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Google produces Android 5.0.1 with bug fix in tow

The update squashes a bug that could reset your Android device if it detects too many accidental or incorrect attempts to unlock the lock screen.

Nicole Cozma/CNET

Android 5.0 Lollipop, a month out the door, is getting its first bug-fixing update.

Image files pushed out by Google onto its Android Open Source Project page and its Factory Images for Nexus Devices page show a 5.0.1 update for the latest flavor of the search giant's mobile OS. So far, the 5.0.1 images appear for these devices: Google's Wi-Fi Nexus 9, the Wi-Fi 2013 Nexus 7 and the Nexus 10.

Android 5.0 offers several tweaks over previous versions. The main one is a new look known as Material design, which brings animation, richer colors and other effects to the screen. Notifications now appear on the lock screen, and a new menu called Overview shows running apps as a stack of cards. A new Battery Saver mode also drills down the CPU and turns off background data when a device is low on power.

Most Android users are still waiting for Lollipop to land on their phone or tablet. A Google spokesman has said the company started rolling out the new version to some of its Nexus devices in November, but that the process will take several weeks to reach all users. For example, my 2013 Wi-Fi Nexus 7 is still stuck on Android 4.4.4.

LG and Motorola have also started pushing out Android 5.0 to some of their key devices. Owners of Android phones and tablets made by other manufacturers will likely have to wait until the new year before they start getting a taste of Lollipop.

The major purpose of the 5.0.1 update seems to be to fix a bug that could trigger a device reset under very specific conditions. Android users can set up their devices to be reset if too many incorrect attempts to get past the lock screen are detected. So why is that a problem? Imagine your Android phone rolling around in your pocket or purse, in a scenario envisioned by Ars Technica.

Enough accidental taps on the lock screen could trigger an incorrect pattern, thereby causing the device to inadvertently reset itself. Though the bug itself would have to meet a rare set of conditions to be triggered, Google apparently would rather err on the side of caution by fixing it.

As such, Android 5.0.1 will now detect only unlock patterns that reach the minimum length of four dots. So that means just one, two or even three accidental taps on the screen won't raise any red flags.

As Google explains the problem and the fix on the bug's webpage:

Since patterns and passwords can't be shorter than 4 elements, we shouldn't count them against attempts to unlock the device. If we do, we risk resetting the device due to stray input.

For now, Android 5.0.1 is available only as image files. Installing the update to your device via an image file would apply the new version but would also wipe out all of your personal files and data. Unless you're in a rush to grab this new fix, you're better off waiting until Google or your device's manufacturer releases the update over the air, which automatically sends it to your device.

A Google spokesman said Wednesday that the company generally doesn't comment on "these minor releases." He added that based on activity in Android support forums, the bug wasn't especially prominent.

Updated at 8:35 a.m. PT with comment from Google.