Google aims to improve Android with each major release, however it doesn’t always manage to pack in the features and improvements that users and developers are asking for. The release of Android M is upon us, and here are eight things Google still needs to improve.
While Android M offers features such as arranging quick toggles and having a possible dark theme, it is still no match compared to custom ROMs. Theming and changes to the core look of the OS are nothing new to the rooting community and it is time Google allows this deep customization in stock Android.
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich had a dedicated tablet UI which made the tablet and phone experience very different. Jelly Bean unified the tablet and phone UI to look and act very similar while keeping them separate and Lollipop basically made them indistinguishable. This is a good and a bad thing. While the experience is now the same, no matter what (stock Android) device you are using, there aren’t any special software features that make having a tablet worth while. Which leads into our next section.
Multitasking and RAM management
Multi-window multitasking is nothing new for owners of smartphones that come with customized versions of Android like those from Samsung or LG. But until now it has not been included in stock Android. While still in the experimental stage, this feature is now in the Android M dev preview. It enables apps to be opened simultaneously in all four corners, or two side-by-side. The only problem is that it doesn’t necessarily look pretty, and closing apps in this view may reveal others that are behind it. This can lead to a confusing experience, which I am hoping will be addressed in coming updates.
Also the RAM management issues that should have been addressed in KitKat, still exist today. When I have a lot of apps open I see multiple launcher redraws and quite a bit of lag, which have hindered the experience on my Nexus 6. The Nexus 9 with only 2 GBs of RAM is even worse and without these issues being fixed multi-window apps and heavy multitasking do not seem possible on stock Android yet.
There are no universal gestures in Android, the only major one is double tap to wake and stock Android only supports that on the Nexus 9, so the other Nexus devices are not able to take advantage of this. Custom launchers support some gestures but they only work on the home screen. There are apps that enable universal custom gestures if you are rooted and they enable you to do anything with just a swipe. This could be very useful and could even replace the navigation bar all together by having gestures that act as the back, home and recent apps controls.
Google introduced lockscreen widgets in Android 4.2 and sort of removed them in Lollipop. Swiping left or right now opens the camera or phone. There is no option to add widgets and swipe between them like you could in Jelly Bean and KitKat, however the notifications are actionable, so there is still the ability to change songs and do anything that you can do in the notification shade. This method works but it is not as pretty or as useful as it used to be. Having the ability to add widgets like Jelly Bean and KitKat, with actionable notifications would be a very nice upgrade.
Privacy and permission settings
App Ops made a slight appearance in Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. It let you control which apps can take advantage of what permissions. If you didn’t want Facebook being able to see your location, you could block the app from being able to do so. Unfortunately this feature was removed in Android 4.4.2 KitKat. Being able to control app permissions is a must have and it would be a welcome addition to Android M or any future Android release.
Full system backup and restore
This is nothing new in the root community, one of the best things about being unlocked and rooted is the ability to install a custom recovery. CWM Recovery and TWRP both offer ways to make Android backups which backup the whole system in case something goes wrong. This only takes a few clicks and the options provided are very customizable. Restoring is also a breeze with just a few steps. Google is getting closer with the ability to backup app data in Android M and the ability to add accounts and the home screen layout using Tap & Go. This is relatively convenient compared to older versions of Android but it doesn’t compare to a full system restore or a dedicated app like Titanium Backup.
The ability to remove bloatware
Carrier branded devices are known to come with a lot of bloatware. AT&T installs apps in the double digits on branded devices and even on the Nexus 6 when it came out. AT&T is not the only one at fault however, most of the carriers have some form of bloatware that you can’t get rid of no matter how hard you try, unless you are rooted. Disabling the apps in settings will get rid of them in the app drawer and prevent them from doing anything, but they still take up space on your device. Even the American Nexus 6 has Verizon bloat built in no matter what carrier you use it on.
Google has improved Android immensely since its first release in 2008, but there are always things to improve on. New Android releases bring a lot to the table while leaving a few things behind. Android M is no different, however with some options that should have been added long ago, along with better battery life, greater performance and other improvements, it is a worthwhile upgrade.