Google has quietly started shipping Android 5.1 Lollipop, the latest version of its mobile operating system, on Android One smartphones in Indonesia.
The company has not officially announced the new Android version yet. So not many details are available on the changes that Google has introduced with it. But the Android One home page for Indonesia touts three smartphone models featuring the new OS version.
Google introduced the Android One affordable smartphone initiative for emerging markets last September. The systems are currently available in several South Asian countries and are being freshly introduced in Indonesia.
Android Police, a site that tracks Android-related news, posted several photos purporting to show Android One devices designed for Indonesia running the latest version of the operating system.
"Considering that 5.1 is quite a jump from 5.0.2, and something like 5.0.3 seemed more likely as the next bug fixer, we were cautious to suggest it may have been a mistake or a very persistent typo," according to Android Police, which referred to its first reaction when it saw mention of the new operating system on the Android One Website.
"But as it turns out, Android 5.1 is real, and it's indeed shipping on Android One phones in Indonesia."
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment seeking more details on the Android 5.1 rollout in Indonesia and on why it hasn't officially released the operating system yet.
Android Pit, another site that tracks Android news, said that it had earlier expected Google to release 5.1 Lollipop toward the end of February. The fact that the operating system has started shipping on devices in the first week of February is impressive, Android Pit said.
Android Pit listed several new Android 5.1 features apparently obtained from an official "changelog" several weeks ago. The new OS version will come with improved RAM management capabilities, improved battery management and fixes for sudden application closures and certain system stability issues. Also fixed in the new version are problems in the previous version of Lollipop that caused certain sound issues as well as performance issues in WiFi mode.
"With more new Android One owners in Indonesia unpacking Android 5.1, we expect to know a lot more about its feature set in the coming hours and days," Android Pit added.
When Google released its fifth-generation Android 5.0 Lollipop series last November, the company described it as one its biggest Android releases yet. Lollipop featured some significant improvements in battery management and notification capabilities, but was plagued with some early connectivity problems and stability issues.
Even now, more than three months after its release, Lollipop is installed on barely 1.6 percent of all Android-powered devices. A dashboard maintained by Google shows that Lollipop's predecessor, Android 4.4 KitKat, still powers close to 40 percent of all Android devices, followed by versions of Android Jelly Bean.
Vendors like Motorola, LG and Samsung have only just begun firming plans to ship products featuring Android 5.0 Lollipop. It is not clear if Google's sudden release of version 5.1 will change or delay those plans.
Steve Brasen, research director at Enterprise Management Associates, said the new Android 5.1 version appears designed to smooth out some of the rough edges in the introductory version of Lollipop.
"My understanding of the 5.1 release is that it primarily provides code fixes and performance improvements without introducing new functionality," Brasen said.
"While I can only speculate at the development decisions that happen behind closed doors at Google, my best guess is that 5.0 was pushed to general availability prematurely to allow partner vendors time to start incorporating the new OS into their various hardware platforms, and this update is really just cleaning up the rough edges," he said via email.
"Typically, Google releases new versions of Android six to 12 months apart, so this is unusual and was more likely a business decision than a technical one," Brasen said.