It was at Google’s annual software developer-focused conference, Google I/O, that Android Marshmallow was announced. The official platform was named Marshmallow on August 17th, and unveiled by Google on September 29th, 2015. The launch devices for this Android 6.0 were the brand new Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X.
The question which naturally imposes itself is: Is it worth getting excited about? We are about to take a look at the major key features of the new Android OS, whether they are new, same, improved or cut out. Here is something about the design, usability, security, and performance and system features of the new Marshmallow Android.
In comparison to its predecessor, Lollipop, it is visually quite similar. The main areas of the UI have remained the same, but there are certain notable differences. The lock screen is almost identical to Lollipop’s, but Marshmallow replaced the dialer shortcut with one to Google’s voice search (which has a completely new look, also). It lets you create shortcuts to certain settings by creating an icon that depicts what the particular shortcut goes to. The home screen is essentially the same as it was in Lollipop, with no exclusive changes. There are few a app-launch options – app icons, ‘recent apps’ cards, voice commands, the new-look app drawer. The app drawer appears as a vertical scrolling list which is quite easy to swipe. Marshmallow has a two part Quick Settings/notifications area, just like Lollipop. A single swipe down from the top of the home screen pulls down the notifications shade, and the second swipe down brings you to the Quick Settings area (for adjusting screen brightness, managing mobile data, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, and a cog icon that takes you to the System UI Tuner). Animations accompany transitions between pages, apps and settings, and by opening the ‘About phone’ section and repeatedly tapping Android version, you will access the Marshmallow’s Easter Egg (which stands as a metaphor for Marshmallow as a whole).
Performance / System Features
Now, here are some of the biggest things that Marshmallow Android 6.0 brought us. We will start with the Doze feature – an intelligent battery management feature. When you do not use your phone for a preset period of time, it recognizes that the device is not in use and enters hibernation, thus making phenomenal battery savings. The app equivalent of Doze is the App standby, which identifies apps that have not been used for some time and puts them into deep sleep, preventing them from using system resources. Other great features are the reverse charging and Type-C USB standard.
Type-C cables support faster data transfer and charging speeds, and are reversible so you will not have to worry about fumbling around with them in the dark. Marshmallow devices will be able to reverse-charge other devices in some near future. The OS also supports microSD expansion. Something that was ruled as bad for security with the Android KitKat has now been brought back by the developers. When a microSD card is added, it can be formatted to a specific device and treated as a part of the internal storage, making it unusable elsewhere. There is a new and easy-to-use stock file manager option called Explore, and a new settings menu dedicated to leaving more room for RAM management in the foreground, called Memory. You can use Memory to view RAM memory usage by each individual app and system.
A very important part of Android Marshmallow is the user-facing control over some app permissions. Some permissions are still granted by default, but generally, app permissions will have to be granted, giving you control of whether or not an app has access to something as critical as your camera or microphone. A system-level fingerprint support has been introduced via the new fingerprint API. Various kinds of authentication can now be handled by the Android itself thanks to fingerprint scanners. Other security aspects of the Marshmallow Android 6.0 include: automatic app backup, network security reset (which lets you easily and quickly remove all connections, settings and passwords related to mobile data, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth – the ideal security against phone theft consequences), monthly security patches, encryption (full-disk encryption is required by default), Android for Work (through better handling of some security features, your phone can be used both for work and at home), and Smart Lock (keeping the device locked or unlocked, depending on different intuitive scenarios).
When it comes to usability, Marshmallow has improved the text selection setup, making it far better than what Lollipop Android has. Also, there is an option for deleting screenshots from the notifications shade – convenient for those who take a lot of screenshots every day. A new volume setup brings back the silent mode and a ‘Do not disturb’ mini-menu for total silence, with the exception of alarms. The volume setup is a bit confusing and you will spend some time getting your head around it. The camera can now be launched by double-tapping the Power Button, while a new feature called Direct Share has been introduced to make the sharing experience easier (it enables you to instantly share content rather than head to an app in which you then need to choose your options. This, however, does not work everywhere yet). Marshmallow will have an international rollout to many devices. In China, for example, a leak on Weibo (Chinese equivalent to Twitter) has revealed Lenovo’s update plans for upgrading Lenovo parts of smartphone collections already in March.
With the new Google Integration (new voice API and assist API, the touchless Android Pay payment system, and the Google settings app) alongside new additions and changes that Marshmallow seems to bring, it is simply a refinement of the Android OS, but not so much a full-fledged revolution. It is easier to use Google services, where apps have better access and management, security has been greatly improved, and Marshmallow has made Androids easier to use than ever before. It is not perfect, but is considerably improved.