At Google I/O today the company announced a developer preview for Android M. Google hopes developers will take a look at the pre-release operating system and provide feedback ahead of the platform's general release in the fall. In order to target apps for Android M, Google also updated many of the developer tools for Android.
Android M focuses on six key elements: permissions, web experience, app links, Android Pay, fingerprint support, and power management.
Google is changing how permissions work on a wholesale basis. Rather than ask users to accept permissions when they download the app, apps will instead seek permission for actions such as microphone or photo access as needed. Importantly, Android M adds a new console where end users can revoke or change permissions at any time. This is something developers will need to keep in mind as they create apps.
Google hopes to make Chrome more appealing with the addition of Custom Tabs for reading list views, as well as better handling of passwords and other user information.
The addition of app links will solve a major headache for many users. Here's an example: when browsing Twitter I often encounter links to Instagram photos. When I click those links I get the disambiguated dialog box asking me if I want to complete the action in the browser or in Instagram. With app links enabled, Android M will know to simply open Instagram instead. Developers will need to update some of their code so the links authenticate properly.
Android Pay could be the cornerstone of Android M. Android Pay is actually a rescucitated version of Softcard -- which was developed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. It will function much like Apple Pay, which means any Android device equipped with NFC and Android 4.4 KitKat and up will be abe to make tap-and-go payments at 700,000 retail locations around the country.
In coordination with Android Pay, Google is letting developers take a crack at fingerprint authentication. It is giving developers the tools they need to fingerprint-enable their apps in whichever ways they see fit. Developers will be able to add fingerprint authorization for purchases, entry into apps, or for unlocking certain features.
Last, Google wants Android to be more battery efficient. To that end, it added a new feature to Android M called Doze. Doze will selectively cut back on active notifications and other background tasks when the device senses it hasn't been moved in a long time. With Doze running, Google is seeing standby times of Android devices double.
How can developers access all these features? First, you'll need to download the Android M Developer Preview itself.
Google is also offering a preview of Android Studio version 1.3, which adds code editing and debugging for C/C++ code. Google also updated the Android Design Support Library to help make adopting Material Design easier. It has the key design components all packaged together and they're backward compatible to API level 7.0. Last, Google updated Play Services to version 7.5. Play Services 7.5 adds new features ranging from Smart Lock for Passwords, new APIs for Google Cloud Messaging and Google Cast, to Google Maps API on Android Wear devices.
Google gave us a lot to chew on. Be sure to return to ProgrammableWeb over the next few days for more in-depth reporting on the news from Google.