It looks like the rumors were right on the money as Google has officially announced Android M at Google I/O 2015. What “M” stands for remains to be seen but in the meantime, Google has shared some of the new features and changes that they have made to the operating system under the hood.
Starting things off with app permissions, it seems that Google might have borrowed a page from Apple’s playbook. Instead of apps asking for permission during the installation process which some users might not bother to read, apps will now be able to ask for permission along the way and only when certain features are being used.
For example if the user is chatting via an app like WhatsApp and wants to record a voice message or send a photo, a one-time prompt will appear asking them to grant the app permission to the phone’s microphone or camera. This makes it more obvious as to what the app needs permission for so that users know why exactly certain features need to be accessed.
Improved Mobile Browsing
Google has also looked into improving the browsing experience on mobile devices. One of the new features is called Chrome custom tabs. What this does is that instead of an app sending the user to the browser or using a webview, they can instead use a Chrome custom tab to display the content.
This tab is part of Chrome meaning that it remembers your saved passwords, autofill, and other settings. Users will also be able to go back to the app anytime by pressing the back key which hopefully won’t disrupt the user’s experience. Another feature is app links in which developers can auto verify links to open in their respective apps.
Instead of users have to continuously choose which app to use to perform an action, developers can auto verify links so for example a link to Twitter will launch in the Twitter app. A link to Instagram opens the Instagram app, and so on.
Once again the rumors were right as Google has officially announced Android Pay. The concept of Android Pay appears to be similar to other mobile payment services out there. All users have to do is unlock their phones and tap it against an NFC payment terminal and they’re good to go. It is an open platform so different apps can be used to activate the feature and according to Google, over 700,000 stores around the US will support Android Pay.
Standardized Fingerprint Authentication API
Native fingerprint scanning support is also one of the new changes Google is making to Android M. Basically instead of having multiple OEMs come up with their own fingerprint authentication system, Google will include their own version in Android M which will hopefully standardize the process and give devs a standardized API.
Fingerprint support will allow users to unlock their phones using their fingerprints, make purchases on Google Play, and as Google demonstrated with the Target app, it can also be used to authenticate payments for purchases on shopping apps as well.
Improved Battery Performance
Google will also be making improvements to how Android M handles battery life. They have introduced a new feature called Doze which basically detects when your device has been inactive for extended periods of time. From there it will go into a deeper sleep which will trade app refreshes for better battery life, but at the same time keeping the device awake just enough for certain events like alarms.
According to Google, they did a test with the Nexus 9. They had one device run on Android M and the other on Android Lollipop, and they found that battery life on the Android M Nexus 9 was twice as long.
Minor Changes And Improvements
These are just some of the improvements and new features Google has made to Android M. Other changes include a floating toolbar for copying/pasting text. Text can also be selected in chunks as opposed to by character, making it easier and faster, and Google has also finally addressed the volume control feature that many users weren’t too happy with.
Android M has no solid release date yet but according to Google and if history is any indication, chances are we could be looking at a Q3 2015 release.