Google officially unveiled its latest operating system, Android M. The sixth and latest iteration of the Android system will be available at the end of the year and will come pre-installed on phones from Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. Some of the major new features of the operating system are covered in the points below, such as Android Pay and the improved Google Now, but there are plenty of other subtle upgrades. Fingerprint support will be available for unlocking devices and making purchases in the Play Store. Phones using Android M will enjoy a longer battery life and faster charging, while a dozing feature for phones in standby mode will double running time compared to Android L devices, according to the man presenting the new system, Google’s VP of engineering Dave Burke.
Google Now on Tap
One of the major features of the aforementioned Android M will be an advanced version of Google Now, the company’s personal assistant application. Put simply, Google Now is getting smarter. Google Now will now run on top of any app on an Android phone or tablet, able to give contextual information on whatever the user may be doing. For example, if a user is listening to a track on Spotify, by simply saying “OK Google, who is the lead singer?” Google Now will be able to tell them the answer instantly. This way of interconnecting different apps on one device would put Google firmly at the center of a user’s digital life, a long term goal of the company and arguably an advantage it has lost as users have moved away from a reliance on search on their mobile devices.
Another new feature which will be offered on Android M phones, as well as available to download on the Play Store, is Android Pay. The payment service will replace the more limited Google Wallet, and offer real competition to Apple Pay, which was announced this year. The app will allow users to pay for items in real world stores as well as in apps.
Google Brillo for Internet of Things
Google also made a huge statement in the Internet of Things space. The tech giant unveiled Brillo, an Android-based operating system where users can access and control all of their connected devices. Again, Google is taking the lead from Apple here, as the manufacturer of the iPhone revealed a similar project – HomeKit, almost a year ago. A developer preview of the operating system will be available in Q3 this year.
Google Cardboard available for iPhones
The Mountain View-based company revealed an updated version of its Cardboard VR kit – which can now be used with iPhones. The Cardboard viewer now fits larger phones such and the accompanying app is available on iOS. Google also launched Expeditions, a number of headsets for classrooms where teachers can choose what students view on the VR devices through a tablet. GoPro also got in on the VR act, announcing a camera rig purpose built to capture 3D VR footage for the Google Jump VR ecosystem.