So we always start I/O by giving an update of our upcoming platform release. That’s the foundation of everything we do. Last year with “L” — “L” was a major release for us in which we tackled many, many form factors. For “M,” we have gone back to the basics. We have really focused on polish and quality. We have literally solved thousands of bugs. We more importantly thought through every detail to make it better. To give you a preview of the upcoming “M” release, let me invite Dave Burke onto the stage.
Dave Burke – VP of Engineering, Android
Thanks, Sundar. So this year, we’ve made a conscious decision to focus on quality end-to-end. Today, I’m excited to share a preview of the new “M” release of Android. The central theme of M is improving the core user experience of android. Our focus is on product excellence. Everything from squashing thousands of bugs to rethinking fundamental aspects of how the platform has worked for years.
Now one of the unique and amazing things about Android is that it’s an open platform. We make the source code available to everyone from hobbyists to the world’s largest device manufacturers and this has enabled device makers both small and large to innovate and iterate Android, often many years ahead of the competition.
With “M,” we’re excited to be able to fold in some of these improvements that we’ve seen in the ecosystem into the official Android platform, so we can make them more widely available to users and app developers alike. So let me take a few minutes and walk you through six key areas where we really improved the core user experience in “M.”
Now, one of the things Android users tell us they love is their ability to customize and really control the behavior of their phones. So in “M,” we’re bringing this approach to App Permissions. So with App Permissions, we’re giving users meaningful choice and control over the data they care about. You don’t have to agree to permissions that don’t make sense to you. And we’re accomplishing this through a few big changes. First, we’re greatly simplifying App Permissions to a smaller set of easily understood things like location, camera, microphone. Second, apps will now ask you for permission the first time you try to use a feature instead of asking during app installation time.
So let’s take a look at how this could work with WhatsApp. Now, keep in mind when I install the app, I wasn’t asked to grant any permissions upfront. Okay. So let’s say I’m in the app and I want to send a voice message. When I press the mic button, the app makes a request to the system to access the microphone which then brings up this permission prompt. The permission directly reflects the use case. And this is a one-time request and of course, I as a user can allow or deny the request on a per-permission basis.
Now that I granted the permission, I can hold the mic button and record a message like so. So one of the things we’ve heard from our users is the desire to change or revoke an already-granted permission. So with “M,” I can now go into settings, choose the app, see what permissions it has and even modify them. I can also go — and I can also go the other way. So I can choose a permission, say microphone, and see which apps have access to it. Now, for developers the new App Permissions apply to apps compiled against the M SDK, legacy apps targeting SDK version before M will behave as before. One of the really nice side-effects of the new permission model for app developers is it’s faster to get users up and running in your app. We also know that with the old permission model that adding a new permission to your app can affect your update adoption. With the new permission model, updates are seamless because user involvement is deferred until right when it’s needed.
Okay. So that’s App Permissions. This is a pretty big departure since Android 1.0, but it’s more intuitive model for users as a much more seamless app install process for app developers.
So next up, let me highlight one of the ways that we’re improving the web experience on mobile. So one of the interesting trends that we’re observing on mobile today is around how web content is being consumed. And app developers increasingly care about the experience that users get when they tap on a web link from within their app. And today you’ve got two choices, right? You either make a big context switch out to the browser or you build your own experience by embedding a webview within your app. And webviews are this nice property that they enable you to make the transition to web content really seamless and you can make it feel like one app. But while webviews are powerful they have some downsides. It means developers have to get into the business of building a browser which is a complex and time consume thing to do well. And for the user browsing content in webview means you lose some of the things that make users’ lives really easy on the web like, say save passwords or logged in sessions.
So Chrome custom tabs is a feature that gives developers a way to harness all of Chrome’s capabilities while still keeping control of the look and feel of the experience. And we’ve been working with our friends over at Pinterest on this and I’d like to show you a sample of what’s possible.
So here I am in the Pinterest app. Let’s tap on something interesting. Now when I tap on a web link at the bottom, you’ll notice that there is a custom transition automation into Chrome custom tabs. Now, remember, this is actually the Chrome browser now running on top of your app. And the custom tab is branded the same color as Pinterest which feels like one experience and you can even see that Pinterest has added a custom button to the toolbar to pin pages. And they can also add additional items to Chrome’s overflow menu up at the top right. Finally, the back button gives an easy way to seamlessly go into the app.
So the custom tab was super fast to load because Pinterest was able to ask Chrome ahead of time to pre-fetch the content. And of course the real benefit is for users. With Chrome custom tabs, you’re signed nto your favorite sites since it uses Chrome state and you get all of Chrome’s feature such as save passwords, auto filling forms, Google Translate and more. And of course you also get the benefits of Chrome security model of. So Chrome custom tabs is available today on the Chrome dev channel and we’re excited about rolling it out to users in Q3 this year. So that’s an example of how we’re improving the web experience, when you want to link from an app to the web.