Android M is the pre-release codename for the upcoming Android 6.0 update for phones and tablets. Following on from Android 5 Lollipop, Android M will restore a number of old features including full SD card support and streamlined volume controls as well as introduce a host of exciting new features.
Android M will bring faster charging to your device thanks to the new and improved USB-C port. USB-C is a new type of USB connector which will replace the current micro-USB charging port on your phone or tablet. It’s reversible, like Apples Lightning port and can transfer more power and more data. Google claim USB-C connectors will charge three to five times faster than the current micro-USB port.
Although Android M will feature Android Pay, Pay will also be supported by devices with NFC running Android 4.4 KitKat and above. So although it’s not exclusive to Android M, the latest software will allow you to use Pay within third-party applications for simple purchases that don’t require you to enter your details every time.
A number of phones and tablets including a range of Samsung devices already support fingerprint recognition. However Android M seeks to standardise the technology across all Android devices. This will allow app developers to build support for the technology into their apps, enabling you to sign in without passwords for example.
A new Voice Interaction API supported by Android M will allow developers to build voice-control into their apps. Google search voice control is fantastic, but limited to the home screen and Google Now app. Soon we will be able to control apps with voice alone – for example the TuneIn app which supports the new API allows you say “Okay Google, listen to music on TuneIn” which will not only load the app but then ask you out loud “What genre of music would you like to listen to?”.
The lock screen will receive a minor refresh in Android M – most noticeably the clock features a bolder font than before.
The lock screen notification panel is being streamlined. Swiping down will reveal the quick settings panel straight away instead of just your notifications.
Google Now voice search is also now available from the lock screen, replacing the dialler shortcut. Swipe from the lower left corner to start a voice search.
Redesigned App Drawer
One of the most commonly customised parts of the Android OS by manufacturers and third-party launchers is the app drawer. Google have overhauled the stock app drawer, making it a scrollable panel rather than a series of pages.
To make finding apps easier, Android M will now group apps alphabetically, add an App drawer search box and introduce a quick-access bar to access your most frequently used apps.
Improved App Manager
The App Manager has been simplified and enhanced giving you control of individual app permissions. You can now deny certain apps access without uninstalling them completely.
Android M will also allow you to uninstall apps straight from the home screen. Previously dragging a app icon to the trash can from the home screen would simply remove the app icon, you would still need to go into your app drawer, and find the app to delete it. Android M will allow you to drag apps to an uninstall bin from the home screen, something you’ve always been able to do on iOS.
Force individual apps into hibernation if you’re not using them to reduce your phones background activity and save battery life. I recently learned that the Spotify app can drain 2% of your battery per hour even if you’re not using it but it’s open in the background. This could be a great way to mitigate this battery drain.
Re-introducing a Do Not Disturb quick setting will shut off all sounds and vibrations – effectively adding a new silent mode in the form of a ‘Total Silence’ option. While this will silence everything, you have the option to allow priority alerts such as Alarms.
The Lollipop update changed the way you controlled volume on your Android device, with Android M it’s now possible to use your phones volume buttons to set the phone to vibrate only.
SD Card Support
Android 4.4 Kitkat severely limited the functionality of SD cards as you were no longer able to transfer and install apps on them. Fortunately Android M promises improved SD card support where a phone or tablet can ‘adopt’, encrypt and then use the storage device in the same way it uses the internal storage. Effectively – giving us back full use of our SD cards.
More Accurate GPS
In the upcoming update you can set Bluetooth to improve GPS accuracy within the Location settings by enabling the ‘Scanning option’. For optimal location accuracy, enable both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi scanning.
Battery live is one of the biggest challenges facing mobile developers which is why Google has come up with Doze – a new feature where your device will use motion detection to power down, or Doze, when it realises it hasn’t moved for an extended period of time.
Android M features a per-app battery saver mode, so you can enable it for individual apps. If on the other hand you want to ensure a particular app is always awake, you can turn ‘doze’ mode off in the Battery Settings.
New Memory Manager
The Memory manager screen will enjoy an overhaul in Android M, providing a clearer view of how much memory each app uses.
Android M, the successor to Android Lollipop is anticipated to release in Q3 2015 – most likely around September. It will be a free update for compatible Android phones and tablets.