Google offers enterprise goodies with upcoming Android M update

Businesses using Android devices will be getting some new features to play with in Android M, the next version of the mobile operating system that’s slated for launch in the third quarter this year.

Google’s next update to Android contains a number of changes to its enterprise-focused tools, along with a few other system upgrades designed to take advantage of business-oriented features.

The main advances are going into Android for Work, which was originally geared toward allowing users to bring their own devices to work and letting system administrators manage workplace content while leaving personal data intact. It’s getting a slew of new capabilities.

Most of them are designed for corporate-owned devices, like Android tablets used in kiosks. For example, the owner of a corporate-controlled device can, under Android M, disable and re-enable the keyguard, safe boot mode and status bar by toggling individual settings. In addition, they can set up the device to leave its screen on while plugged in. Device owners can also install and uninstall apps in the background using Google’s PackageInstaller APIs, bringing more automation to device setup.

Companies will also be able to track data usage on a per-user basis, which means they can tell if one person has been hogging a shared device’s data plan or if certain people use too much data on the device they carry. Users get better notifications showing when they are using an app with a work profile, in the form of a briefcase icon in the status bar and a notification on screen showing that they’re using a work profile when they unlock their device.

In line with Android M’s improved permissions system, which can make apps ask for permission to access information like a phone’s location or microphone, Android for Work users will be able to set preferences to automatically grant or deny certain permissions silently. That could mean even if an app asked to use the microphone, users wouldn’t get a choice whether it got to use that feature.

The updates come at a time of heightened competition in the enterprise mobile device market. Microsoft has tried to make its tablets and phones more appealing in Windows 10 with the creation of the Windows Universal App Platform, while Apple has partnered with IBM to promote its phones and tablets for businesses.