Google officially introduced Android M, the next version of its mobile operating system, at its annual I/O conference in San Francisco on Thursday.

Like 2014’s Android L preview, which eventually became 5.0 Lollipop, Google hasn’t yet granted Android M its delicious dessert name or a version number. Those details will likely come later this year when M makes its general debut on devices. For now, though, expect this to be a developer-only affair.

Google Now gets way smarter

The least interesting thing about Google Now on Android M is that you could launch the Google Search app with Google Now by pressing and holding on the home key (instead of swiping up from the bottom of your device screen).

What will really elevate your heart rate is a much more context-sensitive Google Now that can understand the email you’re reading, the song you’re playing, the dry cleaner you’re using, and surface useful information about that very thing.

Example: Pulling up a gas station when you’re driving back to the car rental before your flight (Google already knows all these things from the reservations you’ve made and the location of your phone.)

Example: Listening to a song and asking, “Ok, Google, where’s she from?” — without having to name the artist.

Now on Tap also promises to alert you about times for the last train home, a cool event in your area, a reminder where you parked your car (an existing feature). If you go out, Google’s Now on Tap will tell you when places are busy, and where you might want to go next.

Android Pay

Android M officially ushers in Android Pay, a mobile payments system that Google talked about duringMobile World Congress earlier this year. The Android Pay platform lets third-party apps process payments both within the app (think in-app payments) and in retail stores, using NFC. Google Wallet, the standalone mobile wallet app, won’t disappear, but it will use Android Pay going forward.

If your phone has a fingerprint reader, you can authorize payments with your print, as you can with iOS. (Samsung also has its own similar payment system, called Samsung Pay.)

Android Pay will work with 700,000 stores, like Walgreens, Macy’s and BestBuy, to name a few.

Power!

Google’s mobile devices are going to support the new USB Type C standard of charging cable. That means it can be charged or also charge other devices. Best yet, it’s got the same shape on both sides, meaning you won’t have to grapple for which one is “up”.

That’s for charing up, but what about saving power to begin with? Android M also includes Doze, an energy-saving feature that Google says will use less power the current standby mode. Basically, if you walk away from your device for a lengthy period of time, it hibernates to save on battery. You’ll still hear important alarms and incoming messages, but with as little as half the power consumption as before.

App permissions

The update introduces a change to how apps use the resources on your phone or tablet, such as Wi-Fi connectivity, the camera, and your photo library and contacts.

In the past, installing the app essentially waved the green flag for the whole bundle. Now, apps will ask for access to parts of your phone or Google account when they need it. For instance, a messaging app might not ask for permission to use your camera until you try to take and send a photo. This is very similar to how iOS devices handle permissions — apps ask for permission to use your camera, contacts or photos on a need-to-use basis.

“With the new permission model, updates are seamless,” Google said at I/O, because the apps can update automatically without requiring your permission up-front.

Smoother linking transition

Google has a new vision for smoothing out the way that Android links from an app to another app, and from the app to the Web. A lot of behind-the-scenes work will help developers create faster, more complete transitions when you skip around. This will roll out to users in Q3.

Developers only

Android M is available for developers, on Nexus devices, where it’ll incubate and grow until (we expect) fall, when it should launch on Google’s Nexus line of devices, before rolling out to existing hardware.

When it does, M will pick up a version number, like Android 5.2 or 6.0, and a new sweet-themed name. That moniker is up in the air for now, but speculation ranges from Marshmallow and Muffin to Marzipan and even a branded name, like M&Ms (we saw this with Android 4.0 KitKat). Heck, we’ll even throw Marmalade and Meringue into the mix.

 

Source: Cnet