Google’s I/O conference this year was hotly anticipated for one reason, the next version of Android. Codenamed ‘M’, just like ‘L’ for Lollipop before it was bestowed its now well known name, ‘M’ is set to release in Q3 2015. Android M doesn’t radically change the mobile operating system like Lollipop did, but does streamline it and make it much more useful than its predecessor. Lollipop was plagued by a lot of issues upon release and still isn’t as stable as KitKat was, but was a great new direction for the OS. From what Google has promised, Android M is a welcome change because it focuses on improvements under the hood, instead of immediately noticeable cosmetic changes. As always, the Nexus series of phones will be the first to get the update, and Nexus 5, 6, 9 and Player owners can grab the M Developer Preview right now. Wondering about all the new stuff in Android M? We’ve got you covered!
Android M New Features and Details
Google Now On Tap
Now On Tap is a significantly smarter evolution of Google Now. It basically adds contextual recognition to the service, which makes it far more useful than it ever was. Now you can search for anything and perform tasks without leaving apps. For example, if a friend texts you about dinner outside, a long press of the Home Button will tell you all you need to know about the restaurant, including reviews, how to book a table, its menu and location. Plus, it can also understand events and reminders. Another cool thing that it’s able to do is work by voice, as shown in the keynote demo. So while listening to your favorite artist, you can simply ask “where was he/she born?”, and Google will give you the answer because it understands who “he/she” is referring to.
Permissions in Android were always tricky. It used to be either allow or block everything, which didn’t really give the user much choice. With Android M, the OS will now ask for permissions for certain actions, like using the camera. Additionally, all permissions will be handled separately through the settings, and will be categorized in a more understandable and intuitive manner. This is good news if you want to allow and block only certain actions on apps.
Native Fingerprint Authentication
If everything goes well, in a couple of years we could probably get rid of PINs and passwords. Android M will introduce new APIs that will allow apps to make use of a phone’s fingerprint scanner, so you can probably make a purchase on Google Play or unlock a vault app using your fingerprint. If implemented properly, it could mean the end of password leaks from apps.
Google’s attempts to break into the mobile payment arena haven’t been all that successful, so they’ve now overhauled their system and given it a new name. Android Pay is Google’s answer to Apple Pay, and will allow devices with NFC (running Android 4.4 KitKat and above) to store credit card, loyalty card and all payment information on their device via the service. A lot of big names have already signed on for Android Pay, such as Visa, MasterCard, McDonald’s, GameStop and more.
Remember how clicking on a weblink from a message gives you a prompt whether you want to open it via browser or an app? Yeah, that’s not going to happen anymore. Android M is going to introduce smarter app linking, so when you click on, say a YouTube link anywhere, the app will automatically open instead of presenting you with a prompt asking you what should Android open it with. It’s a small change, but a welcome one.
Android devices that stay on standby for long periods of time, like tablets, will benefit most from a new feature called Doze. It’s basically a way to put the device to a deeper sleep and save battery. You’ll still get priority notifications and alarms will still be active, but your device will require less charging, since it stops a lot of background processes. Google claims that a Nexus 9 with Doze can last upto 2 times longer than one without it. Android M will also support USB Type-C, which brings faster charging and the ability to charge other devices from their device.
As evident from the name, the RAM manager lets you understand what apps and services are using the most memory and slowing down your phone. It will give users a much better idea about background performance, and of course, get battery battery life.
For media hoarders, Adoptable Storage is probably one of the best new additions. Android M will now be able to use MicroSD cards and USB OTG Drives as internal memory, which will allow the OS to transfer app and personal data back and forth as if it was part of phone storage. Adopted storage media will come with an extra layer of encryption, so you don’t have to worry about security either.
New App Drawer
Google is finally doing away with the horizontally scrolling app drawer and introducing a new and more organized app drawer that categorizes apps and scrolls vertically. It also features a new white backdrop.
If you’re the sort of person who loves sharing things with your friends and family, the new Direct Sharing feature will make it much easier to do so. Android will recognize your usage patterns and offer a single button to share what you use the most. For example, if you frequently share media with your best friend via WhatsApp, you’ll find a direct link to do so for all subsequent media, since Android recognizes that as a priority. Pretty neat!
Independent Volume Controls
And finally, we have the much required independent volume controls. Google sort of screwed up volume controls in Lollipop by unifying sounds, and is finally fixing it by allowing users to control ringer, media and alarm sounds separately. Heck, even Google admitted it was a bad decision, so this is a more than welcome change.
As evident from most of the changes, Google is now going for a more user friendly and intuitive experience instead of just changing how things look, which is of course, a great thing. Google also spoke a lot about the Internet of Things and introduced Brillo, it’s new platform for the same. Also, Google still hasn’t revealed what the version number for Android M will be. So what do you think about Android M? Let us know via the comments below!