Google has been going on and on about software development and the awesome new features in Android 6.0 Marshmallow. While Nexus users can already get their hands on the new OS and LG has already sent out to the update to its LG G4 smartphone, most Android users out there are still just looking forward to the update. This year, Android 6.0 Marshmallow comes in as a smaller upgrade than Lollipop but is nonetheless much more important. Hopefully, all the bugs and issues that Lollipop came with will be fixed without the new OS adding new issues to the user experience on manufacturer phones. Even if at first, Android 6.0 Marshmallow appears to be the same as Lollipop, its features and upgrades are hidden within the redesigned UX that actually works differently.
Android 6.0 Marshmallow can be experienced in its best version on Nexus smartphones, but advanced users could flash a stock Android ROM on almost any device and make use of it there. Once the update to Marshmallow starts hitting manufacturer devices, we’ll know more about how well tweaks, skins and different hardware work with the new OS. Until then, it’s best to focus on the features of the stock version of the OS, which is performing rather well so far. Since this is an all you need to know post, most likely you would like to first find out when the update should hit devices.
The Android 6.0 Marshmallow release is already underway, with manufacturers like Motorola, Samsung and HTC all working on getting their tweaks and modifications in. Flagship smartphones released this year are confirmed to get the update and most of them will most likely be updated in December. By the end of the year, mid-range smartphones released this year could also get the update, with rollouts scheduled for 2014 devices as well. Smartphones and tablets from 2013 will get the update next year, although manufacturer support sites should be verified for this because some OEMs do not provide support for their older devices. Let’s hope the rollout of the update is smoother than it was last year.
Without further ado, let’s see what Android 6.0 Marshmallow is all about and why upgrading from Android 4.4 KitKat or Android 5.0 Lollipop could be a good idea. Keep in mind that some of the features Marshmallow offers are hardware-dependent and might not work once the update arrives to your handset. At the same time, some features might not be compatible with OEM skins or carrier modifications, but these issues are device-specific and you should turn to manufacturers and carriers to address them once they come along – if they do, that is.
1. Google Now on Tap
With Android 6.0 Marshmallow, a long-press of the home button will activate Google Now on Tap, which is an advanced version of what we know now as Google Now. Google developed the new feature in order to make access to information much easier. You can use Google Now on Tap from within any app on your phone and once you complete the command, you will be presented with suggestions and related links to the information that is on the app screen that you launched Google Now on Tap from. The forms that will appear will display information based on type of content. As such, articles about movies will yield trailers from Youtube and review pages from IMDB while tops about the best Android apps and games of the week will result in Google Now on Tap giving you links to the Play Store, reviews and purchasing options. The company did a lot to make Android 6.0 Marshmallow a comprehensive and easy to use service, and Google Now on Tap plays an important role in making the user experience seamless and fruitful.
2. Support for biometric security
Although devices like the Galaxy S5 had fingerprint sensor before Android 6.0 Marshmallow and they worked, the new OS adds core support for biometric security, which means much more opportunities for developers. This new feature affects developers as well as users, because thanks to native support for fingerprint sensor, developers can now more easily include payment and security features that make use of the fingerprint sensor on a phone. Users on the other hand can benefit from a more unified user experience that lets them use hardware features to the maximum of their capacity. This is one of those instances when a feature won’t work unless you have the necessary hardware, which means a fingerprint sensor will have to be included in the build of the phone in order for the user to benefit from advanced integration in Android 6.0 Marshmallow
3. Simplified permissions
With Android 6.0 Marshmallow, users will not have to read long permission agreements when installing the app. Rather Google solved this problem with an easier fix. Users will have the ability to grant or revoke permissions on the spot, when an app tries to use services on their phones. For example, if you install Instagram, it will ask for your permission to access the library when uploading a photo or it will ask permission to use your location every time it tries to access it. With this new feature, inspired most likely by iOS, Google wants to make oversight easier to attain by users. With permissions granted upon activity and request, it is easier for the user to get an overview of what features, services and content apps they’ve installed use and whether they want them to have access to their information or not.
4. Improved volume management
When it came to sounds and volume management, Lollipop was pretty bad. Priority notifications as well as volume management settings didn’t really work in an intuitive manner and the absence of silent mode in the earlier builds of the last OS was prominently hated. With Android 6.0 Marshmallow, Google addressed these issues and tried mending them by creating a different approach to volume management. The strive to make management easier has been obvious in past Lollipop builds, but Android 6.0 Marshmallow unified all the things they tried to do in Lollipop into a simpler interface. In the new OS, Google added a Do not disturb button to quick settings that allows for the easy switching of audio modes. At the same time, the volume rockers bring up a sliding menu that can be expanded in order to allow for specific settings that can be applied to music volume, notification volume and alarm volume. It’s easy peasy and much better than in Lollipop.
5. Responsive share menus
With Android 6.0 Marshmallow, Google tries unifying the user experience and this new mini–feature or rather algorithm is one of the ways in which that is done. Instead of the share menus in apps or in web browsers being static, now it will be responsive to the user’s personal needs. That means that if you most often use Instagram or Pinterest to share photos and articles with your friends, these two apps will be at the top of the list when you bring up the share menu. These contextual menus will change according to your usage patterns, so if you start sharing a lot through Android Beam or Bluetooth while traveling, the share menu will respond with accurate suggestions. Although this is a minor feature, it makes a lot of difference to the user experience and productivity. Coupled with small tweaks to text selection which make it more accurate as well as Chrome custom tabs that allow apps to display full web pages in-app, Android 6.0 Marshmallow is a responsive, integrated and streamlined OS that knows what users want from it, when they want it.
One of the main concerns of Android users is battery life and avoiding unnecessary apps that drain battery. Android 6.0 Marshmallow is working towards making the OS more power efficient and one of the ways in which it does that is by adding Doze. Doze is a battery management service that will help your phone or tablet determine whether it is in use and active or stationary and launch Doze accordingly. Doze is built-in and will work automatically without user interference and Google says it will improve device autonomy because it cuts down on the number of background apps and processes that run while the device is in standby, Android 6.0 Marshmallow comes with a management system that works with Doze which will sort important notifications from unimportant ones and does checks for them regularly.
These 6 are the main and most important new features in Android 6.0 Marshmallow. There are a handful of other features included in the build as well, but those are more minor tweaks and optimization tools that won’t be used by everyone. Nonetheless, they deserve a mention because they do impact user experience in a positive way.
One such minor tweak concerns default app management in Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Within the OS, you can now tap on the cog icon in the Apps screen and you can manage associations for default apps from within the Default Apps menu. Although customization for this is pretty limited, you can still choose apps for the most important functions that you use, such as messaging, browsing, camera, gallery and more.
Apps use memory and Android 6.0 Marshmallow wants to raise awareness about that. In an effort to help people choose apps that truly work for them, Google added a new monitoring field into the settings panel which will allow users to exercise oversight when it comes to how much memory each app uses. Although the panel does not let you set limits or perform actions like killing apps that use too much or restricting their usage, they do let you accurately monitor the apps that use most of your resources.
Quick settings are also made easier, seeing as in Android 6.0 Marshmallow, you can customize them by pressing and holding the cog icon within the quick settings panel, which you pill down with a two-finger swipe. You can choose icon orders within the panel and organize them however you want to.
Android 6.0 Marshmallow is made for USB Type C, which means it’s optimized for fast data transfer and charging, which will prove useful in the future. Nowadays, there are not that many devices out there with USB Type C connectors, but the new default will be adopted soon enough and that’s when native support for it in Marshmallow will make a difference. This feature is clearly one determined by hardware, but it’s an important step nonetheless because it dictates the way in which smartphones should work in the future.
At the same time, Marshmallow adds the possibility of swiping from the left on the lock screen in order to bring in the voice search menu. This is another feature unique to Android 6.0 and it will allow easier access to Google search. Because you don’t need to unlock the device to perform searches, it offers up the easiest way to get information with minimal involvement. Security is on point with this, seeing as searches that involve personal stuff like appointments and reminders won’t appear unless the device is unlocked via biometric sensor or the good old pattern.
One last feature in Android 6.0 Marshmallow that’s entirely new is support for in-app back-up. Backing up your data is very important and while Google services usually do it automatically, the OS now allows for thirdp=-party apps to do it as well. This change concerns developers at first, because they will have the ability to include back up in their apps. They will be the ones to choose whether users will be able to back their data up or not, but ultimately, users will be the ones to enjoy the feature.
With the release of Android 6.0 Marshmallow on a global level getting ahead, we’re curious to see how many will notice, use and appreciate the newly added features. The new OS is a comprehensive example of Google’s plans for the future which will most likely focus on integration and the creation of the perfect user experience. Marshmallow seems to be on the right track, so we expect even more awesome things to come our way.