It might be too late to be coming out with a post for hidden features, but we feel it was still worthy because plenty of Android M users are still not aware of most (if not all) of these really cool offerings from the OS. Although Google in its I/O developer’s forum presented all the major features from the new Android version but details are key, especially when it comes to Android. So let’s get right to it.
System UI Tuner
The Quick Access or System UI Tuner we cherished on custom ROMs has finally found space on native Android. The pull-down notification bar now hosts torch, hotspot, Bluetooth, airplane mode, rotation and cast screen. These can also be added or removed from the bar as well as positioned according to choice.
The all-new App Drawer, with Search too
Some might find the new app drawer a bit too whitish or spaced out, but the functionality has definitely improved. For example, excessive app installers now have to search to find the app they are looking for. Moreover, the most used apps get the first row for faster access. Apps are also clearly alphabetized for better visibility as well as scrolling based on the alphabet. Vertical scrolling has returned, and being a custom ROM user for a better part of my Android experience, this is really a relief.
Complete App state Backup
This is a huge feature in itself, and honestly, we’re kind of surprised that Google skipped this in the presentation. Perhaps the reason for not publicly announcing was that people tend to get insecure from cloud-based personalization in devices since the infamous iCloud hacks. Android will now automatically backup all app settings and preferences on Google Drive. This is a step to bringing Android to the level of app setup that Apple provides on new device setup or change of device. Apps will not be reinstalled but shall be fully setup. This won’t require any compatibility from the app side, its built right into Android M. Most users might fear that this shall eat into their Google Drive storage which is typically 5GB for most of us. But backups, for now, are limited to 25 MB per app, hence, not much shall be consumed. In other words, once apps are setup, you shall never need to do it again.
Uninstall Apps from the Home Screen
Remember the time when you had to open the App drawer to uninstall an app. Or worse, that time when you had to go to Settings > Apps > browse a long list to find the undesired app. Well, those not-so-simpler times are behind us. Uninstalling apps is now literally as simple as drag-and-drop from the Home Screen / Folder / App drawer.
External storage gets native support
Kitkat had begun biasing expandable storages which had caused concern for many Android users. Lollipop returned with some previously lost functionality. Android M has taken a leap and treats microSD cards just like the internal memory of the Android device. This is reason enough to celebrate because with the advent of robust and flash cards, the performance of expandable storage and it will cause names like Samsung to consider retaining expandability in future devices.
The white themed Android was a fresh change and look for many users, but it did garner some criticism as well for being too white for the test of some users. Android M has a dark theme for the more ‘gothic’ audience. There is reportedly another option which automatically switches to the white theme during the day and a dark one for the night. With updates and stability, more options are sure to emerge.
Creating a hotspot to share your data from Android was earlier restricted to 2.4 GHz, but Android M will now allow 5Ghz Wifi Tethering. Although there are still concerns whether tethering will reach speeds that require 5Ghz, but the ever-improving services in 4G means that your device will still be good in a few months (or years).
Native Bluetooth A2DP streaming
Bluetooth / wireless music listeners will rejoice. Although major Bluetooth devices already have A2DP dual channel stereo technology, but building it into the Android framework means that even certain economic and incompatible devices shall work well. The next step (probably for Android 7.0) is AptX which takes quality and speeds much further.
Google Voice Search Access
Although unlikely to be useful for a majority of audiences, Google voice search is now accessible directly from the lock screen. If you are a user that makes more calls than searches, we feel for you. But some tweaks should appear in good time to resolve call issues.
That’s all we have explored so far. If you think we missed out some obvious ones, do let us know. Share this with friends who haven’t found out yet. Spread the cheer. Belated Merry Xmas!!