Google unveils new Android OS, releases developer preview

At its I/O event in San Francisco this morning, Google introduced Android M, the next version of its mobile operating system. The developer preview is available today for recent Nexus devices, while the final version is scheduled for a broader roll-out later this year.

Android M is more about small adjustments than sweeping changes. Senior VP Sundar Pichai said Google went "back to the basics," with a focus on "polish and quality." The new release fixes thousands of bugs, he added.

There are new features, too. Android M overhauls permissions, allowing users to control whether apps can access individual resources. It also includes a standard API for fingerprint sensors. Fingerprint authentication ties into Android Pay, Google's new take on mobile payments.

A new "doze" mode promises lower standby power consumption by synchronizing devices less frequently when they're left unattended for prolonged periods. This mode still works with alarms and notifications, and it reputedly doubles the Nexus 9's standby time.

Google's digital assistant is more deeply integrated into the new OS. Android M features Google Now on Tap, a new capability designed to deliver faster answers to questions based on contextual information culled from active applications. Google Now is already pretty good at anticipating my needs, so I'm excited to see its reach expanding—and still a bit creeped out about how much it knows about me.

Android M includes loads of other changes, like better volume controls and custom Chrome tabs for apps. Overall, though, the update looks decidedly more evolutionary than revolutionary.  Given the current state of Lollipop, which is generally good but still a little finicky, that's probably not a bad thing.

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