It’s hard to have a definitive release date in mind for Android M, but history says we can probably expect to see it either at Google I/O next summer or towards the end of September.
The last three versions of the OS have been announced in September (KitKat) June (Jelly Bean) and October (Ice Cream Sandwich) respectively. Not to mention the June 2014 reveal for Lollipop. Either way, we’ll probably get a decent amount of lead time following the announcement as Google makes it available to developers first.
It’s also unlikely that Google will want to leave it longer than a year before it updates Android. Even though uptake among the myriad of devices around the world is notably slower than arch-rival iOS.
2. A newer, better Google Wallet
Android phones have been incorporating NFC for ages now, but it took Apple’s iPhone 6 and Apple Pay combo to really highlight a future of mobile payments. Google, by contrast, attempted to launch Google Wallet three years ago but Android fragmentation means it hasn’t been able to gain a foothold.
Now certain Android handsets like the Samsung Galaxy Alpha and Huawei Ascend Mate 7 offer fingerprint scanners which could be used for secure payment.
Once the security is in place, Google could approach credit card companies in the hope of rebooting Google Wallet for Android M.
3. Google Health and Google Now integration
Our phones are currently occupied with trying to make us fitter, stronger and all around healthier human beings. Google Fit is Google’s platform for this purpose and it will be bringing life-tracking goodness to Android L later this year.
As per Android’s usual approach there will be a single set of APIs, letting manufacturers hook their devices up with the operating system via their own apps. But a greater use of these metrics in real time, through Google Now, would be a massive plus for Android.
A single swipe up into Google’s digital assistant could deliver you a smorgasbord of fitness notifications based on your goals for that day. Additionally, it would be a simpler way of delivering prompts to achieve your various goals.
4. Messaging hub
BlackBerry came back to the fore recently with the BlackBerry Passport. The square phone had among its features the BlackBerry Hub, a centralised service collecting all your messages into one place.
Android’s pull-down notifications panel accomplishes this to an extent but a unified messaging hub would be an attractive feature for multiple email and messaging accounts with different services. Built-in filtering would allow you to choose to only view certain accounts if needed and to quickly dispatch or delete emails, texts or whatsapp messages.
To be fair, Google has given the notifications panel an overhaul for Android 5.0 Lollipop. The result lets you check the panel without unlocking the device as well as respond in kind.
5. Synced notifications
While we’re on the subject of notifications, the next generation of Google’s OS could benefit from better syncing when it comes to app notifications for multiple devices. If you’ve already dismissed a tweet or reminder on your smartphone, it’s irritating to have to do it again on your tablet.
Google sync already establishes this connection, but only in relation to Google apps like Gmail, Calendar and Chrome. We’d like this not just taken account of not just for phones, tablets and Chromebooks but also newer devices like wearables.
6. Guest accounts and parental controls
Some third-party manufacturers have added guest mode ability to their own devices – the LG G3for example – but native Android still lacks the feature. The closest you can get at the moment is the guest mode via Google’s downloadable Android Device Manager app.
The advantages of having a locked-down guest mode will be clear to anyone that’s handed their phone to a friend or child to use for a while. You don’t necessarily want them browsing through your personal data or having access to your credit card account.
By extension, parental controls could be tightened up with said guest (or child) mode as in-app payments or separate Google Play purchases can be disabled.
Going beyond that – having an easily accessible mode switch in the notifications menu allowing you to toggle between night and day or business and pleasure would be a nice touch.
7. More home and car support
By the time Android M rolls around we won’t just be using the OS to control our smartphones and tablets but our homes, cars and wearables as well.
Google has already pioneered the Open Automotive Alliance and signed up the likes of Audi, Ford, Honda and Volvo. It’s highly likely you’ll be using Android M to pick your GPS route and music for the road before you’ve even got into the car.
On the home front, Google’s acquisition of Nest could lead to some interesting developments by the time Android M comes along. Nest-rival Honeywell already supports voice commands, so there’s potential for Google Now to be put to work again, this time controlling your home.
8. More tablet-centric apps
Compared to Apple’s iPad selection, the quality of tablet-specific Android apps can be an issue – simply because of the huge amount of Android differentiation that’s out there.
While the big-name apps are written to scale proportionally to different tablets, there’s still a discrepancy between smartphone and tablet output.
Part of the reason this can be addressed with a newer version of Android is that we’ll have 64-bit chips as standard by the time Android M is ready to roll.
With even mid-range devices packing the architecture – and ever more APIs – being released to developers, we’re hoping for quality tablet apps once Android M hits.
9. Ultra power saving mode as standard
Faster processing, higher resolution screens and better multitasking all take their toll on battery life. Manufacturers like Samsung and HTC build-in power saving modes to their flagship models, but it’s a feature we’d like to see Google incorporate into native Android.
Historically, the OS has been very good at showing you exactly where your usage is going but we have yet to see a single mode that limits all non-essential functions and severs data in order to preserve power.
It’s a relatively simple extra that could build on Android Lollypop’s battery saving function that, Google says, will give you an additional 90 minutes of usage.
10. Better native keyboard
It’s been a long time since we’ve used the native Android keyboard because third-party options like SwiftKey are superior. Adding the option to set a third-party keyboard as default when setting up from scratch would be a useful shortcut.
While Google’s keyboard gets the basics, like autocorrect and predictive texting right, there’s more that can be added to improve the experience.
Themes, scaling and different key positions could all be employed for a more personalised experience.