After weeks of rumors of a new Android version, Google has finally made Lollipop’s successor, Android M, official. The official version will not rollout until later this year, but the search giant is making the prerelease version available today.
Google hasn’t said what the new Android version will be just yet, but is going into a lot of detail on what the new firmware upgrade will bring to the OS.
As with every Android version, Android M is bringing with it a whole host of new improvements. Google’s Sundar Pichai says the company has “gone back to the basics,” and is improving the overall performance and quality of Android.
Dave Burke, vice president of Engineering at Google, says that the company has been observing what manufactures put in there software. That said, the plan is to bring a lot of those features into the Android OS with this new release.
One of the largest improvements coming with Android M is a improved app permissions system. In the past, users have been worried about what permissions ask for. Now, users will be able to deny or accept those permissions, such as location services or camera access, on a case by case basis. There are currently eight permission categories available to apps right now, and the apps, from now on, will ask for them as they need them. In its current state, the app asks users to approve all permissions that it needs upon installation. In other words, Android M will handle app permissions similar to the way iOS has been handling them for years now.
Android M will also bring with it a better browsing experience for its Chrome browser. Google is introducing a new feature called “Chrome Custom Tabs,” which will let app developers insert webviews directly into their apps, no longer forcing users to switch apps. Features you can find in Chrome, such as automatic sign-in, autofill, and saved passwords, are now all available tools for developers to use within their apps.
Google is also making Android’s built-in app-linking system much more fluent, too. Users can access content much more directly and will no longer get stopped by a dialog box. If you open a Facebook link, you will be taken directly to that link in the app over being asked if you want to use the Facebook app.
Similar to Apple Pay, Android M is bringing a new payment system with it, Android Pay. It uses NFC and Host Card Emulation for tap-to-pay services, and effectively replaces the Google Wallet app. Developers can integrate this new payment system into their apps for in-app purchases or payments.
Android Pay isn’t exclusive to the new Android version, though. Google says that it will be preinstalled on AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile devices. It will be an accepted payment method in over 700,000 stores in the US. There was no word on how it’d work overseas. Android Pay will also take advantage of fingerprint scanner technologies, such as the Samsung Galaxy S6’s. This is excellent because Google isn’t leaving it up to manufacturers to support the feature. It will work on devices running KitKat or newer.
Furthermore, Android M will offer a host of battery improvements. Called Doze, users across the board will see better battery life and efficiency, as it will allow the system to manage background processes better than ever before. It’s quite smart in that it uses motion detection to find out when you’re using the device. If it detects that you haven’t used it in awhile, it will shut down unneeded processes. In his announcement, Burke said that it was able to increase the standby time by two times what Lollipop offered, but didn’t offer any exact statistics.
Interestingly, and as a surprise to all of us, Android M brings with it USB Type-C support, allowing for faster charging. With it, you can charge other devices with your Android device, too, which isn’t very appealing when you consider a lot of people carry two batteries around with them to just get through the day.
Calling it “the most polished Android release to date,” Burke says a lot of little annoyances that have been with Android for years have been improved, such as copy and paste, volume control, and etc.
While all of these new features are great, Android M isn’t done just yet. Google will be releasing a developer preview today, but nothing ready to go out to the public yet. A full release will be scheduled for later this year, but in the meantime, developers will be able to tinker around with a prerelease version for the Nexus 5,6, 9, and the Nexus Player.
Developing… Be sure to check out all of our Google I/O 2015 coverage here.