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Android M: All you need to know about Android’s next major update


Once upon a time, in the land of Android, there was Cupcake…and Doughnut…and Éclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, KitKat, and Lollipop. But what’s next? Even with current Nexus devices seeing Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, and some hints of Android 5.2, there’s still the question of what Google will release in a few days at Google’s Input/Output (I/O) Conference.

It is with great honor that we divulge to you some things about Android M that we know and mention some hints from which you can draw your conclusions (and you will, believe us).

Android Wear to come to iOS

There’s been a great deal of work surrounding this rumor in the smartwatch space. It seems as if Google, known for its cross-platform applications such as Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, Google Play Movies, Google Play Music, and its social network, Google+, may be bringing its cross-platform style to the smartwatch market. Android Wear compatibility may arrive on iOS, allowing multi-platform users to use their Android Wear smartwatch with an iPhone or iPad. We’ve seen this done without device hacks, so it seems relatively easy to do for Google, anyway.

We have no word as to whether or not this rumor has any legitimate bearing, but we’ve heard a few whispers about this one. This will likely become one of the most interesting rumors about Android M that you’ll hear in the days, weeks, and months to come.

More voice command interaction with apps

Are you one who’s always fascinated by voice command? Google Now has become central to Google’s experience on Android, with a number of fans using Google Now for real-time directions, weather alerts, traffic alerts, and additional highway and event information.

While Google Now does allow you to activate certain apps by way of “Ok Google, open app” (your choice over the app name here), it’s not necessarily the case that Google Now functionality has been built into all apps (that is, mostly on non-Nexus Android devices). Google may very well bring a systemwide voice command capability to Android so that, whether customers own an HTC, Samsung, Sony or LG, they’ll have access to the very best of Google services.

Android Pay

Remember Google Wallet? Well, Google decided to let the name go in favor of “Android Pay.” Essentially, the new service that will become native to all Android smartphones initially will provide the same ease of service that Apple Pay or Samsung Pay will provide. Of course, it’ll be interesting to see what Google charges for merchants and vendors to provide cash-free mobile payments using Android smartphones – considering that Samsung’s mobile payments system currently has the most inexpensive financial requirement on each customer transaction.

As expected, Android Pay will utilize Near Field Communication (or NFC), a technology that Android devices have had for some time.

Native Fingerprint Scanner Support

Apple will forever be famous for bringing fingerprint scanner support to devices, especially considering that Samsung’s newest Galaxy S6 and S6 edge devices utilize a fingerprint method similar to that of Apple’s Touch ID. At the same time, however, Apple did acquire security company AuthenTec to provide Touch ID.

Now that iOS has native fingerprint scanner support, Android is sure to follow suit. Google may add fingerprint authentication support for all Android devices in Android M. We’ve heard earlier this week that Google has already received Fast IDentity Online (FIDO, for short) certification for its login service, being certified this week as a two-factor server. FIDO certification shows that Google has goals to move beyond password authentication, and fingerprint ID for websites and apps is the perfect way to bypass password security and all its issues. This doesn’t mean that fingerprint ID as a security method doesn’t have problems of its own, but it does mean that users won’t continue to frustrate themselves with long passwords of letter, number, and symbol combinations that are quickly forgotten.

If anything, the new FIDO certification could provide some insight into what we can expect from the next Nexus device to arrive later this year: we could be looking at a physical home button on the next Nexus that’ll have an Apple ID-like setup or something similar.

Android M to allow the editing of app permissions

Have you tired of app permissions with downloading apps at Google Play that seem to want to gain access to everything? Facebook’s tried to move people to download Messenger, with the company restricting access to text messages in its core Facebook app for that very reason. When downloading Messenger, you’re told that the company needs access to your microphone. Well, this is good if you intend to make Wi-Fi calls via Facebook Messenger – but not everyone wants to give microphone access to apps.

Google may decide to allow editable app permissions in Android M such that you need not worry about microphone permissions. We’ll have to wait and see on this one, but the inclusion of fingerprint security methods and the new encryption provided via Android Lollipop may show Google’s desire to get more serious about mobile security for both businesses and everyday consumers.

Android M: What will Google name it?

Google I/O 2015 may be an excellent event for Google to showcase what’s next, but one of the most exciting things to see will be whether or not we learn the name of Google’s next Android update. At last year’s I/O, Google referred to it as “Android L.” We didn’t learn it was Lollipop until some weeks later. It could be the same situation this time.

What could the “M” stand for? There are a few options: Muffin, M&M, Marshmallow, and so on. Android 6.0 could be the next major update, but keep in mind that Google has also made huge updates out of incremental numbers, too. While Android 4.0 was Ice Cream Sandwich, Google decided to name Android 4.2 “Jelly Bean,” and Android 4.4 “KitKat”; thus, we can only speculate as to whether or not the “M” and “6.0” or some other incremental number “5.2 or 5.3” will be revealed.

Android M release date

Android M will be announced in June, and ready for a developer preview in either June or July. Google won’t inaugurate the new major Android update until the arrival of the 2015 Nexus sometime in October/November—giving Mountain View some months to develop a smooth update that should be ready for primetime around the end of the year.

Motorola devices are closest to Nexus devices and, apart from Nexus or Google Play Edition devices, will likely see the update first, with unlocked devices being the first to receive the new Android M update before devices that are locked to carriers.

With Google I/O some days away, we want to ask you: what would you like to see in Android M?

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