Although it’s still just flying under its code letter ‘M’, the upcoming release of the Android OS is ready to preview. With this release, Google have essentially taken Lollipop’s design and gone under the hood to soup up the user experience. Let’s take a look at what’s new.
With the battle for mobile wallet supremacy gathering steam, phone payments were an inevitable reveal. Android Pay and Fingerprint have built on the Near Field Communications (NFC) in Gingerbread and Host Card Emulation in Kitkat to enable Android users to use their phone to pay in stores and “thousands” of Android partner apps. Native fingerprint support in M will allow users to confirm payments with just their fingerprint, as well as to unlock the device and make purchases on Google Play.
There are also new information gathering features, and additional work has been done to ensure increased user information security on mobile devices.
The latter is part of a series of changes to the existing Android Permissions system. Currently, user permissions are siloed in separate categories, and apps only request authorisation when access to specific features is required. With the update, any Android M targeting applications will get permissions right when needed, making app user experience much smoother. Users will also be able to easily manage all their permissions in settings.
For developers, this means that going forward, you’ll need to design your app to ask for permissions in context and account for permissions that don’t get granted. And, as Android Product Manager Jamal Eason writes, as more devices upgrade to M down the line, app permission behavior will be a “critical development flow” in testing.
It’s also going to be simpler to link between apps in M. On top of existing native handle URL registration, developers will now have the option of tacking on an auto Verify attribute to their app manifest. This will enable deep linking into native apps without pesky disambiguation prompts.
There’s also going to be a new power management feature call Doze integrated into the OS. If M’s motion detection sensors detect that a device has been stationary for a while, Android will “exponentially” reduce background chatter, “trading off a little bit of app freshness for longer battery life.” This will also be something developers may want to take into account when building any chat based apps, for example, for which Google suggests incorporating high priority messages to counter.
It’s no secret: I’m an Apple admirer. But Google Now on Tap is epic, IMO. An “inevitable” feature built on huge foundations and prior vision
— Hristo Daniel Ushev (@hushev) May 29, 2015
Finally, there’s the (potentially really annoying) ‘Now on tap’ functionality, which allows developers to implement App Indexing for Google search to anticipate user needs. For example, say you’re massaging your friend about going for drinks – Now on tap will use the context of your conversation suggest local spots, reviews, directions, park benches, etc.
Along with these app enhancing features, Google have been cooking up a series of handy tools for developers. There’s an accompanying revamp of Android Studio v1.3, designed to help developers make the most of M preview features, as well as long awaited code editing and debugging for C/C++ code alongside your traditional Java.
The Android Design Support Library has also seen some new additions – including a set of API 7 backward compatible key design components. Lastly, there’s been a new release of Google Play Services (v7.5), which comes packed with shiny new APIs for Google Cloud Messaging and Google Cast.