The next major version of Android is going to come with one feature that will please the security-conscious: built-in encryption. It means anyone who grabs hold of your mobile device—from petty thief to law enforcement officer—will find it much more difficult to extract data from it. The same level of advanced encryption is also available in iOS 8.
Android users have had the option to encrypt their phones and tablets since 2011, but the setup process for Android L will switch it on by default. iOS has always encrypted data on devices automatically — there’s no option to enable it as there is on current versions of Android — but the protection has been reworked and improved in iOS 8.
“For over three years Android has offered encryption, and keys are not stored off of the device, so they cannot be shared with law enforcement,” Google spokeswoman Niki Christoff told the Washington Post. “As part of our next Android release, encryption will be enabled by default out of the box, so you won’t even have to think about turning it on.”
It’s a feature that is particularly noteworthy in a post-Snowden climate. The NSA-engineer-turned-whistleblower has been calling for improved encryption methods to prevent governments and other agencies from spying on user data, and the extra security layer arriving with Android L are another step in this direction.
“Most people aren’t going to go out of their way to do these things,” said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist of a Washington non-profit, when speaking to the Post. “It’s so awesome, as someone who has worked on these issues for a long time, to see these two companies switch their defaults to where these things will be strongly encrypted, and rightly so.”
As for Android L, we still don’t know exactly when it will appear or even what it’s going to be called when it’s released. With flagship devices such as the Nexus 9 rumored to be launching in October, we shouldn’t have too much longer to wait to find out.