When Google introduced us to Android M yesterday, it detailed six major new features that’ll debut in M, like Android Pay and granular app permissions controls. Of course, there will be more than six new features in M total, and folks are discovering what those are now that the Android M Developer Preview is available.
First up is multi-window. It’s been discovered that Android M includes a multi-window feature that lets you run two apps at once by splitting your device’s screen in half. The feature isn’t available automatically, though; you’re going to need to load a custom recovery onto your device and then make some build.prop file edits. Once you do that, a “Multi-window mode” toggle will appear in the Developer options sections of Settings. Turn it on and bam, you’ve got multi-window. The app is said to be a bit buggy, but hey, you can get it working now if you want to.
Multi-window isn’t totally new to Android, because Samsung has been including the feature in several of its Galaxy devices for a while now. With Android M, though, the feature is native, giving more people access to it. Of course, right now the feature is only in the Android M Developer Preview, and it’s unclear if it’ll actually be part of Android M when the update goes live in Q3 2015 or if Google will push it out later. Still, it’s exciting to see that multi-window is finally baked into Android.
Another big feature that’s coming with Android M is Auto Backup for Apps, and what’s nice about this feature is that it requires nearly no extra work from developers and none from users. Auto Backup for Apps will save your app data in the cloud using Google Drive so that when you switch devices, all of your app data will come with you, meaning that you won’t have to re-setup an app when you get a new phone.
To enable Auto Backup for Apps, all that a developer needs to do is run their app against the Android M SDK. Backups will be run at most once per day, and a device will only backup an app when it’s idle and when it’s connected to both Wi-Fi and power. These backups are encrypted and stored in Google Drive. Developers will be able to store at most 25MB per app, and Google notes that these app backups won’t count against your Drive quota.
The third feature that I’ll highlight today is a dark UI theme. If you jump into Developer options in your Android M device’s Settings app, you’ll find a Theme setting that includes Dark, Light, and Automatic options. The Light theme will make your Settings app background white like it is in Lollipop, but setting it to Dark will make the background a dark gray. Automatic will likely adjust the theme based on the light around you. It’s worth noting, though, that changing this theme option will only affect the Settings app, at least for now. Still, it’s nice to see Google give users a bit more control over how these apps look.
What's your favorite Android M feature so far?