Monday, May 18, 2015

7 things we want to see in Android M: New features and fixes please Google

Android M

Android 5.0 Lollipop is now in use on smartphones and tablets but we're future thinking and here's what we want to see in Android M, whatever version number and name it will be (Milkshake? M&Ms? Marshmallow?).

Now Android 5.0 Lollipop is official we can enjoy the new features it brings including the 'Material Design', improved notifications, screen pinning, priority mode and more. However, that hasn't stopped us having a little day dream at lunch time about what will become of the mobile OS beyond this iteration for smartphones, tablets and beyond. See also: Android L vs iOS 8

7 things we want to see in Android M

Better performance

Ok, Android L supports 64-bit and uses the Android runtime instead of Dalvik. So it offers better performance than previous versions but we don't want Google to stop there and we're pretty sure it won't.

Modern smart devices like phones and tablet are brilliant but the hardware inside them, namely high resolution screens, means that battery life is always a struggle. Android L will improve things via Project Volta but what we want is a big jump in this area rather than a small increase. Whether it's a software or hardware thing, or a combination of both we don't really care.

Aware/synced notifications

If you own multiple devices (not necessarily all running the same OS), such as a smartphone and a tablet, you'll probably be annoyed at dismissing notifications which you've already seen and responded to. We get frustrated when we respond to an email on a phone only to be told about it later when we pick up a tablet. Add other devices into the mix like a smartwatch and you're in notification overload country.

What we want are notifications which will dismiss themselves once they've been seen on one of your devices which you're logged into - ie synchronised. Cross-platform is obviously tricky but we feel it should be at least possible on the same OS.

Android L on Nexus 5 and Nexus 7

Better parental controls

Android, unlike iOS, allows you to have multiple accounts on the same device. This is a great feature and means parents can setup accounts for their children. Using a restricted account gives the ability to restrict access to certain apps and content but we'd like some more advanced tools such as time limits and the ability to shut off access to any app or feature, not just ones which developers have chosen to allow it. It would also be good to be able to switch off in-app purchases or Google Play purchases to avoid the sting of an unexpected bill.

Clever gestures

Android has all sorts of clever features and tricks but Google's manufacturing partners have proved that there's more you can do with a touchscreen than simply swipe to unlock. LG, with the G2, implemented smart gestures such as KnockON allowing users to switch the screen on and off with a double tap. Others have copied this and added more with the HTC One M8 adding more gestures to access different features even when the screen is off.

It's this kind of thing which we'd like to see in stock Android, preferably customisable so you can set gestures for the most useful things to you.

More customization

Being open source, Android is highly customisable but there's one particular area of Lollipop which is bolted down and it doesn't need to be. The Quick Settings menu (when you pull the notification bar a second time) shows handy functions like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, location and mobile data. That's great but not when you can't customise which settings you want and which order you want them in - we all use different things. It's especially annoying when you switch on the inverted colours feature for fun and it ends up in the Quick Settings forever.

Android Lollipop Quick Settings

Ultra power saving

We've seen many Android device makers create their own ultra power saving modes which can, in general, give you 24 hours of usage with just 10 percent battery. This is achieved by switching to a simple and typically greyscale interface, switching off power hungry things like Wi-Fi and giving access to basic features likes the dialer and messages.

While you'll find it in various guises, it's not a part of stock Android so we'd like to see Google add this type of features as standard.


We're not so fussed about this on a personal level but with the news of Apple and IBM's partnership, Google needs to make it possible and easy to manage and secure a fleet of Android handsets in order to maintain its position in the mobile market.