Google unveils Android ‘M’

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Google’s annual I/O conference in California serves as the company’s main event to showcase what technology consumer can expect in the next 12 months. This year’s conference kicked off tonight with Senior Vice-President of Products Sundar Pichai delivering the keynote speech.

“We are in the moment of mobile and the smartphones, and it is a special moment we live in. One of the thing we ask ourselves at Google is how we can make a difference to a fundamental part of someone life,” said Pichai.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of things, he highlighted that every Google application like Maps, Gmail and the Android OS has over a billion users for each product.

Pichai said that currently there are over 4 000 distinct Android devices available around the round, and “we want to make sure that we don’t leave anybody behind.”

Android M

As expected, Google unveiled its latest version of the Android operating system, codenamed ‘M’. As with Lollipop, there is wild speculation as to what the ‘M’ stands for – but it will definitely be food related.

“For M, we’ve gone back to the basics. We’ve really focused on polish and quality, we’ve literally solved thousands of bugs,” Pichai said.

David Burke, VP of engineering at Google demoed a number of aspects of M, and highlighted that ‘M’ will support unlocking devices as well making purchases with a simple fingerprint.

But the latest version is all about power.

“Android has always enable true multitasking as an open platform for developers – and people love that about Android. But making the platform flexible, there is a trade-off between data freshness and battery. So in the spirit of that, we are changing Android to be smarter about managing power through a new feature we call Doze,” said Burke.

Essentially, Android M will start to learn when the device is being left unattended for an extended period of time. In that case, it will put background activity into a deep sleep stage. “So what we are doing is trading off app freshness for battery life.”

While in a Doze state, it will still be able to activate alarms or chat messages. Burke said that Google did internal testing between Android M and Lollipop, and the device with M lasted twice as long in terms of battery power in standby.

Having a long-lasting battery is fine, but at some point it will run out and you’ll have to charge it. Here Google has also tweaked the way Android handles things.

“We have been heavily involved in creating a new USB Type C standard, and this ushers in a new way of charging across hardware, from cell phones to tablets to laptops. And it means that we will start seeing really fast charging of devices as standard,” Burke said.

To wild hand-clapping in audience, Burke revealed that Google has been working with device manufacturers to bring USB Type C to future devices that run on Android M.

“Because it is flippable, you can decide if it is the phone that is being charged, or the device that is plugged into it. So… USB Type C coming to a phone near you soon.”

Other changes that users can expect in M, are better text selection, sharing of text with frequently contacted people in one click, and better volume controls. Burke did however point out that there re over 100 changes in the new release, “peppered” throughout the operating system.

Android M is still in development, but Google is slating it for a Q3 release later this year.

“We are working incredibly hard to produced our most polished Android release to date. And the improvements don’t just stop at the platform.

Charlie Fripp

Charlie Fripp

Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.