Google today announced the next major update for its Android operating system, dubbed Android M. If you’ve got an Android device, you’re going to want to pay attention.
Unveiled during Google’s annual I/O developer conference, Android M promises a host of new features for Android smartphones and tablets, including support for fingerprint readers, Google’s new Android Pay mobile payment system, and more. Read on to learn about the biggest improvements coming to your gadgets when Android M rolls out in the third quarter of 2015.
Fingerprint reader support
Unlike Apple’s iPhone 5s, 6, and 6 Plus, most Android smartphones don’t offer fingerprint readers.
Google, however, wants to change that by giving its Android M operating system built-in fingerprint reader support. Doing so provides a standardized way for companies and apps to use fingerprint information across Android smartphones and tablets.
That means you can use your fingerprint to unlock your phone, log into different apps without needing a username or password, and even approve mobile payment transactions. So when you want to purchase something in, say, the Target app, you can simply scan your fingerprint, and the payment will be approved.
Like Apple did with ApplePay, Google is throwing its weight behind mobile payments in the form of its new Android Pay. Android Pay is a new kind of service that will let developers create apps with built-in payment options.
According to Google’s presentation, the service will let companies like Target build apps that let you select, check out, and pay for items quickly and painlessly. Android Pay will also let developers make apps that allow you to pay for items at payment terminals in brick-and-mortar stores.
It’s essentially the same idea behind ApplePay and Google’s own Google Wallet, but Android Pay expands the capabilities to all apps.
According to Google, Android Pay will work in 700,000 stores and retailers, including McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Macy’s, and more.
Power and Charging
Android M will also offer improvements to your device’s battery life with its new Doze feature.
Here’s how it works: Doze can use your gadget’s sensors to see how long you’ve been letting it sit untouched. If you don’t touch your device for a while, Doze will automatically cut down on your phone or tablet’s processing power, thereby cutting back on the amount of battery life the device needs to function. As a result, Google said, your device’s battery can last twice as long while it’s in standby mode.
When you pick up your phone or tablet, Doze will instantly recognize you’re going to use the device and restore its full processing power.
Hey, you know what’s annoying? Having to constantly approve app permissions every time you download a new app from the Play Store.
Most of the time, you don’t even read these permissions, and just tap okay to get the app up and running. But permissions actually control everything, from whether an app can use your phone’s camera to checking your contacts list.
With Android M, Google is making app permissions a bit easier to understand. Rather than making you approve app permissions when you install a new app, Android M will ask you to approve app permissions when you use certain app features.
So if you have SnapChat, for example, the first time you try to use the voice dictation feature, you’ll be asked if you want to let the app use your phone’s microphone.
You can revoke permissions, too. If you don’t want to let the app use your microphone again, you can simply cancel the permission.
One of the more nagging issues about Android is how it constantly asks which app you want to use to open web links.
For instance, if you click on a link in Twitter, your Android phone or tablet will ask if you want to open that link using the Chrome browser or the actual Twitter app.
Obviously, if you’re clicking a Twitter link, you want to open it in Twitter, but current versions of Android just can’t seem to understand that.
With Android M’s new apps link feature, that problem will be a thing of the past. According to Google, the new OS will be able to recognize links you click on and figure out automatically which apps should open them.
Not only will that make using Android easier, it will also make it faster, as you won’t have to tell your device which app to use to open links all the time.
Chrome Custom Tabs
This one is a bit in the weeds, but it’s going to make using Android apps more intuitive than it currently is.
If you tap on a web link within an Android app like Pinterest, the app will send you out to the Chrome browser. That’s pretty annoying and means that you might have to go through the trouble of logging into your account again.
With Android M’s new Chrome Custom Tabs, though, apps will open links in customized Chrome tabs that look the same as the app you’re using and keep you logged into your account. It’s a small thing, but it will seriously improve using apps.
Wait, what’s it called?
Oh, right. Google’s Android operating systems are always named after some kind of dessert or snack item. We’ve had Android Cupcake, Android Donut, Android Éclair, all the way up to last year’s Android Lollipop.
So what does Android M stand for? Will it be Android Marshmallow? Android Milky Way? Android Marzipan? Submit your guess in our poll and the comments below.