Speculation over Android’s new operating system has been going on for months, with tech fans debating possible upgrades, new app arrivals, and, of course, that all important sweets themed name. Well, the wait is finally over, and Google has revealed all. Android 6.0 will be nicknamed ‘Marshmallow’ (so if your guess was ‘Mars’, ‘Milkshake’, or ‘Meringue’ you’ve lost that wager), and it will feature a number of interesting, if not necessarily earth shattering, upgrades. Android 6.0 has completed the Beta testing stage, and it will begin rolling out to the general public by year’s end. So, only one question remains – “What can you expect from Marshmallow, and when will you get the upgrade?’. Well, maybe two questions…
An Incremental Upgrade
Like Apple’s recent iOS 9 upgrade, Android’s Marshmallow concentrates more on tweaking several key features than on redesigning the whole system. Aside from fixing a few bugs (which is to be expected with any OS upgrade), Google has focused on bringing some much needed performance enhancements to the venerable operating system.
- Doze – With Marshmallow Google has turned their attention to power consumption, working to extend battery life for devices running Android OS. Doze is a new power saving mode which, using motion detection, determines when a phone is not in use. It then boots the device into a deep sleep, preventing apps from cycling and updating, thus minimising battery consumption. Tests with the Nexus 9 have extended battery life by as much as two hours, though it is expected results will vary greatly depending on the user’s brand of smartphone.
- USB-C Support – Marshmallow will include support for USB type C connectors, which will allow users to fully recharge their smartphones and tablets three to five times faster than before.
- New App Permissions – Android’s Marshmallow is changing the way devices handle app permissions. Rather than ask users for permission to use certain features at time of installation, Android M Apps will now request permission for each feature the first time it is being accessed.
- Fingerprint Sensor – Android Marshmallow will bring standardised support for fingerprint sensors, delivering greater simplicity and improved security to compatible mobile devices running the latest operating system. Undoubtedly Google is hoping the enhancements will encourage the use of their Android Pay mobile payment system.
- Now on Tap – Now on Tap is basically an extension of Google Now, which delivers additional references concerning a given user query. Now on Tap will make the feature available throughout the OS with an extended press of the virtual home button.
Marshmallow Gets a New Look
In addition to some upgraded features, Marshmallow brings a new look to the Android operating system. A serene aerial image of a coastline replaces the old abstract wallpaper, while keeping the same basic home page layout. The App Tray has been changed to scroll vertically, and a search bar has been added to help users locate individual apps more quickly. Four ‘preferred’ apps are pinned to the bottom of the home screen, as determined by frequency of use (in essence an automated favourites bar). Volume controls have also been redesigned, allowing users to adjust media playback and alarm volume by simply tapping or sliding their finger. It’s a cleaner and more responsive interface than has been included in older versions of the Android operating system. Overall, Marshmallow’s new look is a welcome improvement over older iterations of Google’s OS.
When to Expect Android’s Marshmallow
Beta testing has been completed on Android’s Marshmallow OS, and it is slated to begin rolling out to customers by the end of this year. That being said, as is typical with Android updates, distribution is likely to be slow and somewhat staggered. Current generation smartphones from Samsung (Note 4, Note 5, and S6 lines) and Nexus (models 5, 6, and 9) are expected to receive the upgrade beginning in September. Older devices, and those from smaller manufacturers, will have to wait for the update until early 2016, although even this is not guaranteed. As a general rule of thumb, if you are currently running Android Lollipop you should expect to receive the Marshmallow upgrade. If you are running an older version, such as KitKat, you may be out of luck.
Android’s latest upgrade may not shake the foundations of Google’s popular operating system, but it does address some key performance issues. If nothing else, the new Doze power saving mode and support for USB-C charging should appeal to those who have been waiting anxiously for Android to improve battery performance across compatible devices. Add on a new look, improved app management, and the presence of Android Pay, and you have an operating system that’s as sweet as its name.