One of the biggest and best things to come out of Google’s 2015 I/O is surely the announcement of it’s next generation of Android, Android ‘M’. Every year, Google announces a new version of Android that will add features, fix bugs, improve performance and all sorts more for your latest Android handset. Around 2011-2013, Google worked on making Android the best OS in the world, making it a phone with far more functionality than iOS. However, over the past couple of years especially, Google has worked on ensuring the Android platform is smoother, has nicer animations, better design and more; one thing most would argue Android still can’t compete with iOS in.
We decided we wanted to highlight the five most exciting things coming to users who will be updating to the latest version of Android. This update is definitely more of an incremental update and isn’t full of wondrous new UIs, applications or features, but certainly has some interesting new ideas for Android users to look forward to.
Better Linking Between Apps
Something that has always felt a little less fluid than the rest of the UI is the way in which Android works with links. There’s always been the option to select which app you’d prefer to open the link in, there’s also been the option to select whether you want this to always happen or just this once. However, when it comes to obvious answers such as do you want to open this link in the ugly mobile Twitter website or the official Twitter app, it’s not been too good.
However, with Android ‘M’, there is now a more fluid and logical response to your link taps. With Android M, developers can have the operating system verify whether a link should open within an app. Google details that developers can add an autoVerify attribute to their app manifest so that users can be linked deep into the native app without a user prompt.
Clearer App Permissions
App permissions are something that over the years have gotten worse and worse for Android users. If you look at how iOS works to Android’s approach, there’s a vast difference. With iOS, the application will ask for your permission to access a certain part of your device such as the camera, photos, microphone etc. However with Android, when you download the app, you are presented with a huge list of permissions which you question as to why they’re using such permissions.
With Android ‘M’, it will work similar to iOS in that you will just download the application without allowing permissions. Then once you open the application, if the app would like to access your microphone or your photos or send you notifications, you will be prompted within the application. This makes it far more obvious as to why users are allowing these permissions.
Chrome Custom Tabs
Chrome Custom Tabs is a minor update, but one that we’re sure a lot of app developers will use. Chrome Custom tabs is basically Google allowing you to use a Google Chrome overlay in your application to access a web view, as opposed to the app developer having to build their own web view. The benefits of this are obviously a more native support and feel the experience but also additions such as saved passwords and synchronised forms and more stuff that your Google Chrome already has access to.
Apple introduced Apple Pay and so Android have brought out Android Pay. The concept is almost identical to the Apple Pay concept but with a few more benefits. Android Pay allows you to basically insert your different payment methods into the application, then using the NFC built into the majority of mid to high-end Android smartphones, you can tap the phone onto a wireless payment device, insert your password and your done. Android has a few benefits to it’s Apple competition in that a lot more phones support NFC than the minimal support of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Also, Android Pay has incorporated such additions as the ability to have rewards from connected rewards programmes too, adding a bit more of an incentive to use the service.
Some may argue this is a direct copy of Apple with their introduction of their fingerprint reader. However, in terms of the speed and direction in which technology is advancing, it would have been silly if Google hadn’t introduced this feature. Samsung and HTC have already tried to implement it and with native support, it will work a lot better. The Fingerprint Sensor with Android ‘M’ has the ability to sign into applications, enable Android Pay and unlock your phone. It’s all the things that Apple’s equivalent can do right now. However, Apple seemed to have smashed the fingerprint sensor hardware first time, it will be interesting to see which Android manufacturer offers the best experience when they start becoming a thing.
Doze – Improved Battery Life
Battery Life is certainly something that has been a big talking point around smartphones over the past few years. The bigger the phones get, it appears the better the battery. However, the bigger the phones get, the less attractive and more cumbersome they become to actually use as phones. Google have implemented a clever feature in Android ‘M’ that improves battery up to 2x they say.
Doze is a clever feature which uses your movement and cycles to learn when you are using your phone the most and when you aren’t. If your phone has not moved for a long while, Google will exponentially reduce the background usage of applications to limit battery life. This will result in far better standby times. It will be interesting to see how this affects users who use their phone a lot throughout a day though. Will the feature learn to be more precise and quickly limit background data during the minimal downtimes your phone has, or will it simply not work because your phone is constantly moving, we’ll see.
Google Now on Tap
Now… Google Now to be specific. Google Now, the most interesting part of Android over the past couple of years is ever improving into something quite spectacular. It is no surprise here then that arguably the most exciting feature to come out of Android ‘M’ is a Google Now addition. Google Now on Tap is incredible and I’m about to go ahead and tell you why.
Google Now on Tap is for all those people that have recognised Google Now’s potential to bring you context-relevant information to your fingertips when you need it. Google Now on Tap brings you even more relevant information within the very applications you’re using. Google’s examples on stage were the ability to hold down the home button (to access Google Now on Tap) whilst in an email asking if a friend wanted to go see the new Tomorrowland movie. With a hold of the home button, Google Now brought up a context-aware card about the movie Tomorrowland including reviews, viewing times and more; having recognised the email mentioned the term. Another example: listening to a song from Skrillex, they said “Ok Google” Google Voice search pops up. “What’s his real name”… not what is Skrillex’s real name, what’s his real name. With Google Now’s new contextually aware ability, it told them to answer to Skrillex’s real name. This is a programme that has an incredible amount of technology. The most useful example however was most certainly when they showed a message from the host’s husband asking if she wanted dinner at a restaurant tonight and also to get the dry cleaning on the way. With a hold of the home button Google Now showed her a card of the restaurant with reviews, options to select directions and more. However, it also showed her card to set a reminder to get the dry cleaning. Clever clever stuff!