Google Announces Android 'M' Developer Preview, Android Pay and Free Unlimited Photo Storage

Google today previewed Android "M," the next major version of its mobile operating system featuring Android Pay for mobile payments, app permissions, an improved web experience with Chrome Custom Tabs, app linking, Doze power management, USB-C support, direct sharing, simplified volume controls and a handful of other incremental improvements and bug fixes.

Google also announced free unlimited high-quality photo (16MP) and video (1080p) photo storage through a new service aptly named Google Photos for iOS, Android and the web, contextual information and a new "Now on Tap" feature for Google Now, and an "Internet of Things" operating system and HomeKit rival called "Project Brillo" for devices like thermostats and lightbulbs.

googleioandroidm
Android M prompts users with app permissions when access is required to certain elements of the operating system, including the microphone, location services, camera, contacts, phone, SMS, calendar and sensors. The new software version also features app linking, with verified links automatically redirecting to their related app without a cumbersome dialog popping up.

Android M delivers an improved web experience with Chrome Custom Tabs, which function as a Chrome web view overlaid in third-party apps with prefetched content. Google partnered with Pinterest, for example, to integrate Chrome Custom Tabs, providing all of Chrome's benefits such as signing in, saved passwords, autofill and multi-process security. Chrome Custom Tabs are available on the Chrome developer channel today and in Q3 for the public.

Doze is a new power and charging management system built into Android M that tracks your device sync activity and exponentially blocks background app activity when possible for up to double the amount of standby battery life, based on a side-by-side test of a Nexus 9 running Android Lollipop and Android "M" Developer Preview.

Google also briefly announced several other features of Android M, including USB-C support, simplified volume controls, improved Bluetooth low energy scanning, support for seven additional languages, unified Google and device settings, direct sharing and more. Android M is available today as a developer preview for the Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 9 and Nexus Player and in Q3 for the public.

Android Pay

androidpay
Android Pay, essentially a rebranded and improved version of Google Wallet, is an NFC-based mobile payments service with virtually identical functionality as Apple Pay. Android Pay keeps payment information secure by generating a virtual account number and requiring fingerprint authentication for secure identification.

Android users can add their supported credit and debit cards to the Android Pay app and easily tap to pay at over 700,000 retailers and businesses that accept contactless payments, such as American Eagle, Bloomingdale's, McDonald's, Macy's, Staples, Target and Walgreens. Android Pay can also be used for in-app purchases in supported apps.

Google announced that four major credit card companies in American Express, MasterCard, Visa and Discover will support Android Pay, alongside major financial institutions and AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile in the United States. More partners should be added in the future.

Project Brillo

Brillo is a slimmed-down version of Android that's designed to power the Internet of things. It's an operating system that will be made available to manufacturers, who can build it into devices like thermostats and lightbulbs. It includes support for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

googleioprojectbrillo
Weave goes along with Brillo and serves as a communications layer that allows Internet of things devices to talk to one another. With Weave, Brillo devices, smartphones, tablets, and the Internet can communicate. Weave is cross-platform, so it can work with non-Android devices, and Android devices can auto-detect Brillo and Weave devices. Brillo will be available to devs in Q3, while Weave will be available in Q4.

Google Now

Google announced a new feature for Google Now in Android M: Now on Tap. With Now on Tap, you can tap on the home button of an Android device to get more information about what's on the screen.

googleiogooglenow
For example, when listening to music in Spotify, if you tap and hold on the home button and ask a question about the artist, Google Now understands the context and will reply. When tapping on the home button, Google Now is able to read the content of any app that's running and bring up relevant, contextually aware Google Now cards. Apps don't need to implement support -- it works automatically.

Another example: On stage, a chat window with a discussion about laundry and a restaurant was brought up. A tap on the home button brought up a to-do card and cards for Maps, Yelp, and OpenTable.

Google Photos

Google announced a new Photos app centered around three ideas: a "home" for all your photos, deep organization, and sharing. Google Photos includes unlimited high-quality photo (16MP) and video (1080p) storage at no cost. It's launching today on Android, iOS, and web.

Google Photos
Google Photos backs up all photos from an Android device, much like iCloud Photo Library. The smartphone app looks quite similar to the Photos app on the iPhone, supporting a main view with all photos with pinch gesture controls for zooming in and out on albums and timelines.

Google Photos includes auto-organization that organizes photos by people and place. Its facial recognition capabilities are impressive, able to recognize a person even as that person ages. A Photos Assistant feature automatically creates GIFs and videos from your content, which you can share or delete. Sharing is simple -- you can group multiple photos and instantly get a link that lets other people see the images.

Juli Clover contributed to this report.

Top Rated Comments

Rogifan Avatar
77 months ago
Apple just needs to suck it up on cloud pricing. They are embarrassingly stingy when it comes to cloud storage. And if they're going to continue to sell 16GB devices then they need to offer more and cheaper cloud offerings.
Score: 74 Votes (Like | Disagree)
OldSchoolMacGuy Avatar
77 months ago
A lot of  catch up.... I hope Apple copies Google and gives unlimited photo storage... A guy can wish, can't he?

Remember that the reasoning for it is much different. Google analyzes all your photos, uses location data, and more to build a better profile about you, which they can sell to advertisers. Because of this, Google makes money off your photos and can afford to give you unlimited storage at no cost.

Apple doesn't do this so they charge for storage.

Simply two different business models.
Score: 70 Votes (Like | Disagree)
aceys Avatar
77 months ago
A lot of  catch up.... I hope Apple copies Google and gives unlimited photo storage... A guy can wish, can't he?
Score: 64 Votes (Like | Disagree)
barnesy99 Avatar
77 months ago
Android Pay? Sounds familiar.....
Score: 62 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kungxpao Avatar
77 months ago
lol "Android Pay".
Score: 53 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Z400Racer37 Avatar
77 months ago
Really? Android Pay? Not Android Wallet?

Lol everyone thought it was gonna be Apple Wallet until they announced Apple Pay, now we gotta copy that lol... -__-

Lazy.
Score: 46 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

samsung experience 1

Samsung's 'iTest' Lets You Try a Galaxy Device on Your iPhone

Thursday April 8, 2021 12:42 pm PDT by
Samsung has launched "iTest," an interactive website experience that's designed to allow iPhone users to test out Android on a Galaxy device, or "sample the other side," as Samsung puts it. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The iTest website is being advertised in New Zealand, according to a MacRumors reader who came across the feature. Visiting the iTest website on...
sonny 2021 ipad mini pro dummies

Leaked Dummy Units Show iPad Mini 6 With Thick Bezels and Home Button, New iPad Pro Models

Thursday April 8, 2021 2:11 am PDT by
Rumors suggest Apple will release refreshed versions of the iPad mini and iPad Pro models in the first half of this year, potentially as soon as this month, and a new leak today has provided us with a possible preview of what to expect in terms of the devices' overall design and camera prospects. Tech leaker and Apple blogger Sonny Dickson this morning shared images on Twitter showing dummy ...
apple music for artists new icon

Apple's Revamped Apple Music for Artists Icon Leads to Speculation About iOS 15 Design Plans

Tuesday April 6, 2021 1:03 pm PDT by
Apple yesterday updated its Apple Music for Artists app with some minor bug fixes and improvements, but also one other notable change -- a new icon. New icon on the right The Apple Music for Artists app now features a simpler, streamlined icon with a pinkish red music logo rather than the multicolored logo that was used before. The icon also has an embossed look that makes it stand out from...
apple find my network

Apple Announces Find My Network With Support for Third-Party Devices

Wednesday April 7, 2021 10:06 am PDT by
Apple today announced the launch of its Find My network accessory program, which is designed to allow third-party Bluetooth devices to be tracked in the Find My app right alongside your Apple devices. According to Apple, the first accessory companies to take advantage of the new Find My integration include Belkin, Chipolo, and VanMoof, with devices set to be available beginning next week. ...
new m1 chip

M1 Mac RAM and SSD Upgrades Found to Be Possible After Purchase

Tuesday April 6, 2021 5:34 am PDT by
Technicians in China have reportedly succeeded in upgrading the memory and storage of the M1 chip, suggesting that Apple's integrated custom silicon for the Mac may be more flexible than previously thought. Reports of maintenance technicians being able to expand the memory and storage of M1 Macs began circulating on Chinese social media over the weekend, but now international reports have...
Intel MBP Is Thin and Lighjt

Intel Ad for 'World's Best Processor' Features a MacBook Pro

Wednesday April 7, 2021 9:51 am PDT by
Intel has been on a relentless marketing drive against Mac computers in recent weeks, positioning them as inferior to Windows laptops powered by Intel processors. In a slight slip-up, however, Intel has accidentally used a MacBook instead of a Windows laptop in one of its newest ads to promote one of its new 11th-generation chips as "the world's best processor." The ad appeared on Reddit and ...
tmobile 5g modem

T-Mobile Launches Unlimited 5G Home Internet for $60/Month

Wednesday April 7, 2021 2:18 pm PDT by
T-Mobile today hosted an Un-carrier event where the company announced the launch of a a new 5G home internet plan, which is priced at $60 per month and offers unlimited data. The service is available to more than 30 million Americans across much of the United States, including 10 million households in rural areas not typically able to access reliable broadband. Connectivity will be either 4G ...
iMessage Android featured

Apple's Rationale for Not Bringing iMessage to Android Revealed in Legal Documents

Friday April 9, 2021 2:22 am PDT by
It's no secret that Apple sees iMessage as a big enough selling point to keep the service exclusive to Apple devices, however new court filings submitted by Epic Games in its ongoing lawsuit with the company reveal just how Apple executives have rationalized their decision not to develop a version of iMessage for Android. Apple clearly recognizes the power that iMessage has to keep users...
14

Apple Seeds Seventh Betas of iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 to Developers [Update: Public Beta Available]

Wednesday April 7, 2021 10:04 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the seventh betas of upcoming iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 updates to developers for testing purposes, with the new beta updates coming one week after Apple released the sixth iOS and iPadOS 14.5 betas. iOS and iPadOS 14.5 can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center or over the air after the proper profile has been installed on an iPhone or iPad. iOS 14.5 is the...
ipad pro and macbook pro

iPad and MacBook Production Reportedly Delayed Due to Global Chip Shortage

Thursday April 8, 2021 2:31 am PDT by
Apple is facing a global shortage of certain components for some of its MacBook and iPad models, causing the Cupertino tech giant and its suppliers to postpone production of the products, according to a new report from Nikkei Asia. According to the report, MacBook production is being hindered due to the shortage of chips mounted onto the circuit board before final assembly, which is a key...