Google is preparing for the launch of its brand new Android Marshmallow operating system — which comes with new features that allows Google to watch you at all times and provide you with things that might be useful.
Marshmallow will have its official launch next week. But that’s just when it’ll start arriving on Google’ own operating system — companies and carriers have to approve it first for phones made by other developers, meaning that it could take months for your phone to be updated.
Like Apple’s iOS 9, Google has this year focused on tweaking and honing its mobile operating system, rather than bringing big headline new features.
But despite that, there are big new changes — the biggest of which is extra assistance that Google can give by building in its search engine to pretty much everything you’re doing. That feature, called Now on Tap, means that you can look at information without ever leaving the app.
Now on Tap
This feature is part of Google’s biggest update to Marshmallow — “contextual assistance”. That’s meant to allow you to call on Google’s search skills whenever you need it.
It’s built to let you see information about things are mentioned on your screen. Asking “Who’s that person?” while a tweet is up, for instance, will search for the person that’s mentioned and give you information.
It’s doing this at all times. At the launch, for instance, Google showed how it was watching what was in an email and could see that someone had sent a restaurant reservation, so calling up Now on Tap by long pressing the home button brought up an app to book a table.
Apps themselves can also make use of the voice features, meaning that you can have a conversation with a streaming app about which video you want to watch, for instance.
New battery tools
Google has built in new features to try and help the phone not use too much battery life. The headline one is called Doze — which watches your phone to try and guess when you’re not using it, and puts things to sleep that it reckons you might not need.
When you do finally run out of battery, you can charge through the now-supported USB Type-C plug. That reversible cable allows for much faster charging — Google claims that its new phones, which have the plug, charge twice as quickly as Apple’s.
New privacy tricks
Google has built in fingerprint support as well as new, more clever ways of letting apps know what you want to share with them.
Both sound a little boring, but improve security massively. In particular, in-app permissions are much more detailed — before, apps just asked permission to be able to do everything with your phone. But they now have to ask for each individual thing, so that Instagram will be able to use your camera, but not your location or your microphone, for instance.
Fingerprint support is built into the back of the new Nexus phones.Reuse content