Android 6.0 Marshmallow: The Best New Features
Android 6.0 Marshmallow is coming, and is bringing with it some notable changes to Google's mobile operating system. At Google's September 29 conference in San Francisco, VP of Engineering Dave Burke gave us a final look at the software, which will be available sometime next week. New developments include Android Pay, better voice actions via Google Now on Tap and improved battery life. Here's are the coolest features we've seen so far.
Google Now on Tap
With the release of Android 6.0, Google Now will become more contextually aware than ever. Google's personal assistant will be aware of what's happening on your screen, so if you're listening to a Twenty One Pilots song and simply ask, "who's the lead singer?" with your voice, Google Now will automatically perform a Google Search for the lead singer of said band. This functionality spills down to the super personal level, as well -- if someone asks if you're up for trying a certain restaurant in a text message, you'll be able to tap and hold your phone's home button to quickly find the location, phone number and reviews of the eatery. Now on Tap also works with third party apps such as NPR, so you have the same access to specific voice controls no matter what you are doing.
Google is making a big push against Apple Pay with its own mobile payments solution: Android Pay. Like Apple's solution, Android Pay will allow Android phone owners to make quick mobile payments at terminals that accept NFC (Near-Field Communication) transactions.
Android Pay will support most major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover, and Google is working with AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon for carrier support. The service will be accepted at a host of major retailers, including GameStop, McDonalds, Best Buy, Staples, Toys R' Us and Subway. It will also allow for in-app purchases within apps from retailers such as Target and Dunkin Donuts, and if you opt for one of Google's new Nexus phones (the 5X and 6P), making a purchase is as simple as touching the phone's rear mounted fingerprint sensor.
Have you ever opened a new app just to be barraged with permission requests for your phone's camera, messages and location all at once? Android 6.0 is looking to prevent that moment of overload. The software simplifies app permissions into eight categories: Location, Camera, Microphone, Contacts, Phone, SMS, Calendar and Sensor. An app will only ask your permission for something when it absolutely needs to -- such as the first time you send a photo in Hangouts -- resulting in what could be a smoother user experience.
Chrome Custom Tabs
Android M will introduce Chrome Custom Tabs, which makes it easier to interact with the web from within an app. Using Pinterest as an example, Burke demonstrated how clicking a link within the program opens up a customized Chrome tab that matches Pinterest's look and feel, making it seem as if you never left the original app. These custom tabs will retain users' sign in information, and are designed to load super fast.
App Links and Sharing
On a similar note, Google is looking to make it easier to link from one app to another without having to land on a web page in-between. Android M's new app links use a special verification method to ensure that app-specific links go to the right place. For example, clicking a Twitter link in an email will take you right to the Twitter app, instead of the Twitter web page that you're probably not logged into.
Android 6.0 will also make it easier to copy and share content. The software's updated word selection tool copies batches of text in coherent chunks, with a floating toolbar that makes it easy to instantly copy and paste. And with the new Direct Share feature, Marshmallow will let you share copied items to your most frequent contacts with a few taps.
Android Pay will be complemented by fingerprint reader support, which will come standard in Android M for any device with a finger scanner. Aside from being able to quickly authorize Android Pay purchases, users will be able to use their device's fingerprint scanner to unlock their device and verify purchases on the Play Store.
Power and Charging
Android 6.0 will introduce a variety of features aimed to make devices more power efficient. The software's new Doze feature limits app activity when an Android device has been asleep for a while. Don't worry -- your alarm will still go off. Overall, Google claims that when the screen is off, Android 6.0 Doze mode offers a 30 percent improvement in battery life versus Android 5.1.
Burke also announced that in accordance with user demands, Google is reducing the amount of apps that come pre-installed on Android devices. Furthermore, he added that there will also be a new post-setup process that allows users to uninstall any of those pre-loaded apps that same way you delete apps from third-parties.
Reversible Port Support
Google's next mobile OS will also have full USB Type-C support. Not only do the new Nexus 5X and 6P feature the reversible port, in Android 6.0, users will have a choice of charging their device as normal using USB Type-C or using their device as a power source to charge something else or perform faster file transfers.
Android 6.0 will come pre-installed on the Nexus 5X and 6P, or available as an over-the-air-download on other Nexus devices starting the week of Oct. 5. Unfortunately non-Nexus device owners will have to wait for each manufacturer to port Marshmallow to their specific device, a process that can often takes weeks or months.