8 Things You Should Know About Android M

Android M, the next generation of Android has been announced (albeit no word on what M will be yet). Google recently showcased the Developer Preview of the latest version of its advanced mobile operating system in Google I/O 2015. This new release of Android tries to improve the fundamentals with big changes and plenty of bug-fixing.

After revamping the look and feel of Android Lollipop, this focus this round is to improve the core user experience of Android, and giving control back to the users. Note that this is just the developer preview and there may be other improvements coming when Android M is finally ready for the masses. In the meantime, here are some of the changes you can look forward to for Android 6.0.

1. App Info And Permissions

Android M makes every app “fess up” on the storage, battery life and data it is taking up, alongside the permissions it requires to work. And this is all provided in a more streamlined, structured and cleaner app info page, where you can also make further adjustments to the notifications it can display, app links (more on that later) as well as optimization preferences.

The permission model has also been changed. Whereas previously permissions were asked at the time the app was downloaded, now the apps will ask for permissions it require at runtime.

Aside from that you also have more control over app-specific mass-permissions, which is just a fancy phrase to say you can control permissions based on an app. For example, you can tap on Location and see a stream of apps that have access to your location.

From here you can choose to revoke permission from apps you don’t think should have access to your location, while keeping other permissions intact.

2. Doze

Android M brings a new feature to improve your device’s battery life – Doze. A battery management feature, Doze is the name for the deep-sleep state of Android M – this state uses just half of the power in sleep state, which means that your device’s battery lasts double the time.

Android M’s Doze feature is auto-activated once the device is left unattended for a while. This feature uses motion detection. If it is not attended to for a significant amount of time, or is stationary with the screen off or unplugged, Doze kicks in.

Doze’s deep-sleep mode allows the device to only periodically resume normal operations and for brief time periods. App syncing and pending operations will still run, and if the app receives a high-priority Google Cloud Messaging message, Doze allows brief network access.

3. Android Pay

Android Pay is the Google’s answer to Apple Pay. Like Google Wallet, Android Pay is a NFC payment feature, which allows anyone with a NFC-enabled Android device to pay at any NFC terminal available at partner stores. But unlike Google Wallet, Android Pay comes pre-installed in the device.

Android Pay, as per Google claims, is better and more secure because it only uses a virtual card number during the transaction and not your actual debit/credit card number. Moreover, starting from Android M, users can even authorize their Android Pay transactions using their fingerprint, thus easing the whole process.

There are 700 NFC-enabled partner stores in the US and thousands of Android Pay supported apps already available.

4. Google Now on Tap

Google Now is Android’s virtual assistant which shows you weather updates, travel reminders, news and content based on your interests and enhances your overall search experience. “Now on Tap” is an attempt to enhance that experience by bringing in real-time context to searches and content.

What does that mean? It means no more breaking away from what you are doing, fumbling between one app or another to look up information. Google Now on Tap lets you use the Home button to get the info delivered to you.

IMAGE: technobuffalo

If in the middle of your Whatsapp session, or in an email, your friends mention going for a movie and you want more info about that movie, just long-press the Home button and Google will bring you titbits of information, the kind you would probably look up anyways.

Now on Tap not lets you make a more relevant and meaningful (plus automated) Google search anytime, anywhere, while diminishing the need for making dual screens work as well as making Search a way of life.

5. Fingerprint

Fingerprint finally comes to the Android ecosystem and since Google is the one bringing this to the platform, that means any phone running Android M will be able to adopt this security feature. Android M will have native fingerprint support: fingerprint scanning can be applied using a standard and open set of APIs that works consistently across a range of devices and sensors.

This fingerprint native support will allow developers to build unified apps with fingerprint security for authorization and payments. It will also allow users to unlock devices and make purchases on Google Play. Moreover, it will also work with Android Pay to enable Android users to readily and securely use their Android device to pay in brick-and-mortar stores or to authorize payments with Android Pay partner apps.

6. Two-Way Charging

Two-way charging is a term coined for the wonderful world of device charging – your Android phone will be able to charge another mobile phone or tablet, like a portable battery can. However, there is a catch.

Android M will support the USB Type C charger or USB-C, which means that this two-way charging won’t be possible if the other phone does not have a USB-C connector. This reversible-type connector allows a faster rate of charging, almost 3 to 5 times faster, which is the kind of innovation we look for in our smartphones.

This change may spur device manufacturers to build more phones and tablets that adopt the USB-C connector as well.

7. App Links

If you have always been irritated by your device constantly asking you which app you would like to open a certain link with, Android M takes that out of the picture. The way links are served previously under the Android Intent system is that users get a list of apps they want to launch a link with: an app, another app, your favorite browser, a second favorite etc.

With Android M, developers can now add an auto-verified attribute which will allow the chosen link to be opened in a particular app. The developers will choose on your behalf. What you get is a smoother, quicker opening of links, with no interruptions.

8. Improvements

Android M is not just about big changes, but also includes lots of minor improvements and “thousands” of bug fixes to cater to the voices of Android users. Here are a few major ones.

1. Lock screen message lets anyone show a customized message on the lock screen. Previously, the option asked for the user’s name to be displayed on the lock screen.

2. Volume controls now come with a dropdown that lets you control the ringtone, media and alarm volumes directly from the hovered control bar.

3. Do not disturb is the name given to the auto-silent feature that allows users to set rules or restrict notifications by specific days or time. Users can also manually switch it on or off using Quick Toggles or from the Settings.

4. App Notifications gives users more control over what and where notifications can be shown, including what you see in the heads-up notifications.

5. System UI Tuner (Developer options) lets users manage and arrange the quick toogles and even supports adding new toggles.

6. USB Configuration (Developer options) lets users set the default configuration for USB attached to the device. Options include:

  • MTP (Media Transfer Protocol)
  • PTP (Picture TP)
  • RNDIS (USB Ethernet)
  • Audio Source
  • MIDI

7. External storage can be adopted with Android M. This means extra storage from, say, SD cards will be encrypted and formatted to behave like internal storage, allowing for the moving of apps and private data easily between storage devices.

You can find more behavior changes in this Android M Developer Preview.

What do you think? Which feature makes you interested in Android M? Let us know your thoughts using the comments section below.