Google backtracks on Android 5.0 default encryption

When the Nexus 6 handset arrived late last year, it came with full data encryption enabled out the box. Google also pushed its hardware partners to do the same at first, but now appears to have quietly changed the requirement with a strong recommendation to enable encryption by default, reports ArsTechnica.

The same site noted performance issues with Google’s Nexus 6 in November, particularly with regards to read and write disk speeds, which it attributed to the encryption. How much of an impact did the tests show? In some cases, the new [company]Google[/company] Nexus 6 was slower than the Nexus 5 it was designed to replace, even though the handset had much improved internal components.

Nexus 6 side

Google did say in September of 2014 that the then called Android L software — later to become Android 5.0 Lollipop — would have encryption enabled by default out of the box. New devices with Android 5.0, however, don’t have the security feature enabled: The new $149 Moto E with LTE, is a perfect example. So what’s changed?

According to Ars, Google’s Android Compatibility Definition document is what’s changed; specifically, the section on disk encryption with Google making emphasis on what it recommends:

If the device implementation has a lock screen, the device MUST support full-disk encryption of the application private data (/data partition) as well as the SD card partition if it is a permanent, non-removable part of the device. For devices supporting full-disk encryption, the full-disk encryption SHOULD be enabled all the time after the user has completed the out-of-box experience. While this requirement is stated as SHOULD for this version of the Android platform, it is very strongly RECOMMENDED as we expect this to change to MUST in the future versions of Android.

Essentially, Google has gone back to having encryption as an option for new Android 5.0 devices, not a requirement: They must support it but it isn’t necessary to enable it by default. However, the last sentence in the guidelines indicates that hardware partners should be ready for this to change back in a future version of Android.

From security standpoint, this is a bit of a disappointment. If encryption impacts performance, however, Google has little choice here.

The concern I have is that most mainstream Android users won’t know that they should enable encryption their device or simply don’t know how. My hope is that if Google reduced the requirements due to performance, it finds a way to address the root cause of the issue and then get device encryption back as a default option.

Control your Android Lollipop system settings by voice

If you’re in a hands-free situation and need to control certain system functions of your Android 5.0 handset by voice, you can now do that. Android Police noticed on Friday that speaking to the Google Search app on a phone with Lollipop software can control your phone’s radios and flashlight.

Saying, “OK [company]Google[/company], turn on Bluetooth,” for example, will do just that. I’m more excited about the radio controls over the flashlight, mainly because if I need a flashlight, I’ll probably be holding the phone to direct the beam of light. Then again, if you need a little nightlight in the hours before dawn, this could be useful.

I’m surprised Google didn’t enable such voice controls for system functions soon and I hope it continues to expand them. In iOS 8, you can already control the radios by voice though Siri; handy for those (like me) that don’t typically have Bluetooth on, but need it in a pinch to wirelessly AirDrop a file, for example.

If you have Android 5.0, you’ll just need to make sure your Google Search app is up to date. For those with Android 4.4 (KitKat), the functions aren’t there. Perhaps Google will migrate them down through a future update of Google Search.

Android 5.0 Lollipop arrives for Galaxy S5 on T-Mobile

Fire up your Galaxy S5, T-Mobile customers: You should have a sweet surprise waiting for your phone. Several sources are reporting that the Android 5.0, or Lollipop, software upgrade is now available for the T-Mobile version of Samsung’s current flagship phone; either as an over- the-air upgrade or a download through Samsung’s Kies application. The update reportedly measures in at over 900MB in size and will add the look of Google’s Material Design, interactive lockscreen notifications, battery life optimizations and more to your Galaxy S5.

Android One heads to Indonesia with Android 5.1 out of the box

The latest version of Android, 5.0 Lollipop, may only be on 1.6 percent of devices, but Android 5.1 is already starting to show up on new phones.

On Tuesday, Google announced that its low-cost smartphone program, Android One, is expanding past the Indian subcontinent into Indonesia. Some of the Indonesian Android One Phones, including the Nexian Journey and Evercoss One X, are running Android 5.1 out of the box, according to AndroidPolice and Google. That means that the latest Android update is available on certain Android One devices even before Nexus devices.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 9.13.29 AM

Although an Android 5.1 changelog isn’t available yet, the update will likely bring a slew of performance and stability updates, according to AndroidPit, and may bring back the silent mode setting many have been missing in Android 5.0.

According to Google, there are three Android One devices going on sale in Indonesia from four different retailers. The devices are all similar, packing 4.5-inch, 854 x 480 pixel screens and quad-core processors presumably from MediaTek. Google also has a deal with Telkom Indonesia to “zero-rate” Android update data — so when users update their operating system it won’t cost them money.

When Android One was launched, Google promised those devices — despite costing as little as $120 — would get new versions of Android “soon after they were released” for both security and performance reasons. However, certain Android One devices in India haven’t even received the Android 5.0 update yet. For those with Nexus devices in the United States and Europe, though, Android 5.1 can’t be too far off.