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Google unveils Android M

Google I/O is here, and the company’s big keynote is still underway. The biggest announcement so far is – as expected – Android M, the next major Android release scheduled for Q3 of this year. Much like how the last few iOS releases played catch-up to major Android features, Android M is really catching up to a number of major, stand-out iOS features – and all of them are very welcome.

The biggest new feature coming to Android M is App Permissions – and it’s exactly what you’re thinking. Instead of applications asking for all possible permissions during installation time, they will now only ask for a permission the first time you use the specific feature of the application that requires it. If you’ve ever used iOS – well, it’s that, essentially. In addition, you can go into the Settings application and revoke an application’s individual permissions, or the other way around – look at which applications have a specific permission.

If you’re familiar with Android, you’ll be aware of the incredibly long and confusing list of possible permissions. Alongside implementing an iOS-like permission system, Android M will also pare down the number of permissions to a much smaller number (I think I saw 8 or 10?), making them clearer and more straightforward. All good so far, and yet another example of how competition between the major platforms makes both of them better – consumers, win.

There’s bad news, though, and it’s this: the new permission system will only work with applications built with the Android M SDK. “Legacy” applications will, sadly, default to the existing permission system. While that in and of itself is disappointing enough, it also means we’ll be using two different permission systems at the same time for at least several months, and possibly years.

Another major new feature in M is a new power state, called Doze, which is basically a deeper form of sleep. Your device will learn your usage patterns, and move to this deep sleep state when it’s not being used. According to Google, tablets will benefit the most from this, doubling their standby time. For phones, which get used more often, this will deliver less benefit.

Android’s intents system is also getting an upgrade, allowing applications to directly link to each other, without throwing up that “open with” dialog. Google Wallet is getting an upgrade and a name change – Android Pay – and now works pretty much exactly like Apple Pay, and it will be available on all Android phones with NFC. In addition, it supports fingerprint readers. Support for these readers will be further integrated and standardised in M.

There’s a lot more in Android M, but these are the biggest features. Google is releasing a developer preview for select Nexus devices today, and the final release will happen somewhere in Q3. This being Android, though, the biggest elephant in the room remained unmentioned: updates. As great as Android M looks, you’ll most likely not be getting it until somewhere next year. Such is life.

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