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Google Teases Hands Free, The Public Name For "Plaso," Yet Another Android-Based Mobile Payment System

Are you unexcited about Android Pay? Not liking your Wallet Card? Maybe you just want another Google payment platform... because? Then I've got great news: Google Hands Free will be a thing at some point later this year.

How's it work? I've got no idea, because Google doesn't actually tell us. Well, actually, we sort of do know, because Hands Free leaked as Plaso over three months ago.

The idea here is similar to that of the now-defunct Square Wallet, which used a combination of proximity detection and a picture of your face to allow you to buy stuff without ever having to pull out a credit card, phone, or even your ID.

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Smart Lock Passwords Is Now Going Live On Pre-Android M Devices, Web Interface Is Active Too

One of the relatively hidden treasures of yesterday's I/O announcements and Android M preview release was Smart Lock Passwords, which takes credentials you've signed in with on Chrome or for Android apps and automatically signs you in on those platforms in the future. At launch, there are not many app partners, but developers need only use a now-public API to add support. Today, Lollipop users with relatively recent Google Play Services are finding the new feature enabled on their devices as well.

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[Android M Feature Spotlight] The New Do Not Disturb Includes Custom Rules And A Repeat Caller Exception

We already went over the gist of Android M's Do Not Disturb mode, but this isn't just a re-branding of priority interruptions. There are some cool new features in the settings that make DND on Android M quite appealing. It's easier to make DND work for your schedule without a ton of fiddling around.

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[Android M Feature Spotlight] Priority Interruption Mode Is Now Do Not Disturb (Again)

You might remember that the L preview last year introduced a Do Not Disturb mode to Android, but you don't have that exact feature in Lollipop. By the time it was done, this feature became the somewhat more convoluted Priority/None settings. In the M preview it's called Do Not Disturb again, and the basic functionality is a little simpler.

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[Android M Feature Spotlight] Multi-window (Well, Kind Of)

Late last year, we took an early look at a then-rumored feature that we expected to see in an upcoming build of Android: Multi-window. We've heard rumors and whatnot since then, but no physical implementation had been spotted. Now, Multi-window is a real thing, it's part of M, and you can try it today (if you're willing to mod your device a little bit).

mw wm2

Thanks to Andrew and Josh for the screenshots

It's worth mentioning that this is still very early in its development and is quite buggy. But the idea is there - you can run two things on the screen at one time.

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[Android M Feature Spotlight] You Can Now Disable Peeking, AKA Heads-Up Notifications, On A Per App Basis

Lollipop 5.0 introduced sliding heads-up notifications instead of the scrolling status bar ticker that had been used on all Android versions prior. They showed up on top of your current screen for a few seconds, then went back into the notification tray. However, the function still seemed quite unfinished, with notifications blocking everything underneath them unless you completely got rid of them or waited for them to disappear. Lollipop 5.1 made it possible to dismiss notifications with a swipe up, sending them back to the tray so you can check them later.

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Android M makes this functionality optional, and that's one very welcome change. Each app's settings page has an "App notifications" screen where you can block all notifications from the selected app, treat them as priority, and "Allow peeking." The latter enables the heads-up sliding notifications on top of other apps.

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[Android M Feature Spotlight] Bluetooth Scanning Joins WiFi To Improve Location Accuracy

With Android 4.3, Android implemented the idea of always-on WiFi where, even if you had Wi-Fi toggled off, the device and apps could still scan for WiFi networks to improve the location's accuracy. Along with using network triangulation, it's another way of getting your current position as quickly as possible without having to rely too much on GPS signals.

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Android M is taking the idea further, adding Bluetooth scanning to the equation. Under the Location settings on M, you'll find a Scanning option in the menu, where both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth scanning can be toggled on and off. When enabled, Bluetooth scanning will presumably look for BLE devices like beacons to get a quicker location fix.

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[Android M Feature Spotlight] Bluetooth Low Energy Scanning By Apps Gets More Power Efficient

Bluetooth Low Energy is the current preferred method of communication between multiple accessories and Android devices. I can count 4 objects on my body right now that connect to my phone through BLE, not to mention the various accessories strewn across my desk and in other locations around me. Each of these has its own app on my phone that connects to the device every now and then and retrieves data, which, you can easily guess, has a toll on the battery.

In Android M, Google is improving the way apps scan for BLE devices. Apps that use the new android.bluetooth.le.ScanSettings.Builder.setCallbackType() will only be notified of callbacks when they first find a match to the set ScanFilter (ie when they match the name or the Mac address of the chosen BLE device) and after a period of inactivity.

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[Android M Feature Spotlight] Android Now Has A Native Flashlight API, Hopefully Negating The Need For OEM-Specific Solutions

While Android Lollipop added a flashlight toggle into Quick Settings, circumventing most third-party torch apps, the function was only accessible in the notification drop-down and as an on/off switch. If you wanted to use the flashlight with morse code, for signaling, or other patterns, you still had to use a separate application and developers of said apps didn't have any clear API to build their software on. They had to hack together solutions for various phones, relying on whatever way the different OEMs had created to access the camera's flash.

With Android M, a new Flashlight API is accessible to developers with CameraManager.setTorchMode(). The flash will be switched on until the app is closed, it is toggled off, or some other app takes over control — flash isn't restricted or exclusive to any apps.

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[Android M Feature Spotlight] A Swipe From The Left On The Lock Screen Now Launches Google Voice Search Instead Of The Dialer

There's a minor change to the way Android M implements the lock screen. Instead of the camera and phone shortcuts, you have camera and voice search. Voice Search is accessed by swiping from the lower left corner where you now have a mic icon.

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