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Android M is now official and it's all about the user experience

Posted: , by Chris P.

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Android M is now official and it's all about the user experience

Global adoption rates for Android Lollipop may be just breaking the 10% barrier, but that doesn't mean that Google hasn't been hard at work since the last major update was made official at Google I/O 2014. All this effort has yielded Android M — announced just now at Google I/O 2015 — and that means that the industry at large will be spending most of its time disemboweling the code and making sense of all the new features it is set to bring to the table. Until then, however, let's go through the major talking points of Android M.

Bye-bye annoying app permissions!


App permissions are being overhauled in M.

App permissions are being overhauled in M.

First and foremost, it is already being perfectly clear to us that Android M will be largely focused on the user experience instead of major UI design overhauls, like was the case with Android Lollipop. The very first feature announced on stage at I/O 2015 were changes to app permissions — a seemingly unimportant aspect of Android, but one that we clash with on a daily basis. In Android M, which will have its own developer preview available as Lollipop did, users will have to battle with, and okay, permission requests much less often. Why? Because app permissions will be granted only once, instead of every time you install an app. 

For example, if you want to send a voice message through Whatsapp, you'll only have to agree to grant the app the permission once, and will never be asked to allow microphone usage in apps again. The above will apply to all other categories of permissions, which have been simplified to be more understandable than before — so things like 'Camera' and 'Location'.

Since you may want to revoke a permission from an app at a later time, you'll be able to do so through a menu in the settings, which will let you to control whether all or select apps have access to a certain category of permissions.

Google Now is better than ever


Google Now understands your context and offers help.

Google Now understands your context and offers help.

One of the biggest improvements in Android M actually have to do with Google Now — the search giant's digital assistant. The service is arguably already best-in-class, but thankfully, Google isn't being complacent.

Dubbed as 'Now on tap', the service will now be able to understand your context much better than before, including the app you're using and the content that you're exposed to. This will allow Google's assistant to do some pretty smart stuff. For example, a message received in Viber that references a chore (pick up the dry cleaning!) and a suggestion to maybe go to a restaurant will mean a ton to Google Now — a tap of the Home button will summon the service, which will offer to set a reminder for your dry cleaning, and whip out reviews and suggest apps that will let you reserve a table at that one restaurant.

This kind of functionality isn't just limited to Viber, though. If you're listening to a track, and activate Google Now and ask questions about the artist behind it, the assistant will know who you're talking about automatically. Another example is Chrome — just highlight the name of that one movie star, long-press the Home button to summon Google Now, and watch as it serves you all kinds of information about him or her. Best of all? None of the apps in question will need to be updated for Google Now to do its thing.

Android Pay and native fingerprint scanning support


Another major announcement has to do with a new service alike to Apple Pay. Called Android Pay, it's Google's reboot of Wallet, allowing for mobile payments within stores. As you can imagine, it'll use NFC to communicate with terminals. 

Android Pay is Google's answer to Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.


On top of mobile payments, Android M is also introducing native support for fingerprint scanners, so manufacturers will no longer have to bake in support themselves — at least unless they want to. Coupled with Android Pay, it's obvious that Google is getting really serious about mobile payments.

Chrome everywhere


Chrome browser used within Pinterest.

Chrome browser used within Pinterest.

If you're big on reading through Facebook, you will likely have noticed that the app no longer sends you off to do your thing with the help of a third-party browser, and any given article is instead served within Facebook. This very same type of functionality is coming to apps (Pinterest already confirmed), allowing third-party developers to bake in such functionality within their products. The heavy-lifting will be done with Chrome, though the interface will remain consistent with the app's design. 

Why you should care? Because this implementation will allow apps to pre-fetch content before you even open it, so load times will be lower than ever.

'Dozing' with Android M will increase power efficiency by a ton


Seeing how battery life continues to be an overarching issue with smartphones, it only makes sense that a major update such as Android M will focus on this aspect of the experience as well. With M, Google is introducing 'dozing', a special mode that will only activate when your device's various sensors determine that your device is not being used (say, it's just standing on your desk), and enter an even deeper state of sleep. Thankfully, dozing won't stop your alarms and priority notifications from reaching you.

The results? Google claims that an identical setup with Android M manages up to x2 the standby time of a device on Android Lollipop. If true, dozing truly is a big deal.

On a related note, Google has made its support for USB Type C charging ports public, meaning that we can expect more such devices to creep up on us rather soon. The end of failed attempts at connecting your device is in sight, people!


The small things


Not every Android M feature is as noteworthy as Android Pay or better power management, yet the smaller things do make life easy (or a living hell). Two such examples are sharing content on (stock) Android, and volume control.

Direct share


While sharing various types of content has been core to the Android experience, one could (successfully) argue that the implementation has been in need of a serious improvement for a while. Not only are we bombarded with tons of apps we can share content to, but many devices don't really learn from your usage habits.
Volume controls by category in Android M.

Volume controls by category in Android M.


Seeing as Google is pitching Android M as all about the user experience, it makes sense that it worked on that. With Android M, your device will finally make sense of how and who you share with, allowing for ever smarter suggestions next time around. So if you constantly send over content to your girlfriend, your Android M-toting device will know that you're most likely to share with her again in the future. So she'll be your number one option.

This feature has been available in proprietary, Android-based UIs, but it's good to see Google is both paying attention and willing to implement smart ideas into Android.

Finally! Volume control by category


Another exceedingly smart feature available with select manufacturer UIs, and unavailable with Android Lollipop, is volume control by category. This means that if you wish to change the volume for notifications and alarms, but not music and your ringtone, you could only do so whilst in an app the controls this category of sound. So the media controller was only available when in a music app. With Android M, this will finally change, as the volume bar will now include the sliders for all groups.

35 Comments
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posted on 28 May 2015, 12:08 9

1. fonelover (Posts: 248; Member since: 19 Mar 2015)


Too early, most of us haven't yet got lollipop.

posted on 28 May 2015, 12:16 3

2. neela_akaash (Posts: 1227; Member since: 05 Aug 2014)


There are alot more people still using jellybean

posted on 28 May 2015, 12:21 20

5. livyatan (Posts: 867; Member since: 19 Jun 2013)


Lollipop was a big and hard to roll out update because it was a completely new software.. the new runtime, 64bit, material design etc. The M is about polishing put the existing software and should be much easier to update on from Lollipop, than it was from kitkat to Lollipop.

posted on 28 May 2015, 12:30 3

8. FluffyBled (Posts: 541; Member since: 10 Sep 2014)


Yea ... I hate samsung for not pushing the update for the exynos S5 :'(

posted on 28 May 2015, 12:58 1

9. blazee (Posts: 414; Member since: 02 Jan 2012)


I don't care

posted on 28 May 2015, 13:02 5

11. BobbyBuster (banned) (Posts: 854; Member since: 13 Jan 2015)


Empty promises, every year.

posted on 28 May 2015, 16:27 1

15. Cyberchum (Posts: 715; Member since: 24 Oct 2012)


Believe me, lollipop is bad for your teeth and gum, you don't need a taste of that. Just hope that OEMs/Carriers will jump straight to M and avoid that pariah.

posted on 28 May 2015, 17:44 2

18. czvezda (Posts: 31; Member since: 21 Apr 2015)


That's a problems with OEM's not Google. If they don't keep up, they'll lose revenue due to their complacency.

posted on 28 May 2015, 19:06 2

22. dimas (Posts: 2489; Member since: 22 Jul 2014)


Glad you don't. Lollipop is.frustration's alter ego. Many complain of fast battery drain with the update so for me, 4.4.4 is still the most stable android OS.

posted on 07 Jun 2015, 09:36

31. epdm2be (Posts: 621; Member since: 20 Apr 2012)


IMHO 4.2 was. Plus it looked way better too.

posted on 28 May 2015, 19:45

23. mafiaprinc3 (Posts: 575; Member since: 07 May 2012)


the new android menu taking hints from windows phone i guess.

updates will always be a big problem with android, with all these different phones manufacturers push out each week and not being able to keep up, especially these chinese brands,I have nothing against chinese phones as most are good for the cost.

thinking of switching to windows phone when windows phone 10 is launched

posted on 16 Jun 2015, 05:23

35. leeTronix (Posts: 33; Member since: 09 Apr 2015)


Exactly, that said it is subtly forcing those who want to the latest as soon as it is developed to go purchase a Nexus. It is very sporadic as an OS no consistencies just another dumped on us OS that many will not have for maybe a year later even. Not a professional image.

posted on 28 May 2015, 12:17 4

3. Sauce5 (unregistered)


It's nice that Apple and Google are both taking this approach this year. Better user experience is always welcomed.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 09:35

28. SuperAndroidEvo (Posts: 4888; Member since: 15 Apr 2011)


I totally agree. User experience is vital & a very welcome sign of progress.

+1

posted on 28 May 2015, 12:21 8

4. frydaexiii (Posts: 1473; Member since: 01 Dec 2011)


Ugh, Google really needs to start enforcing their updates. Lollipop is barely on 10% of devices and they're shooting for M? Seriously, at least make sure the OEMs can keep up or force them to stay closer to stock Android so updates won't take so long. Jeez, never been this fustrated over technological advancements...

posted on 28 May 2015, 14:24 5

14. Br125 (Posts: 14; Member since: 11 Mar 2015)


Google just creates the software. If you haven't received lollipop, you should be mad at your OEM, not google for pushing forward. That's just asinine to say that you're frustrated about advancing technology. If you want updates, get a nexus. If you like you're OEM, start writing letters and messaging them to stay more current.

posted on 28 May 2015, 18:30 1

19. frydaexiii (Posts: 1473; Member since: 01 Dec 2011)


Like I said, Google should enforce the update cycles and make sure the OEMs can keep up. Like having a certain deadline for all OEMs to produce a skinned version of the latest software, if not stick closer to the stock android to make it easier to skin.

posted on 28 May 2015, 18:56 2

20. dimas (Posts: 2489; Member since: 22 Jul 2014)


I don't like your idea of 'forcing' and giving deadline to OEMs. Google don't own these manufacturers so Google can't just barge into their garage and dictate them. If you are also reading the article, most improvements are made because OEMs are implementing them via tweaked Android. Dozing is their version of stamina mode, memory usage derived from ram monitoring apps, bringing back the phone app icons and volume selections means that those things are doing well to non nexus device. Grab OEMs by the neck and there will be no brains that will work to keep improving products.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 10:58

29. ILikeBubbles (Posts: 525; Member since: 17 Jan 2011)


I have no problem with updates coming when they do because i buy my phone off contract so i can have the freedom to root/flash it.. My current daily driver is an m7 with lollipop courtesy of cm12.1.. if you don't agree with buying a phone off contract, or rooting and flashing a phone on contract, or getting a Nexus, you've already turned down 3 ways of getting the latest software..

SURE i believe everyone has a 'right' to the latest update but we're demonizing the wrong parties here. and people who say "i refuse to use android because my carrier/OEM have a bunch of red tape" well.. there are ways if you really want it.

posted on 28 May 2015, 12:22

6. josephnero (Posts: 589; Member since: 16 Nov 2011)


awesome

posted on 28 May 2015, 12:28 1

7. Jyakotu (Posts: 849; Member since: 12 Dec 2008)


It seems like Android M is more of an extension of Lollipop, rather than a full blown new version. Material design is still there, so now they're just adding extra features. Android L already has version 5.1, so Android M might be another Gingerbread or Jellybean.

posted on 01 Jun 2015, 10:59 1

30. ILikeBubbles (Posts: 525; Member since: 17 Jan 2011)


full blown new operating system? do you really expect an entireley different operating system with a completely refreshed UI every year? i think there are enough changes to warrant considering this an update..

posted on 28 May 2015, 12:59

10. kratos47 (Posts: 2; Member since: 27 May 2015)


Android has come such a long way. Remember when everyone had to get that "Task Killer"...lol

posted on 28 May 2015, 13:30 3

12. foster426 (Posts: 40; Member since: 07 Apr 2015)


Is this 5.2 or 6.0?

posted on 28 May 2015, 14:13

13. frederick333123 (Posts: 76; Member since: 15 Jun 2013)


Now thats why they told they wil be having yearly updates from here on...

posted on 28 May 2015, 16:30

16. leeTronix (Posts: 33; Member since: 09 Apr 2015)


Boring on the bolt it together OS.

posted on 28 May 2015, 17:35

17. sonisoe (Posts: 431; Member since: 06 May 2009)


thank god a separate notification tone is back...

posted on 28 May 2015, 19:04

21. dimas (Posts: 2489; Member since: 22 Jul 2014)


The improvements are good and promising, if android m is a lighter software than lollipop, it should help a lot of phones with storage less than 16gb. The only thing I want from android though is for us to easily uninstall bloatwares just like what we do with downloaded apps without using third party assistance or going to root access.

posted on 29 May 2015, 01:07 1

24. Rager722 (Posts: 319; Member since: 30 Jan 2013)


You forgot to note that android M can now edit notification tray to add any shortcut.

posted on 29 May 2015, 03:57

25. Japultra (Posts: 116; Member since: 16 May 2014)


Dozing sounds like a built in Greenify system! Kudos!

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