Google's unveiling of Android M today was hoped for and even expected given that we've seen a new version of Android at Google's yearly I/O conference for quite a long time now. With any new operating system version comes a massive changelog that takes a long time to dissect and understand, and Android M is no different. While this isn't nearly as long or as complicated as the one we saw with Android Lollipop at last year's I/O, which was the biggest change Android had ever seen, it's certainly no slouch. Android M is a refining of Android in nearly every way possible, from workplace enterprise compatibility to performance improvements, battery life aids and plenty of new features too. Let's take a look at the full changelog and try to understand what some of these are, and don't forget to grab the Android M preview if you're rocking a Nexus 5, 6 or 9 and try these all out for yourself. There's something here for everyone so we've tried to break it down into categories for an easier understanding of what's going on.
One of the biggest changes in Android M is enterprise support; something seriously lacking in previous versions of Android. It's no secret that Apple took the crown from Blackberry and now nearly completely owns the enterprise market, sporting somewhere in the vicinity of 80% of all enterprise-wide devices. This is in the face of drastic efforts from companies like Samsung with Knox, and while that was even signed on with the US government it hasn't taken hold the way Samsung planned it would. Google is hoping Android M can make up for that by building a lot of these features in natively with the OS, taking many variables out of the question. This first section seems to be more for the employee using an Android-powered work phone and help make the experience a little easier:
Work contacts in personal contexts, VPN apps in settings, Duplex printing, Work status notification, IMAP sign-in.
And of course who can forget the IT guys that run the show behind the scenes, often times being asked how they can improve security or take more ownership of where company data is headed. For those users these tools may make your every day life easier at work:
Seamless certificate installation for Enterprise, IT admin acceptance of OTAs, Enterprise factory reset protection, Corporate owned single use device support, Secure token storage APIs, Delegation certificate installation, Bluetooth connectivity for device provisioning, Data usage API for work profiles.
Performance and Battery
Battery life has long been a problem in Android land, and while OEMs and Google themselves have taken steps in the past to improve battery life many people still have issues on a daily basis. Larger batteries have been a great stop-gap measure, but true granular control of how apps take over your CPU time and battery are the key to taking back the reigns. Here's where Google may have made the biggest difference on a daily basis and the place where many users might see the biggest improvements.
Hotspot 2.0 R1, App standby, Battery historian V2, Improved Bluetooth low energy scanning, Doze (2x battery life in standby), Bluetooth 4.2, Improved text layout performance, UI toolkit performance improvements, Power improvements in Wifi scanning.
New features are always a hallmark of a new operating system version and Android M certainly delivers in this regard. Big features like Android Pay, Google Now on Tap and auto backup for apps are making users lives easier and more enjoyable and aim to make Android the go-to place for every kind of person out there.
Flex storage, Do not Disturb automatic rules, Android Pay, Voice interaction service, USB Type C charging, Google Now on Tap, Auto backup for Apps, Direct share, Fingerprint sensor support, Stylus support, MIDI support, 5GHz portable WiFi hotspot.
Android 5.0 Lollipop was the biggest UI change we've ever seen with Android, bringing a fluidity and finesse that hasn't been seen on Google's OS in the past. While this was almost entirely a positive change there were plenty of weird bugs or choices made that users complained about, one of them certainly being the new volume control panel. Google is addressing these concerns with Android M and is making a few changes we didn't think would see the light of day at all outside of an OEM skin too!
Material design support library, Easy word selection and Floating clipboard toolbar, App link verification (auto selection of helper app for links), Simplified volume controls, Text selection actions, Improved text hyphenation & justification, Unified app settings view, Alphabetic app list with search, Unified Google settings and device settings, Setup wizard, Undo/Redo keyboard shortcuts.
Sometimes things don't need to be completely overhauled to make a difference, rather just a small tweak here or there could make a world of difference for users. These changes are outside of the UI changes listed above and mostly consist of back-end or system related tasks, and even extend to a few Google apps that have hooks deep within Android itself.
Bluetooth SAP (Android Auto, let's car make phone calls), Chrome custom tabs, Do not disturb quick setting and repeat caller prioritization, Improved trusted face reliability, Google Now Launcher app suggestions, Seven additional languages.
Last but certainly not least are the changes being made so developers have an easier time developing and improving apps on Android. For a long time iOS claimed the superiority of apps over all other mobile OS's but that has changed drastically since Google has made a concerted effort to court developers and provide tools that make it easier for them to improve apps on a regular basis. Analytics and UI development tools for apps only scratch the surface here and it's likely that veteran developers are going to be pretty excited for some of these new changes.
Improved diagnostics in systrace, UI toolkit, Contextual assist framework, New runtime permissions, Data binding support library beta.
We'll be dissecting these features over the coming days and weeks as we have sufficient hands on time with Android M on all three devices that it's available on, so keep an eye out for more detailed articles on sections that might interest you more!