Google I/O 2015 is upon us and with it another version of Android. This year we’re up to M in the alphabetically-proceeding update chain, although no confirmations yet on what sugary “M” treat Google will end up naming the finished platform after.
As is usual with the initial announcement of an Android update, M is not yet ready for a consumer roll out. This is a developer version, aimed at getting it out there so that apps and services are ready once the real updates begin. As such, Android M is nowhere near finished, but we can take a look at what Google is already planning to include.
Google is finally splitting its photo storage off from Google+, which is great news for the vast majority of Android users that like the idea of their photos being automatically backed up, but never use Google+ for any other reason.
Now, Photos will be a stand-alone service.
Even better, users will have unlimited storage for photos and video, so long as those photos are 16MP or under and the videos have a max resolution of 1080p.
The 16MP restriction is a bit of a jab for Sony Xperia or HTC One M9 owners, who will be left out in the cold with their 20.7MP cameras.
Google Wallet failed to attract the mass user base that its makers had hoped. In true Google fashion, that means it’s being ditched and replaced with a newer, shinier product.
Enter: Android Pay. This service is similar to Apple Pay in that payments can be made directly to standard NFC-enabled credit card reader.
You can take your own card (VISA, Master Card, AMEX or Discover) and sync it with your Android Pay account. Your card details are not kept on the phone itself, which makes for a more secure system in case your phone falls in to sinister hands.
Doze (better battery management)
Doze is the name of Google’s new intelligent battery management system. The beauty is in its simplicity.
If your phone or tablet has not been used for a while, Doze will trigger it to power down in to an extreme low-power state. This has the side effect of causing a little more lag when powering back up, but by all reports it significantly lengthens the charge life of any device without impacting the experience while you are actually using it.
A new USB standard
Android M will support the USB-C standard. This is a reversible USB plug, about the size of the current MicroUSB standard used by Android devices, that brings many benefits to the fold.
First, it increases charging speed. Instead of needed a special wall charger or device to cut down on your power-up time, it can simply be built in to all Android phones.
Second, reversible ports are awesome. No more fumbling around in the dark trying to figure out which way in your plug goes. Just stick it in and go to sleep.
Thirdly, swapping charges. With USB type C you can effectively use your phone to charge someone else’s in a pinch. This isn’t day-to-day functionality, but in certain situations it’s going to be extremely handy.
The downside is that all those micro USB charging cables you’ve built up over the years are going to start becoming pretty useless. It’s a bummer, but that’s the price we pay for progress.
Granular volume controls
Android 5.0 Lollipop’s volume controls were widely derided for their over-simplification (read: lack of functionality). Google openly admits these flaws and promises greater control of volume in Android M. Finally, you’ll be able to adjust your alarm volume separately from ring tone again.
This is something that many Android manufacturers have included themselves in their proprietary user interfaces (UI), but it’s great to see it finally being hard-baked in to Android itself.
Granular app permissions
App permissions in Android haven’t traditionally been great. The first time you use an app, it floods you with requests to access all kinds stuff on your phone, which is confusing and easy to skip without taking any of it on board.
Now, apps will ask permission to use phone elements as the need arises. For instance, the first time you need to use the microphone in a certain app it will ask permission to access the mic, after which it will permanently have access.
This approach gives you a more thorough education on what each of your apps does and what they have access to.
If you have a Nexus 5, Nexus 6 or Nexus 9 you can download the developer preview for Android M today.