Google Introduces Android M At I/O Conference

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Google has just unveiled Android M at its annual I/O conference, and there are plenty of new features for developers to play around with and experiment with. Among the changes are tweaks to app permissions, the addition of the rumored Android Pay service and a new feature aimed at helping improve battery life for Android devices.

Android M brings more control over permissions

Privacy has become a major issue with devices, and Android M offers another layer of security by giving users more control over what types of information are shared with app developers. It also changes how apps use the device’s resources like Wi-Fi, photos, contacts and more.

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Previously, whenever a user installed an app, they had to give permission for the app’s developer to be allowed to access pretty much everything. With Android M, apps will ask for permission to gain access to only parts of the device or the user’s Google account when they actually need it. For example, messaging apps won’t get a free pass to always access a device’s camera. Instead, they will ask for permission when the user attempts to snap a photo and send it.

Android Pay unveiled

Google also showed off Android Pay, a replacement / rebranding of Google Wallet, which the company hopes will do better than Google Wallet in the battle against Apple Pay and other mobile payment services. The company has partnered with all major payments networks, including Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express in the U.S. for the service, which uses a standard tokenization system.

Android Pay will “soon” be accepted at more than 700,000 stores which take mobile payments using near field communication. To use the feature at the checkout, all users need to do is unlock their device and hold it next to the terminal. They don’t even have to open an app to use it. Also more than 1,000 Android apps will support the service soon.

One area in which Apple Pay is lacking is rewards, but Google is on the ball here. At some retailers, Android Pay users will see discounts and loyalty program offers applied to their purchases automatically at checkout. The service can also be used with in-app and online purchases. It stores the user’s shipping address in addition to payment information so that it isn’t necessary to enter credit card and shipping information every time an online purchase is made.

Android Pay works with a device’s fingerprint scanner so that users can scan their fingerprints to authorize purchases. Also support for fingerprint scanners becomes part of Android with this newest version for the first time, embedding it directly into the mobile operating system.

Other changes to Android M

Another interesting change in Android M involves the way Google’s Chrome browser works. It now has custom tabs which make it seem more like an app rather than a browser. Websites are able to add menus and buttons to the browser. Further, links between apps or from apps to the browser will become smoother, although this feature won’t be available until the third quarter.

Android M also includes another feature called Doze, which addresses battery life issues. Whenever the feature detects that certain background activities are not being used, it will shut those activities down. According to Google, Doze makes Android devices have twice the standby time they did previously.

Developers get the first crack at Android M today. It will be rolled out to the general in the third quarter after Google has had time to work some of the bugs out and developers have had time to make adjustments to their apps for the new version of the platform.

Android M also includes support for USB-C ports, which offer faster charging and can be used for other functions. Apple added USB-C ports to the MacBook this year, and Google has already started putting these ports on its Chromebooks. Adding support in Android M should help this type of port become more common on mobile devices.