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Move Over Lollipop. It’s TIME For Android Marshmallow

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Yes folks, it’s now November, meaning Christmas is quickly approaching, and many people will no doubt be unwrapping fancy new tech this festive season. While some will undoubtedly still be running the older Android Lollipop build, in the coming weeks we can expect more and more hardware to arrive with Marshmallow pre-loaded and for manufacturers to begin rolling out updates to their devices old and new. What delights does your new Marshmallow device (or your old device updated to Marshmallow) have in store for you? That’s a question we aim to answer with the words on this very page. Read on to find out…

Google’s big 2015 launch was unusually chock full of new hardware; two new Nexus phones with the Nexus 5X and the Nexus 6P, an updated Chromecast 2, and a brand new surprise with the Google Pixel C convertible hybrid tablet, plus a new initiative that looks to breathe life back into old speakers called Chromecast Audio. Of course the main event was the new iteration of Android itself, Android 6.0, aka Android Marshmallow.

Google announced Android Marshmallow as Android M a few months ago at its annual Google I/O expo, which took place in the US. Since then it has released a bunch of beta versions of the software to developers and eager Android fans who couldn’t wait for the final build.

For the most part, Android Marshmallow is a serious breath of fresh air inside any handset. The software is more polished, looked better and is less power hungry. Boot up a Nexus 5 with it and you’ll experience about 30% uplift in battery performance — we kid you not. On more premium handsets running the latest-gen CPUs the difference should be INSANE. HTC has confirmed it will be releasing a new handset — the HTC One A9 — later this month, and that will be one of the first handsets to ship with Marshmallow, save for the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P.

Android Marshmallow, on the whole, is a pretty comprehensive update that looks to fix many of Android’s latent problems. The most notable of which is security and power management. We’ve just finished listening to what Google had to say about its latest version of Android and below are the thing we felt were most noteworthy.

Android Marshmallow: App Permisions 

Information from Samsung had previously hinted at this, but Google’s announcement has now confirmed that Marshmallow’s app permissions have been tweaked, enabling users to reject or approve permissions from individual apps and individual functions within that app. You won’t be hit with a big wall of permissions when you install an app anymore, instead when you use a feature, say the voice message recording inside WhatsApp, that’s when it’ll ask you for permission. You can still go into permissions for a given app and tweak them at any time, however.

Android Marshmallow: Web Browsing & Chrome

It wouldn’t be new Android without at least some attention given to the web experience via the Chrome browser. Most notably Google has added “custom tabs” which allow Chrome to open up links to web content inside an app as an overlay, rather than jumping you out of the app entirely and into the full-blown browser, as has been the case until now.

This feature will allow app developers to customise the tabs to fit the look and feel of their own app design language, but will be directly linked to Chrome on that device and a logged in user account, preserving things like remembered passwords and login details – allowing for a seamless experience.

Android Marshmallow: Fingerprint Scanner

Between the inlcusion of fingerprint scanners on a range of Android phones (including the new Nexus devices) and the rollout of Google’s own Android Pay it was inevitable that some attention be given to fingerprint scanning and biometric security. Google’s gone for standardised, built-in support for fingerprint authentication, allowing developers to make use of the feature for unlocking devices, logging into apps and content, and purchases via either webstores or points-of-sale in bricks n’ mortar retail outlets.

Android Marshmallow: Android Pay & Mobile Payments

Speaking of which, Google went into more detail about its own specific platform; Android Pay. “Simplicity, security and choice,” are the buzzwords here. The firm explained that you’ll be able to sync the service with your existing credit and debit cards and, as expected, it’s partnered with a wide range of retailers and brands (although emphasis is, currently, on US retail).

Android Pay is now rolling out and is a natural evolution of Google Wallet — the Big G’s first attempt at mobile payments. Android Pay has been redesigned and rejigged with 2015/16’s market in mind. In order to use it you will need Android handset running Android KitKat and above and NFC — bad news for OnePlus 2 owners, then! Unlike Apple Pay, Android Pay does not require a fingerprint scanner, despite many new Android handsets shipping with one. If you don’t have a fingerprint scanner on your phone you can authenticate a payment using a PIN, pattern or password. 

Android Marshmallow: Battery Optimisations

We heard about Doze some time ago when Google previewed Android M – essentially it will use onboard sensors to detect when the phone has been un-used for a while and goes into a specially tailored low-power sleep mode, which switches off a bunch of power-hungry background processes. Naturally the new USB Type-C is integrated for rapid charging.

Material Design: New App Drawer & New Animations

It’s not a big visual overhaul but Material Design has been tweaked a little, most notably the new animations designed to make everything even more visually integrated, intuitive, and seamless. On top of this a new app drawer design is much cleaner, features vertical scrolling, discretely colours itself the same way as your wallpaper, and prioritises your most-used apps at the top. Lastly, Google has added a more seamless homescreen rotation functionality, and options for toggling this on or off.

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Android Marshmallow: Android RAM Manager

No this isn’t a kind of shepherd. The Android RAM Manager keeps a close eye on your phone’s Random Access Memory and shows you a much more detailed background of which apps are most hungry for your phone’s grey matter.

Android Marshmallow: Adoptive Storage

Another one we’ve heard of before, Adoptive Storage allows the Android system to “adopt” an external memory device such as a microSD card and treat it as onboard storage

Android Marshmallow: Dark Theme

Pretty much does what it says on the tin; there’s a dark theme now if you want it!

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Android Marshmallow: Google Now

Plenty of attention has been focused on Google Now, generally with the intention of making it smarter, faster, more responsive and accurate, and overall easier to use and get exactly what you need out of it.

Google says the Google Now suite understands context better than ever before, so for example, if you have a route set up in your Maps already you can ask “how far is it?” and Google Now will know you are referring to the current route’s end destination – you don’t have to be so specific any longer.

Android Marshmallow: Voicemail

Google has expanded voicemail functionality to include a lot more useful details at a glance and allowing you to control your message playback via a slider, pause, delete and much more, rather than having to go through the annoying process of pressing number keys to perform these functions when prompted. This functionality will need to be enabled on a carrier-by-carrier basis, but support is expected to become widespread.

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Android Marshmallow: Status Bar Customisation

The settings menu has been expanded to allow you to directly customise which icons appear in the status bar – don’t want to see a Bluetooth indicator? Toggle it off or on as you wish.

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Android Marshmallow: Android Marshmallow Release Date

According to a report dating September 25, courtesy of MobileSyrup, the existing Nexus 5 and Nexus 6 handsets will be receiving Android Marshmallow by October 5. The info comes via Canadian carrier Telus, which published a software update schedule for several of its devices. Amongst these, the two Nexus devices were mentioned with “Android M” as the new build.

A report on September 29, the same day as Google’s big Marshmallow and Nexus launch, appears to confirm earlier rumours that the new Android build will roll out on October 5. The word comes via Android Police’s sources which state it will be pushed to the Nexus 5 (2013), Nexus 6 (2014), Nexus 7 (2013), Nexus 9, and the Nexus Player. As the report states, the OTA update rollout will probably be quite lumbering over a period of several weeks, but there will be a quicker option to manually update too.

The report also confirms that older models not listed, such as the Nexus 4 and earlier Nexus 7 tablet, will not be upgraded to the new build and will instead remain on Lollipop.

Android Lollipop was a BIG update for Google. The search giant completely redesigned the look and feel of Android under the banner of Material Design, creating a unified “Google Experience” across all platforms including PC, Apple and Microsoft products. Android Marshmallow, however, will be slightly different. First and foremost, it shouldn’t look too different to Lollipop. But where it will differ is in the back-end, which will be completely rejigged, making it tighter, more secure and more power efficient.

Android Pay will also ship inside Android Marshmallow as well. This is why you’ll be seeing A LOT more Android handsets with fingerprint scanners in 2015/16. Beyond this, the update will generally tighten lots up in the background, echoing similar moves Apple is making with its iOS platform inside the upcoming iOS 9 update, which is scheduled to land during Q4 2015.

And in case you forgot the past names of Android builds. Here’s a list of every name Google has ever used, dating right back to 2007: 

  • Alpha
  • Beta
  • Cupcake
  • Donut
  • Eclair
  • Froyo
  • Gingerbread
  • Honeycomb
  • Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Jelly Bean
  • KitKat
  • Lollipop
  • Marshmallow

The Road To Android Marshmallow

Last November Google hit a home run with the Android Lollipop. It had some huge under the hood improvements like the switch from Dalvik to Android Runtime, which greatly improved app performance. Android L also saw the improvement of notifications, allowing them to be seen as banners even within apps and accessible from the lock screen. But the biggest new feature of Android L was its redesigned user interface.

For this interface Google created an all new design language known as Material Design. Material Design took its cues from the Google Now app, which used a card-based layout and the company seemed to achieve both a flat new look while not sacrificing depth. As a Google designer described at the time: “Material has physical surfaces and edges. Seams and shadows provide meaning about what you can touch.”

Google’s Android platform has had more than its fair share of security issues over the years. Some were pretty benign, while others were cause for concern for millions of users the globe over. A lot of these exploits are caused by Android’s fragmented nature; there are still plenty of handsets running Android Ice Cream Sandwich, for instance, and this makes it extremely hard for OEMs to ensure all their code, even year’s old code, is fully up to date with the latest security patches.

Basically, a lot of this has more to do with OEMs than Google. If they looked after their older handsets better, none of this would happen. But as anyone who has owned an Android phone in the past six years will tell you, this just doesn’t happen. You get 12-18 months of support at best, and then you’re on your own.

Still, Google is working away on stuff at present that might one day help. Check out this post from Google’s Android blog, detailing how the Big G will soon begin rolling out monthly security updates to its Nexus handsets and tablets:

“Nexus devices have always been among the first Android devices to receive platform and security updates. From this week on, Nexus devices will receive regular OTA updates each month focused on security, in addition to the usual platform updates. The first security update of this kind began rolling out today, Wednesday August 5th, to Nexus 4, Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 7, Nexus 9, Nexus 10, and Nexus Player. This security update contains fixes for issues in bulletins provided to partners through July 2015, including fixes for the libStageFright issues. At the same time, the fixes will be released to the public via the Android Open Source Project. Nexus devices will continue to receive major updates for at least two years and security patches for the longer of three years from initial availability or 18 months from last sale of the device via the Google Play Store.”

More recently, images of what is said to be the new Nexus handset popped up online inside an official piece of marketing material from Google. In the image you can only see the back of the handset, but if your memory serves you correctly, you will recollect that this exact thing happened prior to the launch of the Nexus 5. But as we said, fans are rarely content for long. There’s already a huge chorus of people chomping at the bit for the next version of Android. Here’s everything we know about it so far.

Here Are Google’s Android M Preview Release Notes 

What’s included

  • Developer Preview 2 includes an updated SDK with system images, documentation, and samples for developing against the latest Android M platform.
  • SDK platform and system images (Nexus and emulator) for building and testing. You can download the updated tools from the SDK Manager, and the system images are available by over-the-air (OTA) update or download (see below).
  • Updated documentation. The Behavior Changes, API Overview, and Permissions documents have been updated to reflect the latest changes in the platform. An updated Developer Documentation download package is available, including full reference docs and API diff reports.
  • Translations of the documentation are now available. Use the language selector at the bottom right corner of any page to switch languages. Note that some of the translated docs are not yet updated for Developer Preview 2 (coming soon).

Android Marshmallow Confirmed For Samsung Galaxy Devices

Samsung’s launched a critically acclaimed range of premium devices in the last eight months, all running on Android Lollipop. We’re used to the firm being pretty on it like a car bonnet when it comes to updating its hardware to new iterations of Google’s software, so it’s not too surprising that there’s some spicy news about its plans for updating to Android Marshmallow already.

According to YouMobile’s inside sources, the list of devices which will be updated to Marshmallow reads as follows:

– Samsung Galaxy Note 5
– Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+
– Samsung Galaxy S6
– Samsung Galaxy S6 Duos
– Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
– Samsung Galaxy Note 4
– Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Duos
– Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
– Samsung Galaxy ALPHA
– Samsung Galaxy Tab A

There’s also an official infographic published on Samung’s webpage showing what we can expect inside the Marshmallow-based build if TouchWiz.

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