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!


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


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. 


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


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.

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.

FEATURED VIDEO

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.
FCC OKs Cingular's purchase of AT&T Wireless