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9 things you need to know about Android M

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Google has given a quick developer preview of its next smart phone OS, the Android M. After the introduction of Lollipop last year with an all new Material Design, the new Android M focuses on greater control and improved user experience. Some of the features aren’t new for Android smart phones but it is good that they have included natively as a standard for all device manufacturers.

Here are 9 key take outs on the new Android M after the break.

App Permissions

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Permissions are now made simpler, giving you better control over how apps are using your contacts, SMS, calendar, camera, microphone, GPS and etc. Currently on the native Android OS, the permissions are asked only upon installation which naturally most users would just accept all without thinking twice.

With Android M, the permission request will appear only when you try to access a specific feature. So for example in WhatsApp, it will ask you if would you would allow WhatsApp to use the mic before sending a voice message.

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Even if you passed that phase, you can still manage permissions of each respective app or you can check permissions on the feature level, e.g. what apps can access your calendar, contact or camera. From here you can grant or revoke access according to your preference.

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Several Chinese brands including Xiaomi and Huawei has integrated such features quite a while back in their Custom UI. It is good move that Google is making this a standard in the next release.

Built-in Web Experience

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Several apps usually would have a built-in web browser in them. Especially like Facebook and Twitter where it prefers to load external links within its own app.

The problem is it doesn’t get the same session and experience as a full browser. At times, you would need to re-login repeatedly.

With M, they are introducing Chrome Custom Tabs for a better Web Experience within an App. As long as you’re logged in, your session, sign ins, saved passwords, auto-fill and even translate will still work if the app opens up a link in a Chrome Custom Tab. While it looks like it is part of the app, the web browser is actually running off chrome with a customised appearance.

App Links

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Usually when a user clicks a URL link, Android won’t necessary know whether to load it on a native app or via web browser. That’s where you get the usual prompt on how would you like to open the link and if it is for just one time only as shown above.

On Google M, developers will be able to define what links that support their apps and google will then verify if that link truly belongs to the app. So if a user, clicks on a link, they will be redirected to the right app immediately for a better user experience.

Android Pay

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Looking like a reboot of Google Wallet, Android Pay aims to make mobile payments simple, secure and open source. To make payment, it is as simple as unlocking your phone and tap using the NFC terminal.

For better security, a virtual account number is used to transact with the merchant. Therefore it protects you from revealing your actual card number, minimising the risk of possible fraud.

Being an open platform, users can make payments using their official Android Pay app or via banking or shopping apps that support them. In theory, it works with any Android device with NFC but of course it all depends on the banks and merchants to support it on the local level.

Fingerprint Support

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Fingerprint scanning has started to become mainstream and most implementations we’ve seen today like the Galaxy S6, Huawei Ascend Mate 7 and HTC One M9+ are proprietary solutions. Google is finally supporting fingerprint natively on Android M and it will become a standardised API for developers to tap into.

Better battery life

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Battery life is always a concern and Android M boast better standby power efficiency with Doze. When a device is put on standby, it detects with motion sensor to know if it is being left untouched or being carried around. If it knows it has been left unused on a bedside table, it goes into deeper sleep state for extended period of time. According to Google’s own internal test with a Nexus 9, Android M lasts up to 2 times longer in standby than Lollipop.

Fast Charging as a standard with USB Type C

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Google M will also support USB Type C and they are pushing it as a standard on new devices with fast charging features. Since it is bi-directional, they are throwing a native feature where you can choose it to charge on cable, and you can reverse charge, turning your smart phone into a power bank with a USB OTG Cable.

Google Now gets even creepier Smarter

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Google Now isn’t just your voice assistant but it knows you based on your activities, behaviour and now it gets even better. With “Now on Tap”, Google Now understands you by context no matter what you’re doing on your phone.

So if you’re listening to a song, you can simply ask Google Now, what’s is his real name, and it will return a search result wihout you giving a full specific question. Sometimes you won’t need to say a single word at all. For example if you’re reading an email about movie discussion, press and holding the button will automatically show details of the specific movie along with reviews and rating.

There’s more and it is coming in Q3

These are some of the new features on Android M which will be released officially in Q3 with its official confectionery or dessert name. Some other new improvements include a better word/text selection with floating options. For those who don’t like the new Lollipop volume controls, Android M will give individual controls for different sound sources such as ringer, media, notification and alarm from the volume rocker.

What do you think M would be? Macaron? M&M? Mars? Leave your comments down below.

If you missed last night’s Google I/O 2015 keynote, you can watch the replay of it below.