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Android in 2015: Highs and Lows

2015 has been a massive year for Google and Android, with company restructures, sexy new handsets and the usual feuds with Apple all present and correct. Let’s take a look back at Android in 2015, including its highlights, lowlights and other notable news.

Alphabet causes a massive freakout

On Tuesday August 11, widespread panic seemed to grip every tech website out there. It appeared that Google was about to change its name to Alphabet and basically implode, which would mean bad news for Android users.

Of course, that was a big pile of pig swill. What actually happened was that Google’s CEO Larry Page announced that he was setting up a new parent company called Alphabet, which would oversee Google and its research divisions. The overall impact to Android? Well, bugger all, apparently. So that’s nice.

Google back on form with Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P

After the rather tepid disappointments of the Nexus 6 (pointlessly big and expensive phablet) and Nexus 9 (a tablet that inspires one emotion: ‘meh’) from 2014, it was pleasing to see Google get back on top with the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P smartphones this year.

They’re not perfect handsets by any means, but the pleasingly affordable Nexus 5X and funky feature-packed Nexus 6P are a serious improvement over the Nexus 6 and stand up well against rival Android phones.

Read next: Things we love and hate about the new Nexus phones

Android Marshmallow brings better battery life and privacy control

Android 6.0 was finally revealed as Android Marshmallow back in September, bringing a small selection of much-needed new features.

For one, Android phones now boast better battery life thanks to a fresh new focus on energy efficiency. The likes of the Doze feature help to cut down on unnecessary drain when your phone is hibernating, while App Standby stops an app from accessing the internet if it hasn’t been used in a while.

We also love how you can now toggle each app’s privileges, to prevent them from accessing private data like your location. Nice one, Google.

Android Wear starts to get good, flips the bird to Apple

With the likes of funky new interactive watch faces and interface improvements rolling out to Android Wear devices this year, we’re finally tempted to strap on a smartwatch for more than a week or so.

Hilariously, Google also did a massive crotch thrust in Apple’s direction by making Android Wear devices iOS compatible, thus giving iPhone owners a worthy alternative to the super-expensive Apple Watch.

Blackberry goes Android at last

Many people seem to think that Blackberry is already dead in the dust, but in actual fact the Canadian company released its finest phone in years in 2015 – the awkwardly-named Blackberry Priv. The reason for the Priv’s success? Why, it ditched the crappy Blackberry OS and went with Android instead.

In fact, those rather smart Blackberry boffins even managed to make Android a bit better, with some truly magnificent new features. Nice.

Android vs Apple

Despite Android’s continued dominance in most global markets, Google’s mobile OS lost a chunk of its market share in quite a few regions in 2015.

Here in Blighty, the Android share dropped from 60.6 percent to 53.2 percent while iOS rose from 28.5 percent to 34.1 percent and Windows jumped from 9.6 percent to 11.3 percent. That’s despite some very strong Android devices emerging this year, including the Samsung Galaxy S6 and LG G4.

Google Photos gives unlimited backup

One problem with many of the latest smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the new Nexus phones is their lack of expandable storage, which means that if you take a lot of photos, you’re going to fill up your mobile pretty fast.

Thankfully with Google Photos, you can now backup and store all of your high-res photos and videos in the cloud for free. It’s a massive endeavour for Google and a huge bonus to Android users – as well as iOS users, as there’s now an Apple app too.

Google declares war on bloatware

We can’t stand it when we get a new phone and boot it up, only to discover dozens of crap apps already pre-installed. No, we don’t want to use your awesome media streaming service that only seems to play One Direction and Busted. And no, we don’t want to play Candy Smash Saga Deluxe 9.

So thank the invisible deities that Google has decided to curb the amount of bloatware that appears on Android devices. Let’s just hope that this policy actually sticks.

Android Experiments showcases creative talent

Google hosted a very cool ‘Android Experiments’ event in 2015, designed to showcase 20 innovative Android apps from a variety of developers.

Highlights included the Time Mesh watch face for Android Wear that warps and distorts based on the user’s movements; Space Sketchr, which allows the user draw or sketch in 3D space; and the IOIO Plotter, which uses an circuit board controlled by an Android device to write on a physical sheet of paper.

That was Android in 2015, but check back tomorrow for our round-up of how Apple and iOS fared this year.

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