Android M: What’s New
The Android M Developer Preview is now available for download for devs to start optimizing their apps to make them fully ready for launch when Android M launches on retail devices at the end of Q3 2015, and while we’re all busy flashing the build to our Nexus devices, we noticed Google gives a very detailed break-down of all the new features in Android M.
Apart from the 6 key improvements in Android M – app permissions, web experience, app links, mobile payments, fingerprint support, and power and charging – there is a lot of interesting stuff that Google just couldn’t show at the event, or it would have become a marathon for the viewers.
This, however, shouldn’t stop us from looking and trying to decipher all the novelty in Android M starting with what Google itself has highlighted as important new features. We counted a total of 55 new features, and we plan on trying to understand each one of them, starting with the most important ones. Let’s go.
Major new Android M features
#1: Easy word selection and floating clipboard toolbar
“Finally,” someone in the crowd at Google I/O shouted when software head David Burke announced that Android M brings improved word selection and a new clipboard toolbar. Currently, you have a bar of obscure icons at the top when selecting text and that is changing to a floating window that appears alongside your selection (a much more logical place) and features clear and concise buttons rather than obscure icons: ‘cut’, ‘copy’, and ‘paste’ is what the buttons say. Word selection is now also improved as you can select jumping word by word, or character by character.
#2: Fingerprint sensor support
Finally, Google is building a standard API for fingerprint support that – it seems – apps can make use of, and it will be a unified way for phone manufacturers to encode support for fingerprint scanners, knowing that they are compatible with the new Android Pay NFC-based system.
#3: Direct Share
Sharing on Android is by far the best of any mobile operating system, but it’s still far from perfect. When you have a bunch of apps installed, you end up with a huge list of sharing options that is extremely frustrating to operate. Direct Share in Android M fixes that by prioritizing and putting first the options that you use the most and that are the most logical for that particular item.
Doze is a deeper state of sleep, especially useful for Android devices like tablets that spend a lot of time laying idle on a night stand, only to be picked up at night. By hybernating apps and allowing only for alarms and priority notifications to stay awake, Android M brings significant improvements to standby battery life, extending it up to twice on a Nexus 9 unit that Google tested.
#5: Simplified volume controls
If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. Google, however, did try to fix the non-broken volume controls in KitKat, and that resulted in an outcry from users frustrated with volume controls in Android 5 Lollipop. So, it was time to fix what has been fixed: volume controls are now again granular, with separate control for ringer volume, alarm volume, and media volume. Finally!
#6: Google Now ‘On Tap’
Google Now is getting contextually aware in Android M. What does that mean? With the new Google Now ‘On Tap’ feature, your voice searches will be recognized contextually within an app. Say, you have the music player on, you can fire up voice search and ask something like “what year was this recorded?”, and the search will understand that ‘this’ refers to the song. Neat!
#7: Auto backup for apps developers)
The Android system in M will automatically make a full data backup and restore for apps. This is something that is done for apps targeting M by default, with no need for developers to code in anything. If users delete their Google accounts, their backup data is deleted as well. Automatic backups happen every 24 hours, when the device is idle, charging, AND connected to a Wi-Fi network. This way, when you upgrade to a new device, or wipe clean a device, you can restore easily and pain-free.
#8: Contextual assist framework
#9: Secure token storage APIs
#10: Setup wizard: IMAP sign-in
#11: App Standby
#12: Flex storage
Important new Android M features
Data Usage API for work profiles
Voice interaction service
App link verification
Text selection actions
Unified app settings view
Corporate owned single use device support
Improved trusted face reliability
New runtime permissions
Google Now Launcher app suggestions
5GHz portable Wi-Fi hotspot
Seven additional languages
Less important new Android M features
Work contacts in personal contexts
VPN apps in settings
Seamless certificate installation for Enterprise
Undo/Redo keyboard shortcuts
Do Not Disturb automatic rules
Material design support library
USB Type C charging
Battery historian v2
Improved bluetooth low-energy scanning
Improved text hyphenation & justification
Improved diagnostics in systrace
IT admin acceptance of OTAs
Chrome custom tabs
Enterprise factory reset protection
Do not disturb quick settings and repeat caller prioritization
Improved text layout performance
Alphabetic app list with search
UI toolkit performance improvements
Unified Google settings and device settings
Work status notifications
Bluetooth connectivity for device provisioning
Power improvements in Wi-Fi scanning
Data binding support library Beta
Delegated certificate installation
We will be updating this list with explanations as we learn more about each of the new features, so do stay tuned, and don’t hesitate to let us know your thoughts about this new Android M update in the comments below.