Devices Receiving Lollipop Updates: Inconsistent App Compatibility

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The first updates for Android 5.0 Lollipop have been arriving across the world and with this, we have the first reports of problems running the new software. These range from application not running on a device or worse, running and crashing. Some applications appear to make the system either unstable or so slow that it’s unusable and unfortunately, the problem appears to be worst on the original Google Nexus 7.

As a quick recap on the original Nexus 7, this device was released in the summer of 2012. It’s based around a Nvidia Tegra 3 processor clocked at 1.2 GHz for multicore operations but up to 1.3 GHz for single core operations. It has a 7.0-inch 720p resolution screen, 1 GB of RAM and either 8 GB, 16 GB or 32 GB of internal storage. And the original Nexus 7 tablet has the honor of being the oldest Nexus device to receive the update to 5.0.

The specific errors that users are reporting appear to be centred around performance: the Nexus 7 has a slow memory controller unit, which causes the device to stutter and pause, especially if it’s running low on space. Android includes some code designed to improve matters by cleaning up the drive, but some users running Android 5.0 Lollipop are reporting significant delays when opening applications, hesitation when switching screens or applications together with crashing applications.

Lollipop is a better optimized operating system compared with previous versions and the Nexus 7 should be powerful enough to run Lollipop smoothly, so why are people experiencing these issues? The clue is in the detail of reports: some people, running just Google’s applications, report that their device is smooth and consistent. One recommendation is to disable Google Now notifications as this is causing issues. I’ve also read instructions to clean the device application cache, which can become cluttered up (this is done using Recovery Mode, have a look online for your particular device).

However, these resolutions won’t solve the problem if it’s caused by an application being incompatible with Android 5.0 Lollipop. Lollipop has switched to Android RunTime (ART) and there may be some application incompatibility: it seems that Facebook has run into this trap. Unfortunately, the short term solution appears to be to uninstall misbehaving applications and contact the developers to ask them to fix the issue. If you have many, many third party applications, it may be a case of removing the more likely suspects (those that receive notifications) first. It won’t be a pleasant experience.

It is not Google’s fault that the developers haven’t updated the application yet: the preview version of Lollipop has been available since the summer but there are an awful lot of devices out there with different chipsets and screens. It’s a case of asking the developers to fix the issue. We’ve also seen this issue before, whereby after an operating system update, certain application don’t want to cooperate. Having used Nexus devices for some time, it’s more common on these handsets. It’s less common on non-Nexus handsets, although Motorola are aiming to release updates to Lollipop as quickly as Google.

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