Android L vs Android M preview

At Google I/O 2015, the internet giant predictably gave us our first look at the next version of Android, its mobile operating system for smartphones and tablets. Android 5.0 Lollipop updates are still rolling out but here's a look at what Android M will bring in terms of new features. Here's our  Android L vs Android M preview.

Note: Before we launch into the comparison, it's worth noting that this is the Android M Developer Preview (which we're runing on the Nexus 6) so the new operating system is still very much a work in progress and will change by the time it launches properly. Therefore this article is something of a preview and we'll update it when Android M is fully launched. See also: Android M vs iOS 9 comparison.

Android M screenshots

Android L vs Android M: Look and feel

We're not going to go crazy with side-by-side screenshots of Android L and Android M here since Google has pretty much kept things the same. Lollipop was the version with something of an overhaul of the interface and Android M keeps the Material Design.

There are a few tweaks though such as a microphone icon at the bottom-left of the lockscreen instead of the phone (for the dialler) so you can quickly conduct a voice search or command. The app menu (or app draw) now displays vertically (as does the widgets drawer) with apps split into alphabetical groups – you can use the scroll bar at the side to quickly navigate to a particular letter. Plus there's a new bar at the top which shows your four most recently used apps.

Smaller changes include two fields for memory management so you can see average and maximum amount of RAM an app has used. SD cards can also be formatted to appear as internal storage which will keep things nice and neat.

Unfortunately the Quick Settings can't be rearranged as standard but there is a new addition in the form of do not disturb (DND). You can edit them with the device in Developer Mode switched on and the SystemUI Tuner also switched on.

Android L vs Android M: Android Pay

To compete with Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, Google has announced Android Pay for Android M. It will let you pay for things (at participating stores) with your phone without needing to open an app. It uses NFC and Google said it will be accepted at over 700,000 stores in the US soon – there's no word on other markets.

You can choose which card to pay with across multiple devices and your card information won't even be part of the transaction. Google said: "Instead we'll use a virtual account number to represent your account information - providing you with an extra layer of security."

Android M Android Pay

Android L vs Android M: Fingerprint scanners

Fingerprint scanners are already around on various devices but Android M has native fingerprint support which enhances Android Pay by allowing users to confirm a purchase with their fingerprint. Your fingerprint can be also used to unlock devices and make purchases on Google Play.

"With new APIs in M, it’s easy for you to add fingerprint authorization to your app and have it work consistently across a range of devices and sensors," said Google.

Android L vs Android M: App permissions

The permissions apps require in Android have always been something of a sore point, with many apps asking for way more than necessary and looking on the dodgy side. Well Android M is putting the control into the hands of the user.

Apps will request certain permissions at runtime so you can choose whether to grant it or not but you can also control the individual permissions for each app in the settings.

Android M App Permissions

Android L vs Android M: Battery life

We always want better battery life and short of new battery technology software has a big part to play. In Android M, a feature called Doze will use sensors to detect when a device is not in use and put it into a deep sleep type mode. You'll still receive important notifications and the like but it has the potential to double battery life which is what Google has seen running Android M on the Nexus 9.

Android L vs Android M: USB Type C

Although battery life should be better, you'll need to charge your device eventually and Android M supports USB Type C which is reversible so you can't plug it in the wrong way and could well be on the Nexus 5 2015. Even better is the fact it will charge your device quicker (three to five times) and you can use it to charge other devices if needs be.

Android M Now on Tap

Android L vs Android M: Now on tap

Google Now is helpful for all kinds of things within Android but it's going to get better in Android M. Now on tap means you can press and hold the home button whenever you need help – Google Now will appear without you needing to navigate anywhere and will already know what you're doing like trying to find the way to a restaurant.

Android M: Specs

  • Compatible Android smartphones and Android tablets.
  • Compatible Android smartphones and Android tablets.

OUR VERDICT

With the same Material Design at the heart of Android M, it's not a big OS update but the tweaks and new features are all welcome. Stay tuned for more on Android M as we approach the full launch.