Android M: All the little things

Android M isn't the massive, top-to-bottom overhaul that Lollipop was, but it has plenty of features and enhancements. Here are 19 you may not know about.

android m
All the small things

Whenever I get my hands on a new operating system, I get just as excited by the small tweaks as I do by the major talking points. And Android M doesn’t disappoint: Although it looks like Lollipop on the surface, it comes packed with all sorts of refinements and additions that promise to make your Android experience that much more enjoyable. Here are 19 to check out in the developer preview.

android m lock screen
Bolder lock screen text

The lock screen received a slight refresh in Android M: The text used for the clock is bolder than it was with Android Lollipop. It’s a very minor change, but you may find the heavier text to be easier to read at a glance.

03 lockscreen notifications
New lock screen notification panel behavior

The notification panel on the lock screen was a little wonky with Android Lollipop, as Computerworld’s JR Raphael noted—it basically showed you what you were already looking at on the lock screen itself. Android M improves on things somewhat—instead of merely showing another instance of your notifications, it’ll open the quick settings panel instead. Your notifications will slide down and appear below the quick settings panel.

04 googlenow
Google Now voice search from the lock screen

Google apparently realized that people don’t make phone calls as much as they used to: The dialer shortcut on the lock screen has been replaced with a shortcut to Google Now’s voice search functionality. Simply swipe from the lower left corner to start a voice search.

05 app drawer
Redesigned app drawer

The app drawer gets an overhaul in Android M. First off, it’s now a scrollable pane rather than a series of pages. Also, apps are grouped by which letter of the alphabet they start with, which makes it a little easier to find the app you’re looking for. These changes may be a bit jarring for long-time Android users, but they’ll make finding apps that much easier for everyone else.

06 recentapps
Quick access to frequently used apps

The app drawer has another pair of tools designed to make finding apps easier. The first is a quick-access bar that shows your four most frequently used apps. This panel also appears when you use the search box on the home screen or Google Now screen.

07 app search
App drawer search box

Also new is a search box in the app drawer, so you can quickly and easily go to the app you want to use without having to scroll through the list.

08 drag to delete
Uninstall apps without leaving the homescreen

Uninstalling an app on Android M no longer requires you to go digging through Settings: Simply drag an app to the homescreen, then to Uninstall. Similarly, you can view app info or remove an app from a folder by dragging an app’s icon to the appropriate command.

09 separate volume controls
Separate volume levels for ringtones, alarms, and media playback

How often have you wanted to temporarily lower your ringtone and notification volume, but still keep blaring your music at full blast? Android M now comes with separate volume control sliders for media playback and notifications. You used to have to set these individually in the Settings menu.

10 share menu
Retooled share menu

The Share menu gets a new look in Android M. Instead of a traditional list of menu items, it now displays sharing options in a grid of icons.

11 google settings
Google Settings and Settings are now one

Have you ever found yourself puzzled as to why Google Settings—where you would go to change your preferences for various Google services—lived in a separate app instead of, you know, in the Settings app? Under Android M, Google Settings live within the Settings app: Just go to Settings > Google.

12 dark mode
Hidden dark interface mode

Tucked away in Android M’s hidden developer options is new setting that lets you switch from Lollipop’s generally light-colored theme to something less glaring. To get to it, open the Settings app, tap About phone, then tap the Build number seven times. Go back to the main Settings screen, then tap Developer options. Finally, tap Theme, then choose which theme you’d like to use.

13 systemui tuner
Customizable quick settings drawer

Another developer tool, the SystemUI Tuner, lets you rearrange or remove buttons in the quick settings drawer. Go to Settings > Developer options and flip the SystemUI Tuner toggle to the on position. Go back to the main Settings screen, then tap SystemUI Tuner. Tap Quick settings, and rearrange quick settings options by dragging and dropping the icons.

14 doze mode
Per-app battery saver mode

Android Lollipop has a battery-saver mode that you can switch on to save precious power when your battery gets low. Android M builds off of Lollipop with an enhanced “doze” mode , which limits certain background tasks when your phone’s been inactive for a period of time.

If you want all background tasks to continue for a given app, though, you can turn “doze” mode off on a per-app basis. Go to Settings > Battery, then go to the Options menu (the three dots in the upper right) and ta Ignore optimizations. Tap the downward-pointing arrow, then tap All apps. Tap an app’s name, then toggle the Ignore optimizations slider to the on position.

15 heads up notifications
Turn off heads-up notifications

If you dislike the so-called “heads-up” notifications that slide over on-screen content in Android Lollipop, Android M is here to rectify the situation—at least a little. To turn off heads-up notifications on a per-app basis, go to Settings > Sound & notification > App notifications. Tap an app you no longer want heads-up notifications from, then toggle the Allow peeking switch to the off position.

16 do not disturb
Do Not Disturb

Android’s Notification Priority and Downtime features for silencing notifications got some love in Android M, as well as a new umbrella name: Do Not Disturb. New granularity lets you set different quiet hours for weekdays and weekends, and lets you set one-time notification-free periods for events—you can even set your phone to automatically silence all notifications when you accept a calendar invitation.

The quick settings drawer’s new Do Not Disturb item has a few tricks worth checking out. With it, you can also now toggle Do Not Distrub on or off, set a duration, and specify which notifications you want to see.

17 bluetooth scanning
Use Bluetooth to improve GPS accuracy

You might already know that you can have your phone use nearby Wi-Fi hotspots to improve its location accuracy, but in Android M, you can set Bluetooth to improve GPS accuracy as well. Go to Settings > Location, then tap the Options menu (the three dots), and then tap Scanning.

18 app permissions
Easily toggle app permissions

Want to see which apps have access to your camera or microphone? You can easily do that in Android M. Go to Settings > Apps, tap the Options menu (the three dots in the upper right), then tap Advanced. Next, tap App permissions, and you’ll be able to to see which apps have access to what—and revoke permission if you want.

19 memory manager
New Memory Manager

The Memory Manager screen gets a refresh in Android M, and provides an at-a-glance view of how much memory each app uses up on average, as well as their maximum memory usage. go to Settings > Apps, then select Advanced from the Options menu (the three dots). Tap memory to get an overview of system memory usage; tap on any app to get more details on that app’s memory use.

20 default apps
Set new default apps

Android M has one more change that promises to improve app management: a new, one-stop shop for setting default apps for various tasks. Using the new Default Apps settings pane (Settings > Apps, select Advanced from the Options menu), you can change your default browser, phone app, and SMS app. It’d be great to see more options in the future, and it’s too bad this useful feature is buried in the Settings app.