Android M: 5 Best Features - InformationWeek

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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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H@mmy
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[email protected],
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 2:52:28 PM
App Links
Thank God, will get rid of the extra popup asking for the app to be opened. This was very necessary. Its very annoying when I am playing games and share my best score on Facebook, each time it ask me the necessary app to be opened. This will be gone now, smart of Android.
H@mmy
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[email protected],
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 2:47:24 PM
USB C
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

Does this mean I can transfer charge from one phone to other ? No ?
H@mmy
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[email protected],
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 2:39:21 PM
Re: Doze
No wonder why is everyone so excited about the 'Doze' feature. Battey life has been a critical issue for all smartphone users. Even if this feature saves my battery around 20% only, then also this is is a go go feature. Atleast these giants are now paying attention to battery draining issues.
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 2:31:52 PM
Re: Doze
@impact: I had the same issues with my battery life, which caused me to give up on my iPhone. I bought a new charger, a phone case charger, and a new plug-in charger. It didn't help. I was told to make sure that my screen is not lit to the highest capacity and to make sure that the backlight settings should be set to the minimum amount of time. It didn't work for me, but there are people who swear by it.
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 2:25:29 PM
Re: Doze
That is the reason why I got rid of my last iPhone and went back to my LG phone. My iPhone's battery life, or lack there of, was very frustrating. I did not have tons of apps and made sure that I didn't have multiple apps running at one time. I even had the battery replaced. Finally, we parted ways.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 1:28:50 PM
Re: Doze
Regarding your phone battery life... Look at any back ground applications/notificationes that are constantly running... My wife has the same issue
tzubair
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50%
tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 5:13:30 AM
Re: Thanks for the summation
"I think Anroid Pay is going to spin circles around Apple with that."

@progman2000: Do you think this would happen because the Android Pay would have a considerably large user base owing to the large number of Android users? Or, do you think it'd happen because Android Pay would offer more options and features that Apple Pay doesn't?
tzubair
50%
50%
tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
5/31/2015 | 5:02:48 AM
Re: Doze
@impactnow: That is indeed a very useful feature. Particularly the fact that you may be able to charge other devices such as Bluetooth through your Android phone makes it even more useful. I hope it works in real as well as it sounds on paper.
impactnow
50%
50%
impactnow,
User Rank: Author
5/31/2015 | 12:23:57 AM
Re: Doze
The charging of the phone is super exciting. I am still baffled by my phone battery draining constantly. It is so frustrating, this will be a huge improvement!
mejiac
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50%
mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
5/30/2015 | 9:46:00 AM
Re: Doze
@nasimson,

Ha.... this is one of the things that I have to do every night...plug in both my and my wife's phone to charge, since we usually do that last minute reading to finish falling asleep.

I think this is why I can't wait until wireless charging is embedded within the phone.
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