About two weeks ago, Google has finally unveiled what the "M" in Android M stands for. The search giant officially announced the Android Marshmallow name along with the release of its final developer preview.
The mobile operating system is now on version 6.0 and Google is currently rolling out a software development kit (SDK) so developers can test it out on the current Nexus 5, Nexus 6, and Nexus 9 devices.
Little is known about the features that the new firmware will bring. The company already shone the spotlight on Android M briefly during its Google I/O developer conference in May. Back then, it was mentioned that the upcoming version will support Android Pay, better battery management, and new app permissions.
Moreover, Samsung has also revealed that once Android 6.0 arrives on its compatible devices, it would deliver improvements such as App Permissions, Memory Tracking, Quick Finger Print Access, and Auto Backup.
Those features are among the plethora of upgrades that Marshmallow are expected to bring to the table once it becomes available to users later this year. As mentioned above, it is worth noting that both Samsung and Google hinted about new "permissions."
It turns out that those overhauled app permission requests will definitely arrive on the Android 6.0's consumer version. On Thursday, Google's official Android Developers Blog published a new post confirming the implementation of new "Runtime Permissions."
In a nutshell, it is an improved security feature tasked to protect users' sensitive information. It works by requiring all mobile apps to ask for specific permission at the proper time while they are being run in the owners' device.
Ian Lake, an Android Developer Advocate, explained, "Runtime permissions give your app the ability to control when and with what context you'll ask for permissions. This means that users installing your app from Google Play will not be required to accept a list of permissions before installing your app, making it easy for users to get directly into your app."
That is essentially how app permissions work on Apple's iOS devices. Google's current permission system has apparently been one of its weaknesses. At the time users install a certain Android application, they will be asked to deny or grant permissions to the app all at once. When granted, a mobile app is free to use all the information it is allowed to access even without the user's knowledge.
However, once these new runtime permissions are applied to Android 6.0 devices, users will be able to grant individual permission to particular apps as needed. They will also have the option to manage those permissions in the Settings app.
Google has arranged its new runtime permissions system into nine categories and gave each one of them a short description which are listed below.
- Calendar: Managing calendars
- Camera: Taking photos and recording videos
- Contacts: Managing contacts
- Location: Current device location
- Microphone: Audio recording
- Phone: Dialing and managing phone calls
- Body Sensors: Heart rate and similar data
- SMS: Sending and viewing messages
- Storage: Accessing photos, media, and files
When a user denied an app's request for a particular permission, it will prevent the app from rendering an individual feature but it will not result to the app's removal from the device. Android users will then be asked for feedback.
In theory, this new system will be a marked improvement when it comes to protecting personal data. However, the tech company said that it would only work with Android's API level 23 on devices running Android 6.0 or later.
In other words, running an Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS is not a guarantee that a handset will be treated with updated runtime permissions. That said, it is safe to assume that Google's upcoming LG Nexus 5 and Huawei Nexus 6 will implement the feature out of the box once they become available later this year following a rumored October debut.