When there’s new Nexus hardware, there’s normally a big Android release from Google, and this year is no exception. It seems just yesterday that Google announced Android M as a Developer Preview back during the summer at Google I/O 2015, but here we are in the Fall and Android 6.0 is a fully-realized product and should be hitting the AOSP (Android Open Source Project) and manufacturers will get to work on updates before we know it. We’ll be taking a closer look at the squidgy insides of Marshmallow in the coming days and weeks, but for now let’s go over the bigger changes.
To be clear here, these new additions and such will only apply to stock Android, the software that comes straight from Google, there’s no telling what sort of twist the likes of LG and Samsung will put on Android 6.0 Marshmallow when it rolls out to devices like the LG G4 and Galaxy Note 5. Those with previous Nexus devices – or those that have been enterprising enough to pre-order the new Nexus devices – will notice changes pretty soon as Google start to roll out the new updates. The same can be said for Motorola users, as the Moto devices run stock Android with apps added in, and these should also see the update pretty quickly.
Google Goes Deeper
Despite the fact that Google is already tightly integrated into Android, Marshmallow takes things a little further. The first change you’re likely to notice is that there’s now a ‘Google’ entry in the settings, separate from the usual ‘Accounts & Sync’ menu, dedicated to your Google Account. This is where you’ll also find all of your settings related to ads and location services. Previously, users would have to load the Google Settings app from the app drawer, now these settings are more logically located in amongst all your other system settings.
A more interesting inclusion in Android 6.0 Marshmallow is Google’s ‘Now on Tap’. This leverages all the same sort of information that Google Now has been delivering for years now, but presents it to you whenever you want. The use case here is that you could be in Hangouts, and a friend has recommended a movie, long-pressing on the movie title will bring up Now on Tap, with info from the web and a link to a trailer without moving apps. This is also useful for sports scores when long-pressing on a team’s name, definitions of words you don’t know and more. It’s unclear whether or not Now on Tap will make its way back down to Android 5.0 Lollipop, but considering it wasn’t included in Developer Preview 3 of Android M, it seems like this is a new and Marshmallow-dependant feature.
Fingerprint Support and Android Pay
Fingerprint sensors have been shipping on Android devices for years now, most notably the Galaxy S5 from Samsung and a myriad of upstarts from the Far East. However, this hardware wasn’t supported by Android out of the box, and Samsung and co had to add apps and drivers to make use of the new hardware. Android Pay is available for devices that are running Android 5.0 and below, but fingerprint authentication is strictly an Android 6.0 feature.
Support for USB 3.0 and Type-C
A number of different Android devices have already launched with support for Type-C connectors, such as the OnePlus Two, but these manufacturers have had to add in support for the new port themselves. Now, Google have built in support for the new, reversible, connector into Android. Google themselves have already used the new connector in the second Chromebook Pixel, but the introduction in Android 6.0 Marshmallow and new Nexus devices means that we’ll be seeing a lot more of these as manufacturers follow suit into 2016 and beyond.
A Renewed Focus on App Permissions
Something that Google have tried to perfect a number of times over the years, the Internet giant is changing things once again in Marshmallow. The Play Store will continue to outline what an app asks for before you install it, but if you’re running Android 6.0 on your device, then an App will behave a little differently. When an app starts to use something like GPS, your camera or microphone Android will now intervene and ask you there and then. So, let’s say you want to use WhatsApp to record a voice message for the first time, you’ll have to give WhatsApp permission to access your microphone there and then.