Whenever Apple announces a new version of an operating system, the Internet shuts down to cover it. Android often gets much less press coverage, but I don't know why, since it powers more phones worldwide.
I bring this up because at Google's I/O conference yesterday, it announced the next version of Android and showed off some of it's cool new features. I'm going to give you an overview so you know what to look for when shopping for a new Android phone.
The next version of Android is called Android M for now. At some point Google will announce what M-named sweet it has chosen, but until then we get to guess.
It could take a page from Android KitKat and make it a brand like Android M&Ms or Android Milky Way. However, I'm going to put my money on Android Marzipan. Let me know your guesses in the comments.
Android M isn't going to be a huge shift in look or architecture like the current Android Lollipop operating system, but it's bringing some upgrades that Android users are going to love. The biggest one is what it does with permissions.
Android M moves to a granular permissions system, similar to what Apple has. That means instead of agreeing to every permission when you install an app, you get to pick and choose.
So if you don't think a flashlight apps needs to know your GPS location or read your texts, you can deny those permissions. Until Android M arrives, click here to learn more about app permissions and how free apps can steal your personal data if you aren't careful.
Android M is also going to includes an updated version of Google's payment system called Android Pay that is going to work more like Apple Pay. Plus, fingerprint scanning software is now built in, so more phones should have fingerprint scanners going forward.
Battery life should improve with Android M thanks to the Doze feature, which shuts off background processes when the motion sensor says you aren't using the phone. And upcoming Android gadgets are getting the USB-C connector for faster charging. Click here to learn more about USB-C and why everyone is excited about it.
So far it sounds like Google is just playing catch up with Apple, but Android M has two more tricks up its sleeves Apple can't match yet. The first one has to do with the Google Chrome browser.
Google is letting app developers call Google Chrome in their apps with "Chrome Custom Tabs." This means that if you tap on a link in an app, the link will open in a Chrome tab in the app instead of jumping to a separate browser app. Because it's the full version of Chrome, your passwords and the full Chrome security will be there as well.
Google is also updating its Google Now personal assistant. It will have better natural language recognition and it supports more than 100 million places so it can better give you the information you need.
It also includes a new "Now on Tap" feature. Google explains it like this:
When you tap and hold the home button, Google gives you options that are a best guess of what might be helpful to you in the moment. But if you need something specific, you can also get Google to help by saying "Ok Google" from any screen, and any app. For example, if you’re listening to Twenty One Pilots on Spotify, you can say "Ok Google, who’s the lead singer" and get your answer right away.
Siri doesn't come close to that yet.
Like I said, overall Android M won't be a huge update, but these are exciting features that will make the whole Android experience that much better.