A deeper look at the new quick settings menu in Android Lollipop

lollipop settings
Credit: Derek Walter

Android Lollipop’s quick settings menu is a great overhaul from KitKat, putting essential functions just a couple swipes away.

It also looks pretty slick, keeping with Google’s overall effort to produce both well-functioning and good-looking products with Material Design.

The quick-settings menu in Android 5.0 is a big improvement over the static grid in previous versions, providing better information and more useful tools to keep you from diving down into the full settings menu.

Same swipe, new options

A one-finger swipe down still pulls down notifications, but now there’s a quick-access bar that hangs at the top of the screen, displaying the date, time, and links to other settings.

Touch the bar again, or swipe down a second time, to get the full quick-settings menu. From there you can adjust the brightness, or toggle WiFi, Bluetooth, Airplane mode, cast your screen to a Chromecast or Nexus Player, fire up the flashlight, or switch accounts. That’s right, multi-user accounts come to phones in Lollipop.

The Auto-rotate toggle makes its way over from tablets. Enable it, and apps that rotate the screen when turning your device will do so. Most phones, unlike tablets, keep the home screen in portrait mode.

lollipop quick settings

It’s much quicker to adjust the brightness or shut off WiFi with the new settings menu. 

You can also jump straight into this settings view with a two-finger swipe from the top, just as you can on KitKat. However, given how massive the Nexus 6 and other phones are, it’s nice to only need one digit.

While some of the actions are straightforward, there are a few tricks to know about. For example, touch the cellular signal indicator (the button that has your carrier name) and you’ll get a readout of how much network data you’ve used. Or touch the Google profile icon to switch users or enter guest mode (perfect for switching to a kid's profile).

kitkat settings

The KitKat menu got the job done, but it wasn’t much of a looker.

The new brightness bar is a little jarring at first, because when you slide it the settings menu disappears. The idea here is to give you a better picture of how the whole screen looks once you’ve lightened or darkened it. It takes some getting used to, but it’s a nice improvement that will help you choose just the right level. 

lollipop cellular data

Find out how close you are to blowing through your monthly data cap.

Tap the battery icon, and you head straight to the Battery settings. You get a handy chart that details the history of your depleted juice and identifies the culprits. It’s much the same as before, but easier on the eyes with the new design aesthetic. And when you plug in, you now get an estimate of how much time is left before your phone is fully charged.

A friendlier settings menu

Touching the tiny cog at the top takes you to the main settings section, which has a few tweaks to the layout, putting what Google thinks are most important items up front. To fit in with the rest of Lollipop, the background is now white, featuring larger menus and the teal color scheme for text and icon highlights.

lollipop settings

Data usage is front and center, which is usually something to monitor unless you have an unlimited plan. Just as in KitKat, you can chart and set a warning when you approach a specific data limit. The toggles for turning off cellular data and turning on the data governor on are also easy to access, right at the top.

Such tweaks are part of what makes Lollipop a less intimidating version of Android. The power features are still there for the diehard tinkerers, but the whole design encompasses an Apple-like attention to detail. Take a moment and launch the quick settings section then slide it back to the top. The wrench will slowly roll to the right and the rest of the menu gently fades into its new place. Such niceties are show how Android’s design has achieved its own distinctive elegance.

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