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Android M: 5 hidden features you should know about

by Brandon Russell | June 2, 2015June 2, 2015 5:00 pm PST

While Google detailed some of the bigger features coming to Android M last week, Google still managed to squeeze in a few “secrets” buried deep within the software’s first developer preview. We mentioned a few of them in our hands-on preview last week, but we found a few more, and we thought we’d share.

Sure, some of the things we mention in the above video might not make it to the final build of Android M (Android Molecule? Android Marmite?), but it’s at least notable that Google is taking a long look at potentially introducing them. Light and dark mode? Yes, I would definitely use that. Google’s Android Lollipop is full of bare white spaces, which can sometimes look lonely and a little too minimal. Changing that up to black gives it a stealth look.

Below you’ll find all the hidden features we’ve found in Android M so far. This is not even close to the final version of Google’s new OS. Heck, we don’t even know what it’ll be called. As we get closer to the update’s official release this fall, it’s very likely we’ll uncover even more features as Google rolls out new builds. We’re particularly looking forward to trying out Now on Tap, which isn’t available in this first preview.

  1. Dark & Light Theme: Android M now offers an option to switch between a light and dark theme. If you enable dark mode, all the settings screens will switch over to material dark. As far as we can tell, it doesn’t affect apps or any other part of the device. We’re also not entirely sure what the automatic setting does, but we’re assuming it’s designed to switch from light to dark at a predetermined time, like at night. Google: if you’re watching this, keep this feature.
  2. Use Doze on a per app basis: One of Google’s big projects for Android M is battery optimization, and it’s doing this by implementing a new feature called Doze, which essentially puts unneeded apps into an ultra low-power state. Doze should be smart enough to wake apps up when they have a high-priority action to perform, so even if your alarm app has been dozing, it’ll still work. However, if you want a certain app to ignore Doze and run in the background at all times, you can disable Doze on a per-app basis by heading into settings > battery > ignore optimizations > all apps.
  3. New RAM Manager: Android does a pretty decent job of managing it’s memory, but unfortunately it doesn’t really show you what app is using the most RAM. In Android M there’s a new RAM Manager that shows a detailed overview of what apps are always running, and how much memory an app uses on average. Here you can check up on what app is eating up all the memory, and you can of course Stop or Force Stop the app if you’re experiencing slowdowns. To get to this page, you can head over to the settings app > Apps > Tap the three dots > Advanced > Memory.
  4. Do Not Disturb Mode: During Google I/O, Google highlighted the simplified Volume controls, which now brings up the volume slider with an arrow that expands the menu to give you control of alarms, notifications and media separately. One thing that Google didn’t talk about is the addition of Do Not Disturb Mode. DND first arrived with Android L, though the final version of Lollipop referred to this functionality as priority interruptions. DND in Android M pretty much offers the same basic functionality as the previous interruption options, but there are a few interesting changes as well, including a new repeat callers option that lets the caller through if they call back within 15 minutes, and automatic rules that give you some basic options of when to turn on Do Not Disturb Mode automatically, like on the weekends, weeknights or during weekly meetings. You can enable Do Not Disturb Mode by either holding the volume button down, or toggling it through the quick settings menu. To access the new DND settings, you can head on over to Sound & Notifications > Do Not Disturb.
  5. Turn off Heads Up Notifications: Heads Up Notifications came to stock Android as a native function baked into Lollipop, but not everyone liked having notifications pop up for every app. With Android M, you’ll be able to disable heads up notifications on a per-app basis. For example, you’re getting too many Gmail notifications, and you don’t want the notification banner to keep popping up, you’ll be able to disable the notification banner for Gmail, while keeping your other apps untouched. Of course, you can always enable Do Not Disturb mode and disable all notifications, but if you simply want to avoid getting heads up notifications for apps, you now have the option to disable them on a per-app basis. To turn this on, head on over to Sound & Notifications > App Notifications > Select an App > Disable Peeking.

So far, Android M has been pretty stable, though you probably shouldn’t use it on your everyday driver. Google said it plans to offer quicker updates in the lead up to this fall’s Android M release, so we’ll be seeing a lot more of the OS over the next few months. Seen anything in the OS we didn’t check out? Let us know in the comments down below.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell likes to rollerblade while listening to ACDC.

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