Google unveiled Android M at their developers conference yesterday and while the name wasn’t revealed, a few familiar features were.
For a while now Android has seemed at the forefront of mobile OS development with Apple often playing catch up on a few of its features. This year however it seems like Android is the one catching up with Apple introducing a few familiar features to the next version of Android which is currently available in preview for developers.
Google kicked off their event yesterday by diving straight into what we’ve all been waiting for, Android M. Though the name hasn’t been revealed just yet (a few sneaky teasers suggest it could be called Android Milkshake), Google VP of Engineering Dave Burke explained some of the features coming to Android M and how they hope to further improve the Android experience. One of the first features was better control over app permissions.
The way Android handles app permissions has changed over the years with the OS offering more details as to what capabilities apps want to use, to even stopping an app using certain features. In Android M notifications become even more granular with individual app permissions being requested as and when they’re needed, allowing the user to confirm or deny use of said feature. It’s done in a very similar way to how Apple handles permissions in that a notification will appear if an app wants to use the microphone, camera, or something else. The user can then decide whether to allow or deny said permission, with the option to later change permissions in the apps settings.
Another new addition to Android M is the ability for developers to have Chrome built into their apps. No longer will users be thrown from one app to another when they’re viewing a web page. With Android M developers can build Chrome functionality right into their app complete with native styles so the user feels that they’re still using the app. This new feature is called Chrome Custom Tabs and looks just like an in-app browser but it comes with the same functionality and settings as the users normal Chrome browser.
The way apps work with each other is set to become smoother too with Android M automatically recognising when an app can be opened. Usually the user is prompted to choose an app, but if the developer adds a small bit of code into their app, whenever a compatible app is requested by a tap of a link or something similar, Android M will see if that app is installed then it’ll open it.
Once again charging and battery life was on the cards as Google revealed Android M will have a completely new way to handle power with something called Doze. This feature uses motion detection to learn when your device is getting used and puts the device into a much deeper sleep when inactive for longer periods of time. While dozing, devices can still respond to high-priority messages and will still use alarms, but Google say using this new method a Nexus 9 running Android M ran almost twice as fast as the same device running Lollipop. Google also revealed USB Type-C will be supported.
Google Now received some focus during the event with the company revealing that the function would be getting smarter and will be incorporated throughout Android M. This is called Google Now on Tap and will allow the user to hold the home button to bring up Now cards with relevant information relating to the app you have open at the time. For example, if you’re emailling a friend about a movie, Google Now on Tap will offer you information about said movie such as trailers, ratings, and more. Talking about tasks with a family member or colleague, Google Now on Tap can opt to add information to a to-do list, and even offer restaurant listings if dinner is being discussed.
The oft rumoured Google Photos was announced too bringing a revamped app that allows users to store an unlimited number of photos and videos – absolutely free. Provided photos are 16 megapixel or less and videos are 1080p or less, users can store as many photos and videos as they want which will all be organised in a lovely timeline and group them all together under various tags such as locations, beaches, or boats, all of which is achieved by some pretty impressive auto-tagging. New tools will be included for sharing photos, making collages, and even movies, similar to tools available on iOS. Google Photos is available right now for Android, iOS, and web.
Finally, one of the most requested features coming to Android M is the ability to use Google Maps and turn-by-turn navigation offline. In addition, Google Chrome will also allow pages to be stored offline. Both of these features have been added in an effort to make products work better in parts of the world with poor connectivity. Such features will include a more streamlined search page offering less images to load faster. Of course, despite these features being aimed at emerging markets, the ability for maps to be available offline will help those of us who have very minimal data packages.
Android M is set to be rolled out to consumers beggining this fall. A developer preview of Android M is available now.