Google adds security and flexibility to latest Android mobile OS

Google is to begin rolling out the latest, most enterprise-friendly version of its Android mobile operating system

Google is to begin rolling out the latest, most enterprise-friendly version of its Android mobile operating system from 17 October 2014.

Android version 5.0 – codenamed Lollipop – replaces the year-old KitKat and promises to add security, increase battery life, add multiple user accounts, and give users more control over notifications.

Google describes Lollipop as the “largest, most ambitious” release on Android, with more than 5,000 additional application programming interfaces (APIs) to enable increased flexibility for developers.

Senior vice-president of Android, Google Chrome and Google Apps Sundar Pichai said Lollipop is made for a world where moving throughout the day consists of interacting with various screens – from phones and tablets to TVs.

“With Lollipop, it’s easier than ever to pick up where you left off – so the songs, photos, apps, and even recent searches from one of your Android devices can be immediately enjoyed across all the other ones,” he wrote in a blog post.

“As you switch from one screen to another, the experience should feel the same. So Lollipop has a consistent design across devices – an approach we call material design,” he added.

Security enhancements include the flexibility to secure devices with a PIN, password, pattern, or by pairing a smartphone with another trusted device like a watch.

This feature – called Smart Lock – is aimed at encouraging users to set passwords by making it unnecessary to type in a password whenever the trusted device is detected.

The encryption of all stored data is also now a default setting to help increase security by offering protection for data on lost or stolen Android devices.

According to Google, security-enhanced Linux enforcing for all applications means even better protection against vulnerabilities and malware.

Lollipop also allows users to share devices securely with the new guest-user mode, or create multiple user accounts to enable friends to log in on a device without giving access to settings or content.

Security for Android has become increasingly important as cyber criminals turn their attention to exploiting any vulnerabilities in the operating system as the number of users continues to grow.

An Android operating system for the business sector

The added features in Android are aimed at making the operating system more appealing to the business sector by enabling users to carry only one device for personal and business use.

"We wanted to make sure Lollipop is designed in such way that corporations are happy to endorse it,” Android engineering head Hiroshi Lockheimer told the BBC.

Features specifically aimed at this goal include the ability for a user to have both a personal and work "personality" on a single device – and the ability to switch between them.

This means apps can access different sets of stored data, enabling enterprises to monitor the contents of the area used for business.

Lollipop also enables users to put devices in "do not disturb" mode for a specified period of time to minimise the risk of missing important calls or notifications after a meeting because they have forgotten to return the device to normal mode.

Market pundits said with the decrease in market share of Blackberry, Google is attempting to seize the opportunity to gain enterprise users.

Google is to release the Lollipop software development kit for Nexus 5 phones and Nexus 7 tablets on 17 October 2014 through the Android developers site.

Android Lollipop will become available to the public on 3 November 2014, when the Nexus 9 and Nexus Player go on sale.

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