The latest version of Android is on the way, and it's packed with new, productivity-boosting features.
Android 6.0 "Marshmallow," the follow-up to last year's "Lollipop" version, will debut on Google's new Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P smartphones. Those phones are set to launch in October. Here's a look at five updated features that will make Marshmallow, or Android M, a sweet deal for workers.
A smarter personal assistant
Google Now is a personal assistant that comes preloaded on all Android smartphones, ready to provide useful information before you even ask for it. For example, the app can show you traffic updates before you have to drive to meet a client, or alert you to flight delays before a business trip.
And Google Now is getting smarter in Marshmallow, with the ability to provide relevant information based on context clues. For instance, if a client emails you about scheduling a lunch meeting to discuss business plans, you can hold your smartphone's home button to instantly access the restaurant's business hours, as well as turn-by-turn directions to the location. Google calls it "Now on Tap" to emphasize the on-demand nature of the new functionality.
Longer battery life
New features will help make sure your Marshmallow-powered smartphone lasts through the end of the workday. The OS update introduces a new "Doze" mode that Google claims can boost your phone's battery life by up to 50 percent.
It works by noticing when your phone has been idle for a while, then going into an energy-saving, hibernation mode. This severely restricts the background app updates that are responsible for the majority of battery drain, without impeding alerts for high-priority events like calls, messages and alarms. Other updates will still roll in eventually, just not as quickly as before. Of course, you can toggle this feature off if you'd prefer to receive all background updates as you normally would.
By adding native support for fingerprint readers in Marshmallow, Google clearly hopes to encourage more Android smartphone makers to implement the security feature into their devices. The software update supports the scanners at the operating system level, so manufacturers don't have to rely on second-party software to manage fingerprints and permissions. That's good news for workers, since a fingerprint scanner can help keep your work phone locked down, ensuring your files and data stay secure if the device is lost or stolen.
Simpler app permissions
This one's a bit abstract, but bear with us. The way that Android M handles app permissions — in other words, how much of your smartphone's data you want an individual app to be able to access — will actually make the platform more secure. Currently, an app will ask for a laundry list of permissions as soon as you install it, leaving you to wonder why it needs access to your contacts or microphone, for example. If you use your phone for work, that could leave you vulnerable to an app accessing private work data without your knowledge.
But in Android M, apps won't ask for specific permissions until they actually need them, giving you a clear understanding of what they want to do. For example, an app might not ask for access to your personal contacts list until you try to share something. It's a small change for most people, but it should give business users a little extra peace of mind.
Easier text editing
Finally, Google is making it easier to deal with text in Android M. The basic word selection tool can now intelligently highlight chunks of text, and a new clipboard toolbar makes it easier to access frequently used functions like copy and paste. Those small tweaks will be a boon to anyone who uses their Android phone to hammer out emails or edit documents on the go.