Finally Google revealed the highly anticipated Android M, the next version in the popular android OS series. While most of the rumours surrounding the features of the new OS have turned out to be true, the company seems to have gone “back to the basics” in the latest OS. While Android Lollipop introduced a brand new design and aesthetic, Android M is bringing some much-needed stability and usability improvements. These changes may not be quite noticeable in the initial phases, but it does have the potential to provide long term benefits to Android users.
Check out some of the important features and enhancements brought to the Android universe with the launching of the Android M.
There were speculations about user control permissions to be provided in Android M. This can come true. Users can choose which permissions they would like to keep. Additionally, permissions have also been simplified in the new OS. However, there is a slight difference in the way the permissions may be accepted / restricted. This wont happen at the time of installing the app. Rather it would be done on a per feature basis. For example, if you want to record a voice message on WhatsApp, then the app will ask you for a one-time request for permissions applicable for this feature. You may choose the permissions as per your preference. Giving users the power to control app permissions is a major leap for Android and it will definitely help in increasing the user population who prefer this OS over others. You can modify the permissions granted to apps at a later date in your Settings, or you can view permissions by type and see which apps have that permission granted.
Google constantly works on improving the user experience with respect to web browsing and interactions with apps / websites. The company has now brought out “Chrome Custom Tabs” which would not only provide a great browsing experience, but also provides developers with a flexible way of harnessing all of Chrome’s capabilities. This particular feature would bring up a customized Chrome window on top of any active app instead of opening the Chrome mobile app separately. While browsing websites on the web or using apps, this feature would make the entire process faster and convenient. Automatic sign-in, saved passwords, autofill, and multi-process security are supported by Chrome Custom Tabs. It would be interesting to see how developers are able to work with this feature and come up with more intuitive applications aimed at enhancing user experience.
Standardized Fingerprint Support
As predicted by tech experts, Android M will have a natively supported fingerprint authentication system which would be aimed at a standardized support for fingerprint scanners in android devices running the latest OS. With this new feature, you would be able to use your fingerprint to unlock your android device, authenticate transactions, and enjoy convenient password-free mobile shopping experience. The mobile devices will obviously need the required hardware to be able to provide the complete fingerprint authentication package. But with Google rallying for the widespread integration of this functionality across all Android devices, this should not be a difficult stint to pull off.
Just when you thought that Google could not outplay Apple in the mobile payment category, the company just came with its brand new Android Pay. This is a mobile payment system designed to make the checkout process secure, faster, easier and hassle-free. The payment system is compatible with any device housing NFC capabilities (and running Android 4.4 KitKat or above). As of now, the implementation of this payment system has been tested and implemented for the US where users can make payments (using their existing credit cards) in over 700,000 stores. Currently, the android pay system is being supported by American Express, Visa, Mastercard, and Discover, as well as carriers such as AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. There could be further upgrades in the near future with incorporation of more stores, availability in more global regions, and supporting more carriers than the ones that exist now. This is indeed a major leap ahead in the mobile payment category and it could prove to be a game change for Android which has recently struggled to keep pace with Apple.
Modified App Links
Up till now, Google had been faced with a serious problem related to app links where the OS was not able to determine whether to execute a web-link in the web browser or to execute it through an app that claims to be compatible with it. With Android M, all of this is going to change. App links are being modified in the latest Android OS where the OS will have “a greater awareness of which apps can open content directly, instead of stopping users every time with the dialog box”. This change would be done internally so users will hardly notice the process. Google’s motive behind such a development is to get the work done without letting the user understand the reason behind such a smooth and convenient transition.
Enhanced Power Management and Charging
Have you always had power management issues on your Android devices? Well, not anymore! Android M will have a new function called Doze which will use your device’s motion detectors to detect inactive periods for the device. If the device is found to be inactive for more than the defined time, then this function will reduce background processes to enhance power management. Based on the tests conducted by Google on two Nexus 9 devices, it was found that Android M is capable of providing twice the standby time which was recorded for devices running Android Lollipop. Android M also supports USB Type-C which provides faster charging, and lets users charge other devices with their phone.
Auto Backup / Restore
This is one of the features of Android M which was probably not discussed at the Google I/O Developers Conference. The latest OS will have this feature which would work in conjunction with Google Drive to automatically backup files and data which are less than 25 MB. In terms of managing power in the device, this process will occur only once during the day and will be initiated only when the device is idle and is connected to a Wi-Fi network as well as a charging source. This is great for getting back your previous progress if you accidentally lose your apps or delete them. The best thing about this particular feature is that it can work with apps procured from third party stores also, so you don’t have to worry about losing your settings or your progress.
Fresh App Drawer
Probably the first thing that you would notice after installing Android M on your device would be the fresh and new App Drawer. No longer would you be required to navigate horizontally. The new OS provides vertical navigation and has a white background which could prove to be a welcome change from the faded shade of your homepage wallpaper. The top section of the menu will have the four most recently used apps. This will help you to get back to a recent app that you might have opened. The left hand side of the menu will have letters of the alphabet which allows users to navigate to the apps with the help of alphabetical categorization.
Android M will have a new RAM manager which would provide a better and more accurate representation of the maximum as well as average RAM usage for the installed apps. This information would be a little difficult to locate, but it’s well worth the effort. The information provided here will help you to understand the impact of an app’s memory requirements in a much better manner. This will also help users in identifying apps that consume the most memory and can be deleted without having a very significant impact on their mobile experience.
The menu can be found in Settings > Apps > Options (three dots button) > Advanced > Memory. If you want just a brief representation of your device’s memory status, then you can always check the bar at the top of the screen. Your device will be in a good condition if the bar has the message “good performance” displayed on it. This might be a small start for Google to offer RAM management, but it is definitely an important step ahead with more improvements expected in the near future.
Compatible Storage Devices
Google has been known to shy away from external storage in the past and this has been pretty evident in the Nexus smartphones which do not have external storage support. All that is going to change with the Android M where it would implement a new feature called Adoptable Storage Devices for formatting external storage source (USB / SD card) as the internal storage of the device. This would allow better movement of apps and data from the internal storage to the “adopted” external storage source. For those of you who might have concerns over the security of the data exchange, there is no need to worry. Google has provided a layer of encryption for the Adoptable Storage Devices feature which should address the concerns for microSD as well as OTG USB drives.
The upgrade for Google Now did not come as a surprise. It was expected that Google would bring enhancements to this aspect of its OS. The good news is that Google Now has become smarter than before with the latest version focusing on “being aware of different contexts, providing answers and helping you take action.” The improved awareness (which now understands over 100 million places) has gained the support of Google’s Knowledge Graph which alone understands more than a billion entities. When both of these components work together, you get a really smart digital assistant app.
Google Now has also brought out a pilot program known as “Now on Tap” which would initially involve 100 popular apps. This new feature will provide all the information that Google Now is capable of providing, but this information would be provided without requiring you to leave the app that you might be using. The same is applicable if you are accessing your emails and you need particular information without having to leave the email app. This is a great start for Google’s venture into intuitive digital assistant functionalities. If things progress like this, then the popular fictional virtual assistant “Jarvis” (Iron Man fame) wouldn’t seem like a far-fetched idea after all.
Google Chrome has also received a much needed revamp and the new optimizations will arrive for all the devices. A really cool thing that has happened to Chrome is that it can now analyse network strength and provide results according to that. For example, if your connection is bad, you might see coloured squares rather than preview images in Search results. Not only will this new Chrome support offline mode, it would also reduce memory usage by 80MB.
This has already become one of the most talked about services offered by Google. This feature was initially a part of Google+ and it has now become an independent entity which allows users to store their photos and videos. What really makes it exceptional is the fact that Google is offering unlimited storage absolutely free of cost, with the only conditions being that the photos should be up to 16 MP and videos should have a resolution of 1080p. The Google Photos service stores high-quality compressed versions of your photos and movies, but it does not store it on your device. So you can now manage a huge collection of your photos and videos without having to cram all of them in your phone.
You can also search people, places and anything that you would like to find. The categories are automatically created and you can fine tune your search query in accordance to these categories to get your results faster. Moreover, it has become a breeze to share photos and videos with Google Photos. If you want to send a particular media file to your friend who might not have this app, then he can access the link (that you send) in Chrome and still view it. There is also a new assistant feature in the app which will suggest creative uses of your media. This is something that every smartphone user would want to have in his / her possession.
When Will Android M Release?
Android M will be available in Q3 this year. However, a developer’s version has been made available by Google by means of which it plans to get valuable feedback on some of the new features introduced in the latest OS, especially the ones concerning information management and authentication. It would be really nice to see the new OS in action because most of its features are quite promising and have the potential to bring a whole new user experience to the Android universe.
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