Ever since Android 4.4 KitKat launched two years ago now, Google has been keen to keep big Android releases to a minimum, and focus more on bringing updates to Google Play Services and other core components. Last year, Android 5.0 Lollipop introduced us to a whole new look and feel with Material Design and a focus on color, rather than a lack of it. This year however, Google have built on top of that with their latest release, Android 6.0 dubbed Marshmallow. Just as they did last time around, Marshmallow was announced earlier this year as 'Android M' and has been in Developer Preview for some time now. That means that the bigger apps and developers have already got to work on the latest version, and when the upgrade hits your phone, all of your favorite apps and games should work just fine under Android 6.0.
If you've been keeping up with the news surrounding Android M, you'll no doubt know what to expect, but for those reading about Marshmallow for the first time, there are a handful of new features and changes to get used to. When manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, LG, HTC and others get round to updating their current devices, Android 6.0 might look a lot different, but for those on devices with stock Android – such as previous Nexus hardware as well Motorola devices – these new changes should arrive quickly and be noticeable upgrades.
As you might have come to expect, after last year's massive Lollipop release, Android 6.0 Marshmallow is more added polish on top of the colorful, Material Design that we saw hit our smartphones and tablets. Visually, there's not much different here, and the same familiar look and feel will be here that people loved so much about Lollipop. There are some new window animations, and heads-up notifications now appear with a more playful bounce than they did before, and can be easily pushed or away or pulled to see the rest of your notifications.
Where Google have knuckled down and tried to improve is through a myriad of tweaks to the overall user experience and by adding some support for more modern hardware such as fingerprint readers and USB Type-C ports as found on the likes of the OnePlus Two and other such devices. Users can now rearrange the quick toggles that we use to turn things like Bluetooth on or off, and the Google Now Launcher returns to a vertical scroll system as the stock launcher exhibited back in the Android 2.3 and below days. This makes apps easier to find as there's more of a focus on the alphabetical order of things.
Headlining features of Android 6.0 Marshmallow include Google Now on Tap, a way of accessing Google no matter which app you're in by just long-pressing on a particular term or title. Android Pay is of course a great addition to Android and we'll be covering it in more detail, but essentially it'll let people pay for things using their Android smartphone. This is a little confusing when we think of Google Wallet, but Android Pay is a new platform that is specifically designed for paying for things on the move, and only supported devices can use fingerprint sensors to authenticate their purchases. Android Pay is available on older versions of Android, but as fingerprint sensors are only supported in stock Android in version 6.0 you'll need this latest version to be super-secure when paying for things on the move. The Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P have been announced with a feature called "Nexus Imprint" but it's not clear how other manufacturers will be utilising the new feature built-in to Android in the 6.0 release.