Android 5.1, just formally released by Google this past Monday, brings with it some pretty exciting changes, as we just discussed when looking at the substantial performance benefits imparted to Google’s flagship Nexus smartphone, the Nexus 6. “Well that’s nice,” you respond, “for those users who actually have Android 5.1 on their phones. I haven’t seen it yet? What the heck am I supposed to do, just keep waiting?” Well, yeah, you could just be patient until your phone or tablet pops up its update notification warning, but for the more proactive Nexus users out there, you’ll find a growing number of alternate upgrade pathways: here’s what you can access, with which devices, as of now.
You’re looking at two main routes to manually getting Android 5.1 on your Nexus: flashing a factory image, or sideloading the very same update file that Google’s sending out for OTA updates.
Head on over to Google’s Nexus factory image page and you’ll find Android 5.1 downloads (along with full installation instructions) for the Nexus 6, Nexus 5, Nexus 10, and the Nexus 7 2012 WiFi; more will show up in due time, but that’s what’s available ATM. Be forewarned, though, if you haven’t already unlocked your bootloader, the steps you’ll need to take to flash one of these images will require a wipe of device data.
The somewhat more graceful solution is the OTA sideload, and while these files come from Google itself, they’re not publicly posted like those factory images are. Luckily, as users receive OTA notifications they’ve been tracking down the files and sharing those links with the rest of us. We’ve covered the general installation steps before (you’ll need to attach your Nexus device over USB to your computer), so refresh your memory before proceeding. As of now, we’ve only seen these OTA files for the models linked below, but we’ll share more as we find them.