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5/29/2015
11:15 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
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Android M: 5 Best Features

Android M may focus more on improving the user experience, but Google still added some impressive new features. Here's what we learned at Google I/O.

9 iOS, Android Apps to Boost Productivity
9 iOS, Android Apps to Boost Productivity
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Google revealed Android M at its I/O developer conference this week, a powerful step forward for the world's most popular mobile operating system. Google made a conscious effort to improve the platform's performance and stability, but was sure to include a few killer features.

The full changelog for Android M has no fewer than 55 items on it.

Many of the features are small enough that Google didn't highlight them on stage. Some of the less-sexy additions include: easy word selection and floating clipboard toolbar, simplified volume controls, undo/redo keyboard shortcuts, improved trusted face reliability, unified Google/device settings, WiFi power improvements, and stylus support.

There are many more.

Google Now On Tap is by far the most impressive addition to Android M. It's all about context and situational awareness. Google says the intent behind Now On Tap is to make it easier for Android users to get assistance when and where they need it.

(Image: Google)

(Image: Google)

"If your friend texts you about dinner at a new restaurant," explains Google, "without leaving the app, you can ask Google Now for help. Using just that context, Google can find menus, reviews, help you book a table, navigate there, and deep link you into relevant apps." Users need only long-press the home button and Google will automatically do everything else. The possibilities here are powerful.

Android Pay is perhaps second in line.

Android Pay will compete directly with Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. Android pay largely replaces Google Wallet. In fact, it's an entirely new product built on the ashes of Softcard. In the US, Android Pay will be supported by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Device owners will be able to make tap-and-go payments at some 700,000 retailers around the country when it (re)launches.

With Google's support, mobile payment may get the shot in the arm it really needs for widespread adoption.

More importantly, Android Pay -- and everything else on Android M smartphones -- can be secured with fingerprint authentication. Until now, only select manufacturers offered APIs for developers to access their hardware's fingerprint readers. Now, Android supports fingerprint authentication system-wide for unlocking the device, approved purchases, and securing files or folders. The latest SDK from Google already includes the new fingerprint API. This has great implications for business users.

[Read about whether Apple Pay is failing or winning.]

It may not seem all that important, but Android M's new power management features are something to get excited about. To start, a new feature called Doze can double standby battery life. Doze uses internal sensors to determine when the device hasn't been moved in a while. It then aggressively shuts down notifications and other power-sapping activities until the device is picked up or moved. This means if you forget to plug your device in overnight, it won't be dead in the morning. Moreover, Android M adds support for USB Type C, which has a reversible plug and reversible power flow. In other words, you will be able to use an Android M smartphone to charge an accessory such as a Bluetooth headset.

App Links is the last of the new features that will improve the day-to-day experience on Android devices.

As Android functions today, users often encounter popup dialog boxes when clicking links. For example, let's say someone is scanning through Twitter and encounters a link to an Instagram photo. Clicking the link opens a dialog asking the user to choose which app to use to open the link (in this case, Chrome or Instagram). With App Links in Android M, applications will be able to verify such links automatically. This means clicking an Instagram link in Twitter will open the photo in Instagram, no questions asked.

If you know your way around terminal commands, you can download and install the Android M Developer Preview today. Google said the final version of the operating system will arrive during the third quarter.

[Did you miss any of the InformationWeek Conference in Las Vegas last month? Don't worry: We have you covered. Check out what our speakers had to say and see tweets from the show. Let's keep the conversation going.]

Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio
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SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
5/29/2015 | 12:06:19 PM
Android M
Android M's ideas and design principles came through and I'm still sitting here waiting for my device to get a stable Android 5.0 update. Sigh. But M's features are good enough to get excited. The feature I liked the most is how Google Now sorts out everything for you at the press of a button. Would really help in situations where you would have to open an app for reservation of tables and seeing menus.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
5/29/2015 | 12:15:53 PM
Doze
The Doze feature is really a good thing, but you could just switch off your phone at night and go to sleep, unless you are working full time and would get calls during any part of the day. I also found the USB type C to be a boon to smartphones because there is so much flexibility you have at your hands.
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
5/29/2015 | 2:36:42 PM
Thanks for the summation
I think Android Pay is going to kill it. I don't know what the adoption rate has been like with Apple Pay but I think Android Pay will blow it out of the water.
asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
5/29/2015 | 2:46:24 PM
Hello Privacy
Lots of bells/whistles on Android M and yet still no word about preventing privacy invading apps from phoning home without knowledge or permission of the mobile device's owner.
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 1:02:08 AM
Re: Hello Privacy
This is an amazing feature. Creating more user friendly platform will increase it be more popular. I think this is more efficient since there is no requirement to have separate apps.
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 1:06:50 AM
Fingerprint authentication
This is one of the important aspects. Most of the users are worried about the security of their mobile devices. With all these new features I think it's a wise decision to incorporate fingerprint authentication.
nasimson
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nasimson,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 1:18:50 AM
Android Marshmallow
> This means if you forget to plug your device in overnight,
> it won't be dead in the morning.

This is so much like me. And millions of others. I'll upgrade to Android Marshmallow or Android M&Ms as soon as it comes. It will save my battery. It will save my phone. It will save my life :)
nasimson
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nasimson,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 1:33:50 AM
Re: Doze
> but you could just switch off your phone at night and go to sleep

For lazy and crazy people like me (and there are millions others) this is not an easy option.

At 10PM in night, all you want is to fall on bed and sleep with the phone in your hand to read the IMs and WhatsApps received in the last hour. The last thing you want is to plug the charger.

But now I know an alternative of Android M Doze. Buy another phone charger with a really long wire and plug it in the socket near bed PERMANENTLY. This might save me some morning-phone-drains.
nasimson
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nasimson,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 2:02:32 AM
Re: Thanks for the summation
> I think Android Pay is going to kill it. I don't know what
> the adoption rate has been like with Apple Pay but I think
> Android Pay will blow it out of the water.

@progman: The appstore $ spend tell a different story. Last time I checked Apple users were spending far more $ on AppStore than Andoird Users on Google's PlayStore.

So given Apple Users are relatively wealthier than Android users I think ApplePay would continue to give tough competition to Google.
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 6:55:42 AM
Re: Thanks for the summation
@nasimon, aren't we talking about two different things? I'm not talking about apps purchased through the Andoid Market, that isn't what Android Pay is. We're talking about the ability to pay merchants through your mobile device.

I stand by my original comment - I think Anroid Pay is going to spin circles around Apple with that.
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