone harder, is it good we show all the details on the locked screen?! It becomes an important privacy issue especially for those users who use “secure” locking methods.

So a new option was added quickly, at the last moment, as a fix for this severe quirk. In pseudocode, it worked like this:

if (privateNotification && screenIsLocked) {
    notification.text.replace("contents hidden");

This is just immagination. But one thing is real: the new notification system isn't the big exciting stuff. Rather I would call it a big crap.

But after all you can forgive and live with it… Ok, each time I read “contents hidden” I laugh a bit, so it is funny after all.

There are other two things that confirm the design of the lock screen shipwrecked.

It's charged; is it charged?

You plug the charger to recharge your phone. Once the battery is fully charged, a fixed green LED shines. But the LED is used also for other visual notifications; e.g. a flashing blue is used for…


I turn the screen on and there's no 100% charged notification icon. Nothing suggesting the battery is fully charged. Where's the 100% icon?


Guess how you know the battery is fully charged when you turn on the screen… Under the numerical pad you read “Enter PIN”. This writing disappear after few seconds. And if you have your charger still plugged and the battery is fully charged, then in its place you can read the information you wanted about the status of the recharge!

Unplug your charger!

Camera on the lock screen

Now you can activate the camera on the locked screen. I can imagine why somebody believed this is a good idea. I see rows of take-the-picture addicted ready to catch that instant which will fly away in a blink… You must be as quick as possible. If you are this kind of person and in the same time you are also a little bit worried about who can access your phone when you leave it unattended, it happens that between you and the tool you want to use to take the picture, there's a “complicated” procedure which is a total waste of time in these incredible chances of our life. The risk is that the instant will be gone forever. Carpe diem.

But I don't want it and I think nobody should: through it anyone can take a picture or record a film of anything s/he wants; a joker can consume your battery and storage easily, or just put a compromising picture on your phone.

The rest

Here and there I've noticed other oddities, but now I can't remember them. It just happens that sometimes I ask why they did such a silly thing.

My conclusion is that the silly will of changing the default visual aspect must be absolutely unrelated to any major improvement to the core system. E.g. the fact that they replaced the Dalvik VM with something better is (to me as an user) less important than usability, habits, and minimum requirements to run the system (since I need room on my device, not for any other reason).

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