The first devices with Android 5.0 software are now shipping, and Google will start rolling out Android 5.0 to existing Nexus phones and tablets soon. Device makers including Sony, HTC, and Motorola will follow suit in time.
But now that the source code for Android 5.0 Lollipop is available, independent developers are starting to take it into their own hands to bring a taste of Lollipop to phones and tablets… including models that will probably never get official builds of Android 5.0.
That includes the Verizon and GSM versions of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the Samsung Galaxy S III Mini, Sony Xperia Z, and even some devices that will eventually get official ports, including the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10.
Update: Add the Samsung Galaxy S III to that list.
The software can be a bit rough around the edges at this point: While the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) software provides the general framework for Google’s mobile operating system, getting it to work with cameras, wireless radios, audio chips, and other hardware can be rough — especially for independent developers who may not have access to the proprietary drivers for the phone or tablet they’re working on.
But for some folks, it’s the challenge that makes projects like this interesting… and we’ve seen developed bring recent versions of Android to all sorts of devices that had long been abandoned by their manufacturers. Hopefully history will repeat itself now that Android 5.0 is available.
On the other hand, some developers have complained that Google is neglecting some of its AOSP apps and services in favor of working on proprietary replacements. There are new Calendar, Gmail, and Photos apps, for instance. But they’re not open source. If you want to build custom Android firmware that doesn’t include Google’s proprietary software, you’re stuck with older versions of those apps that haven’t even been updated to feature Lollipop-style Material Design.