Google is rolling out its first major Android update since it launched its new operating system back in November.
The most interesting improvement is a new feature that could help drive down phone theft.
With Device Protection turned on, your phone will stay locked until you sign in with your Google account — even if the phone gets reset to factory settings. If your phone gets stolen, thieves won’t be able to steal your data and the phone will essentially be a brick.
Apple introduced a similar feature — which it called Activation Lock — in iOS 7 and it has driven iPhone thefts down 40% in San Francisco and 25% in New York. Device Protection will likely have the same effect for people who own Lollipop-running devices like Google’s latest Nexus 6.
It also added a few new features, like support for multiple SIM cards, high-definition voice calling, and a way to make your phone more secure.
The multiple SIM-card support will be particularly useful in Android One markets, where people may want to share the same phone among multiple family members. The update also lets users join Wi-Fi networks and control Bluetooth devices through the Quick Settings menu.
The 5.1 update also improves Lollipop’s performance and stability overall. When Lollipop 5.0 launched, Google called it its largest, most ambitious OS update ever, but it still had a bunch of bugs that Google has finally ironed out.
Although all these improvements are nice, barely anyone will get to use them. Only 3.3% of Android devices are currently running Lollipop.
Also, Google’s announcement doesn’t say anything about whether or not 5.1 fixes one of the biggest gripes about Lollipop: that it changed the way Android’s silent mode works.
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