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STOLEN REVIEWS OF ANDROID M (NEXUS DEVICES)

We’ve finally got our hands on the next version of Android - or at least the first of many iterations of the developer preview of the next version of Android. We’ve bravely fired up ADB and Fastboot and have loaded Android M onto a Nexus 5 handset that we use day-to-day.
We’ve reported on bugs and glitches as we’ve found them, but they may not be the same across all devices. Some were pretty serious, such as our Home button refusing to work entirely the first time we booted up the phone, while others were merely minor quirks. Warts-and-all, here are our first impressions.
Before we even really got started Google looks to have streamlined two-step verifications, by autofilling the code for you from the text message seamlessly, we didn’t even see or hear a notification of it arriving. Except for that the start-up process is familiar, offering to setup email accounts and import data from another device.

Tap on Now

It’s worth noting up front that this build of Android M, and reportedly all the other preview builds, will not contain Tap on Now. The new feature was heavily demoed by Google at IO 2015 last night. It extends Google Now throughout the OS, making it accessible at any point via a long tap on the home button. At present though it just brings up a message saying it’s not working yet.
Digsby
IM, Email, and Social Networks in one easy to use application!
http://digsby.com
^ We can't test out Google's most exciting new feature, because it's not included it in this build

Performance

We ran our usual suite of benchmarks on the handset to see if Android M made any difference. We were pleasantly surprised to find a small uplift in scores in Geekbench 3, while Peacekeeper only dropped slightly, We couldn’t get GFX Bench GL’s Manhattan test to run. It’s an early build and Android M isn’t designed to increase performance over Lollipop, but it’s certainly no slouch from what we’ve seen.
We'll be testing the battery life as soon as we get a chance early next week, and will update this review with an indepth discussion of the new Doze battery feature then.
PeacekeeperGFX Bench OnscreenGFX Bench OffscreenGeekBench 3 SingleGeekBench 3 MultiBattery Life  (170cd/m2)
Google Nexus 5 (Android 5.1)861593573822249107h 22m
Google Nexus 5 [Android M)814failfail9112912TBC
In terms of hands-on feel, the new operating system felt incredibly quick and snappy. Now some of that can be put down to a fresh install of Android, but there’s certainly nothing to worry about performance-wise if you’re thinking of making the upgrade early.

Home screen

For starters, out goes the abstract, Material-influenced default wallpaper, replaced by a rather lovely-looking image of a coastline from the air. The home screen pretty much looks as we remember it on Lollipop. Google Now sits to the left and extra screens are created to the right. It may work the same, but it doesn’t sound the same. The noises for unlocking the phone and hitting the Home button are now less crisp, more rounded, and much nicer overall.
Android M - intro
Digsby
IM, Email, and Social Networks in one easy to use application!
http://digsby.com

App Tray

The first big change comes when you open the app tray. This has changed to a scrolling vertical list, apps are still listed alphabetically, but now there’s letters down the side so you can quickly find the right area of the list. It’s a huge improvement on the old mass of icons, and lets you quickly find apps you don’t use very often. If you have loads of apps there’s a search bar at the top too, which slims down your options as you type.
There are four apps ‘pinned’ across the top of the app tray. However, we couldn’t work out why these were selected to be put there. We couldn’t find a way to change them directly, by moving or replacing them, and using lots of other apps to dislodge them as some kind of ‘favourites’ didn’t work either. We’re not sure this is intended or a bug, but it doesn’t feel right.
Android M - app tray
Digsby
IM, Email, and Social Networks in one easy to use application!
http://digsby.com

Volume controls and Do Not Disturb

The other change you can see on the home screen are the redesigned volume controls. Pressing up or down on the volume rocker control here brings up the ringer/notification volume bar. However, tap the arrow icon and you can also adjust the media playback volume and the alarm clock volume from here too. You can do this with the rocker or simply by tapping or sliding your finger on the bar. It’s a much better and clearer system than before.
volume controls
Digsby
IM, Email, and Social Networks in one easy to use application!
http://digsby.com
The simplified volume controls means that the Lollipop’s Do Not Disturb feature has been redesigned and moved to the settings shortcut panel. Tap the icon here and you can set the device to Total silence, Alarms only or Priority only, until its deactivated or until a set time. Aside from this moved feature, the rest of the settings here are identical to the last version of Android.
Android M - do not disturb
Digsby
IM, Email, and Social Networks in one easy to use application!
http://digsby.com

Settings

Delve into the full settings and you can see some bigger changes. Under Apps-Settings-Advanced, you can find the new App permissions settings. Android M deals with permissions in a completely new way, with apps requesting access to various permissions (be it the camera or your contacts list) as they require them, rather than at installation. This only works with new apps that support Android M permissions, legacy apps still ask for permissions upfront. In this menu you can edit the permissions each app has, revoking earlier permissions if desired, and you can look at a list of apps that access to each aspect of your phone.
Android M - permissions
Digsby
IM, Email, and Social Networks in one easy to use application!
http://digsby.com
Here you can also see the new Domain URL management. This lets specific apps ‘own’ URLs from their related domains by default, so that unless you choose otherwise all Twitter links will be dealt by the Twitter app.
Android M - domains
Digsby
IM, Email, and Social Networks in one easy to use application!
http://digsby.com
Finally we have the option to finetune the new Doze mode, which Google claims hugely increases battery life in standby. This is under Battery Optimisations, and here you can choose which apps are affected by Doze’s less regular updates, and which you want to behave as normal. Obviously fiddling with this will chip away at any battery savings.

Conclusion

If you have a Nexus handset and like to have the latest thing then there’s no reason not to get Android M today. Even in its early state it’s remarkably stable and fast. However, the new features and tweaks are a bit thin on the ground; the volume controls are most welcome and the new app tray is a definite improvement, but neither is really a reason to upgrade. Still, we’re glad we did and you won’t regret doing so either.
Amol Kamble

Amol Kamble

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