Google has unveiled the developer preview version of its next Android version, Android M, adding a new mobile payments service and enhanced privacy controls.
Android M was unveiled at Google I/O by the firm's vice president of engineering, Dave Burke, who claimed that the update is designed to "fix core issues" with the software.
"We made a decision to focus on quality. The central theme of M is improving Android's core user experience, squashing thousands of bugs and solving problems that have plagued the platform for years," he said.
"The open platform has let people innovate on Android. With M we're folding in some of the improvements we've seen into it as an open platform."
The biggest change to the platform is the addition of enhanced privacy controls designed to make app permissions more transparent and manageable for end users.
"One of the things Android users love is the ability to customise. So in M we're bringing this to app permissions. We're giving users meaningful control of the data they care about," he said.
"We're making them about understandable things, location, calendar and microphone. We're making it so these permissions are requested the first time the app uses them, not at the start.
"The permission directly reflects the use case and the user can reject or accept the request. Users want to revoke an already granted permission. In M I can go into settings, select an app and see what permissions have been granted and change them."
The permissions change will exist only on applications built for Android M and will not be backwards compatible, meaning it will be up to developers to update their wares to include the new feature.
Google unveiled Android Pay and Photos features for M alongside the privacy controls.
Similar to Apple Pay, the feature will be compatible with phones running Android Kitkat and above and will allow contactless payments using a handset at supported stores.
"With Android Pay users can use their phone to pay wherever they see the Android Pay logo in store," explained Burke.
"Android Pay will work in 700,000 stores in the US that accept wireless payments. These include McDonald's and Subway."
Android M also adds a common API for fingerprint scanners that can be integrated into applications using Android Pay.
"In M we're taking the opportunity to standardise fingerprint scanner support with an API for developers. This can be used for Android Pay transactions," said Burke.
The payment service has already received support from key payments service providers, including MasterCard and Visa.
MasterCard chief emerging payments officer Ed McLaughlin said that the firm is already working to add support for Android Pay.
"Mobile payments are here today, and are now an essential part of the core value proposition for new devices," he said.
"With the MasterCard Digital Enablement Service and Android Pay, we can now use secure tokens to easily enable payments from a consumer's connected device. Today's news extends consumer choice and drives further ubiquity of payments on devices."
Google Photos is a free unlimited cloud storage service designed to let users securely store, enhance and share photos and videos across a laptop, smartphone and tablet.
Android M also adds and improved battery saving feature, called Doze, alongside updated document editing features.
"Android has always enabled multitasking, but there is a trade off with battery. We're fixing this with a new feature called Doze," said Burke.
"With M, Android uses motion detection to see if a device has been left static for a long time to reduce power consumption. Devices with M last two times longer in stand by."
Continuing its push for better battery life, Google also confirmed that devices running the final version of Android M will feature USB type-C ports.
"We've been heavily involved creating a new USB C standard. With this we're going to start seeing really fast charging, three to five times faster, as standard. Type C is coming to a phone near you soon," said Burke.
The final version of Android M is set to launch in Q3 this year. Check back with V3 for a full review of Google's new mobile OS version.
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