Google launched its Lollipop operating system late last year, and though met with much fanfare the overall roll out has been somewhat slow to say the least. Currently, less than 10% of all compatible Android devices in the UK are running the basic Lollipop, let alone the subsequent upgrades. But that hasn’t stopped Google and their team of developers from working on the next generation of the company’s flagship operating system. Nicknamed ‘M’, the newest operating system for Android smartphones and tablets is expected to be teased at this year’s Google I/O Conference, with a projected release planned for the end of the year. But what can we expect from Android ‘M’, and when can we expect it to hit our favourite mobile devices?
Release Date Rumours
Google is known for their secrecy, but if past performance is any indicator we can expect Android ‘M’ to be formally announced at this year’s Google I/O conference. Over the years Google has followed a fairly consistent pattern, with OS upgrades being revealed at the annual developer’s forum and a general launch following at the end of the year. Last year’s I/O conference saw the unveiling of Lollipop, which was ultimately launched to the public in November. Industry insiders expect Google to follow the same pattern, with Android ‘M’ seeing a late autumn launch to coincide with the release of the new Nexus.
Android M’s New Features
While Android M’s specs and features are a closely guarded secret, some inferences can be drawn from the development arc of past operating systems as well as from the schedule of topics to be covered at this year’s I/O conference. Some key features that are expected to be addressed in the Android M operating system include:
• Android for Work – Android for Work is Google’s own Enterprise Mobility Management platform. It allows users to install work and personal apps on a single device, eliminating the need for dual smartphones. Android for Work isn’t new, but it has been slow to catch on in the business world primarily due to privacy and security concerns. Google has scheduled a forum on Android at Work for the the I/O conference, and it is expected that they will address these security issues and reveal a more robust version of the workplace app for Android M.
• Improved Security and the Return of AppOps – Apps, and their access to personal data, have become a major concern for smartphone users. Older iterations of the Android operating system included the AppOps feature, which allowed users to more closely monitor their apps and disallow unwanted sharing of data (GPS, browsing data, etc.). Unfortunately, Google opted to remove AppOps from its more recent versions of Android. Rumours suggest that they have revised that decision, and AppOps will make a welcome return with Android M.
• Improved Voice Access – Android M is expected to improve on Google’s hands free applications, allowing users much more freedom and latitude when it comes to voice commands. It is expected that Android M will expand on the somewhat limited number of voice commands currently recognized by OK Google and Google Now, and that it will give users more hands free control of their devices.
• Android Auto – Rumours abound that Android M will be Google’s first operating system designed to be directly integrated into smart-cars. Currently, Google’s Android Auto feature requires a smartphone to be physically plugged into a compatible automobile. Android M is said to take Google one step closer to a fully integrated operating system that crossed platforms between mobile devices and automobiles.
It will still be some time before Android M hits the open market, and admittedly much of what the newest Google operating system has in store is shrouded in mystery. As of yet, we haven’t even been told what Android M’s proper name will be, but if Google holds true to form we should catch an early glimpse of the newest Android operating system, and what it holds in store, at this year’s I/O conference.