Android M is finally here, and although Google’s new mobile operating system won’t get an official launch until later this year, we’re already pretty excited by what it has to offer. The company gave us a quick look at some of the new features coming to Android earlier Thursday. Here’s the top five we can’t wait to try for ourselves.
1. Native fingerprint sensor support
This one didn’t come as a huge surprise. We’ve been hearing reports that Google would embrace fingerprint reading technology with Android M, and the company confirmed those rumors during I/O. The new feature is designed to work with scanners included in devices like Samsung’s Galaxy S6, making it easy for app developers to add biometric support across multiple devices.
It’s also designed to work with Google’s new mobile payment service. Speaking of which…
2. Here comes Android Pay
It may not be the most original name, but Android Pay is still a big deal. It works using NFC, like Apple Pay, meaning you should be able to use it at more than 700,000 locations at launch. It also supports online payments over your phone, and works on any device running Android 4.4 KitKat and newer. That means you won’t need to buy a brand-new device or wait around for an update to try out the new service. Still, you’ll get the best experience on devices equipped with a fingerprint reader and running Android M.
3. Reversible USB C ports
We already knew it was coming, but it’s good to hear that Google is making sure USB C support will come built into Android M. We can’t wait to get rid of all those annoying microUSB cables and upgrade to a reversible option. Hopefully this means the first USB C Android devices aren’t too far off — Google said they are coming soon — and we have a feeling those rumored Nexus phones could be the first to showcase the new technology.
4. Better battery life with Doze
Google tackled Android battery life last year with Project Volta. Now it’s time for round two. Doze promises to manage your power consumption smartly, and the company says it’s been able to double the Nexus 9’s battery life using the new software.
Basically, if you stop using your phone or tablet for long enough it will automatically start to power down. That means your apps might not remember where they were when you pick the device back up, but your battery life should be exactly where you left it. Sounds like a fair deal to us.
5. Google Now gets even more awesome
The best feature announced for Android M is easily the new additions coming to Google Now. The digital assistant is already one of our favorite Android features (and it works pretty well on iOS too), but it’s about to get way smarter.
For starters, Google Now will be able to answer questions based on context, and you can even hold down the home button to pull up more info on whatever you’re looking at using a feature called “Google Now on Tap.” For example, if you’re friend emails you asking to go see some new movie this week you can quickly pull up IMDB data and reviews with a quick tap. You can even press on a picture of a celebrity you don’t know much about to quickly load a Google Now card with their info.
We have a feeling some of these new tricks will be coming to older versions of Android and even Google’s iPhone app, but the full version of what the company calls “Google Now on Tap” will likely be limited to Android M.
Google’s new update can’t come soon enough. The preview images of Android M are launching for the Nexus Player, Nexus 5, Nexus 6 and Nexus 9, and we hope it progresses quickly so we can play with a full version sometime in the coming months.