Android Security Is Still Secure. Seriously.

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Android Security Is Still Secure. Seriously.

There’s been a lot of media hype this past month about Android phones and their lack of security.  Headlines such as “How Android Phones Hide Missed Security Updates From You” have been floating around causing mass panic.

Take a deep breath.  It’s ok.

Despite the plethora of recent articles claiming that Android phones are under attack and that you’re a victim, chances are you’re actually safer than you think.  Yes there was a study earlier this month that found some phones were behind on their security updates.  But that doesn’t mean that all of your data is exposed to whoever wants to take it.  Even with a few security updates missing, you should be alright.  Let’s take a second to discuss some of the other security features that Android architecture has in place to protect you:

Google Play Protect

Google Play Protect is a safeguard to protect Android users from malicious apps.  Even with Google’s screening process to let apps onto the Play Store, chances are some baddies will slip through the cracks and are available for download.  Google Play Protect attempts to stop these apps in their tracks by doing routine scans on your phone for every app even after it’s been installed.  If there’s a cause for concern detected, you’ll be notified. 

This software also applies to apps updates, so the short version of it is that apps can’t just slide by once. As long as you have Play Protect enabled on your phone, apps are continuously exposed to it.  Chances are your phone already has Play Protect, but if you want to be sure (or just see what it’s been up to) you can find it in the Play Store.  Open the store and then tap the 3 horizontal bars menu icon.  Then select “Play Protect” and you’ll be taken to a page showing what apps have been scanned recently and how your device looks.

Sandboxing

Android apps are naturally sandboxed from one another.  What this means is that each apps data and code execution is isolated from others.  So if you happen to download the wrong app it doesn’t mean it will automatically have access to all of the apps already on your phone.  We go into depth about the android security framework in our Android development course over at Phonlab.  Content Providers offer a storage mechanism for apps so that their information has to be requested before it can become accessible to just anyone.

Android Permissions work along with this to make sure that no matter what if you have some common sense you should be safe.  Permissions essentially are requirements that if an app utilizes a certain feature (such as syncing with your contacts) it has to be granted permission by the user.

These permissions are presented to a user when the app attempts to access them, and are only allowed when the user says so.  You retain complete control over what access an app has.  Imagine you downloaded a game and it started asking you for access to your contacts and your saved media files.  Red flags should be going up right away since a game has no reason to use these.  As long as you don’t blindly hit accept to every permission, you retain a ton of control over what an app can actually do.

What are your thoughts on Android’s security measures?  Let us know in the comments below!

Android P In Action

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Android P In Action

Last month we wrote about Android P and how it’s become the talk of the town despite Oreo’s youth.  We’re still some ways off from P (currently known as Pistachio) making its way into the hands of everyday consumers, but earlier this week Google released their first preview of P to developers.  Here’s a quick highlight of some of the cool features it has to offer. Spoiler: some of them are pretty cool.

Android P Highlights:

Wifi RTT – The new API for Wi-Fi Round Trip Time lets you take advantage of indoor positioning in your apps.  RTT measures the distance to nearby Wifi access points that support RTT.  By doing this with 3 access points RTT calculates a triangulated position accurate within about a meter.  There are ton’s of creative opportunities here, and don’t worry about privacy.  Only the user’s phone is able to determine the distance, so no one else will know who you are in a crowded room.

Notifications – In Android 7.0 users gained the capability to reply to messages directly from notifications. Then in 8.0 notification channels were introduced to give users more control over what types of notifications they want to receive from an app.  P takes these features one step further.  Now in the notification bar you can see image messages, and utilize the auto-replies available in your messaging app.  So forget ever using your messaging app, everything can be done from your home screen now.

Animations – The new class AnimatedImageDrawable allows for simple drawing and displaying of GIFs and WebP animated images.  This class lets apps show animated images without having to manage updates or burden the UI thread.

Display Cutout Support – While this feature isn’t going to be in the hands of users, developers are able to modify their phone’s looks in settings under Device theme.  This allows developers to emulate different kinds of screen displays such as including the notch that’s been growing in popularity. Thanks a lot Apple BOOOOOOO.

How to get Android P:

Right now we may as well say P is for Pixel.  The current release is only available on pixel and pixel2 devices (or an Android emulator running one of these).  And once again, this initial release is for developers only not commercial use.  As such Google has made it only available by manual download in Flash.  Click here to download the Android P beta and see what changes it has in store. If you want to install it on your pixel device then check out this video of installing a developer preview on a Nexus 6p as the process will be the same.

You can read more about each of these features and more at developer.android.com.  There are also some brilliant Easter eggs such as allowing users to rotate their phone to landscape mode even when they have auto-rotate turned off, and improving features for one-handed use.  After you download the Preview let us know what you think the biggest changes are and what still needs to be done.

Comment below on what you think the official name of Android P will be.

 

Android 8.0 Oreo whats inside

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What’s Inside Android 8.0 Oreo?

Today Google has released there new Android OS version 8.0. (Code Name Oreo) If you are interesting in watching the live stream announcement from Google then watch the video here.

The Android 8.0 Oreo Firmware has been released and you will find it here, with this link to access all of the new firmware images from Google. You will need to know the code name IE (sailfish Marlin) of your nexus or pixel device to make sure you download the right version. If you need help installing this firmware then check out my tutorial HERE.

Lets take a look.

RootJunky

 

Cyanogenmod 14 Released

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Cyanogen mod 14 Released

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CyanogenMod 14 official release has started for many devices. Nexus being at the top of that list along with oneplus devices. CyanogenMod 14 release brings CM up to the latest Android OS which is Nougat and all its glory. If you are looking to see if CM14 is available for your device check the official download page you can also check here for unofficial builds. You can also download CyanogenMod Recovery if you want to use it over TWRP Recovery. Here is a list of some of the New features included in this release.

  1. Multi Window Support
  2. New System UI
  3. Better Battery Management

These are all features that are new or improved on Android 7.0 Nougat.

Below is a video showing off CyanogenMod 14 Unofficial check it out.

 

Discovering the Hidden Power of Android

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How to harness the full power of your Android devices.

 

Android Devices today are very powerful; many of them have faster processors than your 5 year old laptop, and a higher screen resolution than that old 480p tv you bought 10 years ago. But even today, we are still faced with the fact that there are just some things that you cannot do on a smartphone that you can do on a laptop. Things like using a keyboard and mouse, or a wired controller, or being able to get into the main filesystem of your device etc. But today I am going to be showing you a few neat tricks that you can use to make these things possible.

 

Keyboard and mouse support using an OTG cable

Have you ever wanted to use your phone like a computer, to write that book report, or important document you are working on? But then you realize that your phone does not have a usb port to actually support this feature? Well all is not lost, because there is a way to make this possible. You can use a USB OTG cable to harness the power of using a keyboard, and mouse and to plug in usb drives to Android. Not only are these cables very useful, they are very cheap, some selling for just a few dollars depending where you get them from. They are very easy to find on Ebay.com and Amazon.com.

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Best of all, you do not have to do much of anything to get this working, since android already has this support of keyboards and mice built in. As for usb support, all phones are different and some phones require root and a root file browser, such as ES File Explorer, or Solid File Explorer to take advantage of using USB OTG storage.

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How to gain access to the hidden parts of Android

For those of us who like to be able to tinker and tweak our devices, or to be able to see what makes our devices tick, there is a way for us to be able to do this. Since Android is a form of linux, we are able to gain what we call Root access to a device. This root access gives us the ability to do many advanced tasks on our phones that are not possible to for the average user to do. Things such as:

  • Access and change the main filesystem using a file browser
  • Access the terminal emulator
  • Add or remove system apps to free up space
  • Backup and restore apps using titanium backup
  • Change the color and look of many parts of the system, such as the status bar menu items etc.
  • Flash a custom recovery, and install custom roms
  • Overclock the processor to make the phone faster, or underclock it to save battery life
  • Use a custom audio driver such as Viper for Android
  • The possibilities are basically endless!

 

Rooting not only does all of this to your current device, but you can also do this with an older android device and give it a second life; the after life 🙂

 

Conclusion

So to sum it all up, the possible ways to use your Android device to the fullest are basically endless. The features that i have talked about here are just scratching the surface when it comes to the possibilities that Android holds. So before you go and think about buying that next Iphone, think to yourself what things can I do with an Android that i can’t do on Iphone.

 

By: Tristin L.

Android Launchers Part 2

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We are back with part two of our look at Android launchers.  Last week our attention was focused on two of the best launcher for customization and stability, NOVA and Action Launcher 3.  I said that this week we would be looking at the fun launchers.  Two of the best launcher to use for sheer enjoyment are Buzz Launcher-Smart & Free Themes and LINE Launcher.

These launchers are built for fun.  They don’t have the clean and nearly invisible feel of Nova or the detailed care of Action Launcher 3 but they are still full blown launchers with a vide variety of customization tools and tricks.  I would say that all 4 launchers are in the same league but definitely not at the same level.  Buzz and LINE come with bloatware tied to the launcher and the launcher itself, general bogs down the system.  Thanks to RootJunky I recently installed Marshmallow and the launchers do seem to run a bit smoother than they did on Lollipop but they still slow me down, just a touch. Anyway if you are looking for performance look back to the first two launcher we looked at.  If you looking for fun…. well then, here we go.

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LINE LauncherScreenshot_20151017-123935

Let’s start with LINE Launcher. This has to be the most adorable launcher on the planet. I can’t help but fall in love with the simple fun you can have with all of these free themes.   There Screenshot_20151017-115548 Screenshot_20151017-120131is a great sense of anonymity on the internet and you dear reader, have no clue of who I am.  I could be the stereotype of a 15 year Korean girl that just loves all things cute and cuddly.  Thing is, i am not and I still like LINE launcher.  I am secure enough to tell you that all 220 pounds of my middle aged, manly fury loves these themes.  They are just such great fun.  With a quick jump to their theme shop you can browse by what is new, by season or colour.  It is so easy to find a theme that fits your mood or activity for the day.  I will be honest with you and say that do not keep these themes or this launcher on my phone all the time.  I will not be using these themes if I am have a beer with a friend and swapping some manly stories.  It just does not fit. However if i am going hiking with my daughters, now that’s different.  Halloween is coming and why not enjoy the time with a safe for work and safe all ages theme?  LINE launcher is definitely a lot of fun.  Check it out and I am sure that you will find something to like.  They do have a variety of themes and something to fit all tastes but they excel at cuteness.  If you have an old phone that you are handing down to your daughter, put this launcher on it and she will be the coolest kid in grade 3.  

Not sure why a kid in grade three needs a phone but we’ll save that for another post.

 

Buzz Launcher

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Screenshot_20151017-114825If all that cuteness was to much for you, focus on Buzz Launcher.  I see this launcher as the one created for and by Fanboys and even some Fangirls.  Buzz like all launchers allows you to customize your phone’s layout.  It is a powerful tool but not really different than any other launcher in capabilities. Where buzz really shines through it Screenshot_2015-06-21-17-48-14Screenshot_20151017-120828community involvement, and it is a community of Fanboys.  If you are into comics you will say “excelsior”  with every theme dedicated to Stan Lee’s Children.  Into Gaming?  Buzz has a theme for you.  Check out the Clash of Clans theme.  Tap the hog rider to open your phone and the Witch opens your app draw.  Prefer a different set up? It is fully customizable.  

As a Kid, i thought Knight Rider was the coolest thing ever.  And now my phone plays the show’s intro for a ringtone.  Hangouts opens when I press KITT’s voice box.  For that alone, I love this launcher.

But what if you are a 15 year old Korean girls that does not like comic, games or american TV shows from the 80’s.  That’s OK because Buzz Launcher has themes with the latest Korean Pop band.  Seriously, It has a lot of Korean Pop bands…… but 50 million Koreans can’t be wrong, so don’t judge!

It does not matter what you are a fan of, form Premier League Soccer to boy bands around the world you can find it on Buzz.  The app has a great setup for viewing and sharing your themes. You view themes created by fans of nearly everything, download it and make your own modifications, just to give it that personal touch.  If you have a super fan living inside of you, give this launcher a try. You will be impressed.

Buzz and LINE, two great launcher for your Android device.  If you are looking to add some fun into your daily driver these are great places to start.  What is your launcher of choice?  Is all this cuteness and fanboyism to much for you?  Do you prefer the more refined approach of Nova or Action Launcher 3?  Does your heart flutter at the cute characters on LINE launcher? Will Yoda or your favorite team stare back at you from your phone’s launcher?  

Let me know were you stand, comments are welcome.

Next week we will wrap up this discussion with an overview of launcher and their worth.

 

Until next time.

E.Tuesday

 

 

 

 

 


Android Launchers

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One of the best things about Android, it gives you the ability to be different, to separate yourself from the rest and it does not matter who you are.  You could be a global juggernaut bent on touchwizing the planet or a lonely Star Trek loving geek, living in your parent’s basement. It does not matter because the Android Open Source Project lets you “be together, not the same.”

This will be part one of three, in a series about Android launchers. We will look at the good, the bad and the ugly and try to be as honest as we can be about a very subjective topic – personal taste.  Although i really like Android’s new slogan,  “be together, not the same”  and it is my preferred platform, I  want to end the series with a simple question…. Is all this choice worth it?

Let’s find out……

In this post I would like to look at two of the very best launchers.  They are Nova Launcher and Action Launcher 3. There are a lot of launchers out there and even more debate on which are the best launchers.  I have tried a number of them and the Screenshot_20151011-210528reason i see these two as the best is customizations and stability.   I have installed a number of launchers that slow my phone down and that i just can’t accept.  An unstable launcher just leaves you hanging. Literally, you are left hanging waiting for your processor to work through the math.

Action launcher 3

Action launcher 3 (AL3)is clean yet customizable.  It sticks to a stock android feel but adds some really beep modifications.  One of AL3 key features are the icon Covers and Shutters.   

From AL3’s webpage:

Covers: an innovative take on traditional folders. Tapping a Cover loads an app, swiping a Cover opens a hidden folder which you have customized.

Shutters: swipe a shortcut to reveal an app’s widget. Allows you to say preview your inbox or Facebook feed without opening the app.

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Have a look at the screenshot.  You can see that Games, Fitness and Google are covers, marked with a square, and contain apps within.  Hangouts is a shutter, marked with two horizontal lines, and previews the app with swipe.  If you look closely you may notice something about the Covers and Shutters.  They are automatically coloured to matched your app!  This is a small feature but it speaks to why i like action launcher.  The developer wanted to do his best and it shows.  When a developer takes time for the small things they gain my respect, It does not matter if you like another launcher over this one, you can’t help but respect the effort put into it and it does not stop there.

 

There are two other things that i want you to notice about this screenshot.  Look at the yellow of the google search bar and the blue of folder(Cover) background.  It all matches with the wallpaper!  AL3 calls it Quick Theme and it quickly impresses.  This feature can modify the status bar, search box, all apps background, quickdrawer and folder background all to match with your wallpaper.   You can play with it in the setting but every time i use it i really like the chosen colour scheme.  It’s not the biggest change a launcher can do but it is well thought out and the extra touches to make it complete.

There are lots of other customization and short cuts that AL3 can do but most are common to other launchers.  I should mention that the search bar can be a powerful tool for someone
using this launcher.  However, what really separates it from the pack is its stability and small touches like the quick theme.  This is a launcher that will take care of you, it will let you pick a wallpaper and then make everything look good for you.   That is why it is my second favorite launcher.  

 

NOVA Launcher

 

There are things that other launchers can do that Nova can’t but Nova is invisible and totally customization.  I can get lost in the infinite settings and options.  Nova does not coddle you like AL3 does.  You can see on this screenshot that Games, Fitness and Google are not marked as folders.  You need to remember how you have set yourself up with Nova.  You can see that the google search bar is white.  It has not been modified to match the colours of your screen.  All of these things are not negatives to me because you are actually free to modify anything and everything.  I could list what you can modify but that would make this article boring, just know that whatever it is, it can be modified on Nova.  Is your notification bar hard to see with your white Screenshot_20151011-210945wallpaper?  Change them to a dark icon theme.   Don’t like unread icon badges? That’s ok, don’t use them or if you do, place them in any corner you wish. This is the tinker’s launcher but that is not why it is my launcher of choice.  

Once you are done playing with the setting and options it works and works.  I sometimes even forget that i am using a launcher.  I will jump onto my wife’s Nexus 5 and only then do i realize “Ohh this is stock android, i forgot”.  

Not sure what kind of pixie dust they are putting in the programming.  What i do know is that it works well.  My trusty Nexus 5 is not a slouch but it can stumble if it has too many graphic heavy games thrown at it.  I notice the lag with other launchers and to a lesser degree with Action Launcher 3 but it runs like stock with Nova.  You can’t notice that is it there, it becomes completely invisible and that is why it earns my spot as top launcher.  

 

Nova may be my top launcher but it is not the most fun. Next week, in part two we will review two of the funnest launchers around.  Until then let me know your thoughts in the comment section.  Do you use either of these launchers?  Do you have a launcher that you think kicks ass, let me know.   Disagree with my opinion?  What are your thoughts?

 

Both of these launchers took time to develop.  If you have a few bucks kicking around and if you like the launcher, why not support the developer?  It can only lead to more development of new and better launchers.

 

Until next time

E. Tuesday

Samsung Gear S2 Watch

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Samsung

The Samsug Gear S2 Watch is Samsungs new look on round smart watches. The Gears S2 is running Tizen OS not Android wear like many of use are used to but in reality Tizen has been around longer then Android wear and it is very refined. The most interesting feature of this new watch from samsung has to be the user interface. The Gear S2 has a rotating bezel that’s used to navigate through menus and apps and really adds to the watch design. The rotating bezel just makes so much sense i am surprised it hasnt been utilized before. Like many smart watches the Gear S2 is water resistant IP68 certified which is a must in my opinion.

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Other specs include a 1.2 inche 360 by 360 302ppi display, bluetooth 4.1, 250mAh battery which is smaller then the normal 300mAh but should be enough for a day of use, 512mb of ram and 4gb storage. what are you getting with this watch over other devices on the market right now? Answer one amazing interface.

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The released date for the Samsung Gear S2 watch is just around the corner in October according to Samsung. I havent seen pricing for the Gear S2 yet but i would guess that it would be around $349.00 since that seems to be the standard for watches in this catagorie. what do you think is this a device that you will be interested in? I am really looking forward to checking this device out. Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

Rootjunky

Whats your dream Android device?

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Whats your dream Android device?

 

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Since we are talking about dream android devices we have to start with specs and hardware then we can move on to features. So here is my list of specs that would keep me using a phone for more then the 3 months i do now.

Screen Size:  I am the kind of person that watches lots of youtube on my phone so for me the sweet spots is a 5.5 screen like on the LG G4. I am also fine with 1080p but 4K would be awesome. Must have unbreakable glass.

Battery Life:  Super important to me because i am away from chargers most of me day so the battery on the Motorola Droid Turbo with 2 day battery life should soot my needs just fine. It of course must have turbo and wireless QI charging. Must have a removable battery.

Speakers:  For me the HTC One M9 with stereo front facing speakers is a true winner. This is the only way to go and I am super tired of cupping my hand behind the phone to be able to hear.

Camera:  For sure the winner in this section with the best camera is the Samsung Galaxy S6. I love this camera it shoots the best and fastest pictures and video in auto mode i have ever seen.

CPU: octo core snap dragon at 3.2Ghz with 4GB of ram. plus a 128GB internal storage.

 

SD Card: Must have a SD Card Slot so that i can increase my storage if i want to.

 

Features

1. Twist or double tap home to launcher camera. Really and camera short cut is fine with me but i like both of these

2. Finger print scanner to unlock the phone.

3. Motion gestures for screen shots. I love this feature on my Samsung devices.

4. Stock Android software from Google not skins

5. Built in theme engine that is also open for anyone to theme on.

6. No bloat ware only apps needed for the device to boot up. I can install any other app i want from google play store.

7. Knock on to turn on your screen with a double tap.

8. On screen home back and recent buttons.

9. Has to have flash light and tether toggles from the notification drop down.

10. works on all radio bands and carriers.

11. The reason i would want a unlocked bootloader is that it will make the longevity of the device last much longer and keep development happening.

12. Open Source will keep development coming with all the source code public.

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I think with these specs I would be happen with my device for at least a year maybe 2. What would a device like this cost you may ask, well i dont really now but i would be willing to pay around $1200.00 for one. What would you pay for the ultimate smart phone and what features and specs would you absolutely have to get?

Android M Developer Preview

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Android M Developer Preview

Google has added a bunch of new features to Android M and today we will be covering some of them. I am really excited to get the official Android M release but for now lets check out Android M Developer Preview. If you are looking for the download link to this new firmware you can find it HERE.  Right now Android M is only available on the Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 9, and Nexus Player. Here is my review Video if you want to skip right to the good stuff 🙂

New Features

1.  New Look and feel of the Home launcher or should i say Google Now Lanucher. The main difference here is the Lock screen with the added Google now microphone button and new wallpaper.

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Also you get a new app drawer that some love and some hate. it scrolls vertically and has your 4 most recent apps on top. Widgets have been organized a little different also. They are vertical just like the app drawer but if a app has multiple widgets you can scroll through them horizontally. I really like this new widget organization.

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2.  Managing Volume and notifications sounds has finally become easier.  When you press your volume up and down buttons you will be greeted with these options. If you press volume down all the way you will be able to set alarms only mode or do not disturb mode which can also be found on your quick toggles.

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3. App Permissions has bee added to the mix and i really like this feature. With app permissions you have full control over what your apps have access to or not. If you dont want chrome to have access to your camera services then just turn it off in app permissions its that simple. you can look at individual app permissions of you can see every app that can access the camera. Long with app permissions you can app links what it does is links web links to apps that relate to that app so that when you click on a link to Google drive in Chrome browser it will open your Google drive app if installed.

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You can also find this cool Memory tool in settings if you are into monitoring ram info.

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4. Google On Tap is activated by long pressing the home button on Android M. How Google on tap works is it looks at what is on your screen at the time you press the buttons and basically Google searches that info to bring you more information on it. Long pressing the home button also brings up the Google search bar for voice commands with OK Google if you want to use it. Right now Google On Tap isnt working in Android M developer preview but i am really excited to check it out when Android M is official later this year. Looks like there will be 3 different preview release of Android M before the official release in Q3. Hopefully we will see some of these features working in later previews.

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5. Doze is Android M new method of dealing with standby time. Basically Doze recognizes that your device isnt being used and starts shutting down serves that arent needed. Doze will give you 2 to 4 times the battery life in standby mode on Android M. Battery life and improvements like quick charging are huge for android and the mobile user. I hope to see many more big improvements on Battery life in the future.

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6. Android Settings theme is a new feature that has to be turned on in developer settings. To turn on developer settings you need to click on your build number in about phone 7 times then you will have developer settings and be able to turn on the dark theme that i love. 🙂 Also you can see that the Android M developer Preview has a Easter egg just like all the other android versions but it is lacking any game like lollipop can with Flappy Android.

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7. Again Google teases us with Android Pay showing of some of its awesome features and ease of use but doesnt include it in Android M. Google Pay is going to be great competition for Apple Pay and other payment methods available today.

 

If you are looking to install Android M on your Nexus device then you may want to check out this video. How to install Android M Developer Preview.

Note I edited all the Nexus Android M Firmware and uploaded it HERE so that the Flash-all.bat file will now work.

Links to Google Announcements on Android M with more great info

Android M Developer Blog

Android M Program overview and release info