Some eleven months ago, Android chief Sundar Pichai took to the stage at Google I/O 2014 in San Francisco, and wasted little time getting to the meat of the event: Android L. Later renamed Lollipop, Android L introduced a wider array of changes — including a design overhaul — than any previous update. We were able to preview these in detail for you, thanks to Google’s Developer Preview program, which allows us to flash our resident Nexus devices with the latest firmware before it’s even a market reality. Thankfully, this is still the case with Android M, and our Nexus 6 is good to go.
Android M is unlikely to be as big a deal in consumers’ minds as was Lollipop, as it sticks to the previously established design language and mostly focuses on bettering the user experience. This doesn’t sound quite as sexy as a completely new look, but we have to say that many of the changes that Google announced on stage make a ton of sense, and some are even exciting — like Now on Tap, Android Pay, and the new Google Photos service
As mentioned, Android M will not introduce any major design changes. Instead, Google has focused its efforts on streamlining the interface and making it easier to interact with it. There are a few examples of this already available in the very first preview iteration of M — changes to the lock screen and app drawer, settings menu tweaks, and volume control improvements.
Starting with the lock screen, only one thing has changed — in place of the shortcut for the Phone app, we now have one for quick access to Google Now. Quite frankly, we’d much rather have this particular modifications reverted, as Google could just make it possible to activate Now with a voice command on the lock screen, and still allow us to place calls quickly. On a related note, the current build of Android M makes it more difficult to launch either of the two shortcuts (the other being the camera) by limiting activation to a precise swipe from the respective icons. In Lollipop, a swipe from either side registers as intent, and you needn’t fumble with your device.