10 new features inside Android 6.0 Marshmallow

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Google is now rolling the latest version of its mobile operating system Android 6.0 Marshmallow (Android M). The rollout hits Nexus devices first, for other handsets, it depends on the manufacturer. To help give developers an overview of the new OS we’ve picked out 10 new feature updates to examine in a little more detail:

1. Web experience

Chrome Custom Tabs is a new feature that gives developers a way to harness all of Chrome’s capabilities, while still keeping control of the look and feel of the experience. Chrome Custom Tabs allows apps to open a customized Chrome window on top of the active app, instead of the Chrome app launching separately. This provides a faster and more intuitive user-experience for navigating between apps and the web. Chrome Custom Tabs supports automatic sign-in, saved passwords, autofill and multi-process security to assist the integration of the app and web experience. So if you look at an app such as Pinterest, their custom tab will have a Pinterest share button embedded in and it can also include custom overflow menu options, all without the need for Pinterest developers to build their own web browser.

2. App permissions

App permissions have been overhauled in Android M and you can now choose to accept or deny individual permissions. Permissions have also been simplified and will now be requested the first time you try to use a feature, not at the point of installation. For example if you want to record a voice message, WhatsApp will prompt you with a one-time request for permission to use your mic, if you wish to give it access and record the message, you can, but you don’t have to. In this way, Android M is giving you greater control of the information apps can access. You can modify app permissions at anytime in Settings as well as viewing permissions by type and also see which apps have what permissions granted.

3. App links

Before Android Marshmallow, when a user selected a weblink, Android didn’t know whether to show it in a web browser or in some other app that claims support for the link. This was counteracted with the ‘open with’ dialogue box where you are asked if you would like to open the link, for example, with YouTube or with Chrome. Now App links are being changed in Android 6.0, so that Android has a greater awareness of which apps can open content directly. For example, if you tap a Twitter link in an email the Twitter app will open automatically instead of having to deal with the dialogue box each time.

4. Auto backup and restore for apps

This feature is used in conjunction with Google Drive to automatically backup app data and settings with a file size of 25 MB or less. These backups will occur once a day and will run only when the device is idle and connected to Wi-Fi and power. If you lose your device or delete the app, your previous progress will be restored the next time you install it.

5. New app drawer

This now scrolls vertically instead of horizontally and is set against a white background as opposed to a muted shade of your homepage wallpaper. Additionally, across the top of the menu you will see your four most recently used apps.

6. Mobile payments

This is Google’s response to Apple Pay. Android Pay is designed to make the checkout process easier and faster and it is compatible with any device featuring NFC capabilities (and running 4.4 KitKat or above).

7. Fingerprint support

Android Marshmallow’s fingerprint support has a new functionality that allows fingerprint scanners to be used not only to unlock phones, but to make purchases when shopping and within Google Play Store apps. Your device will need a hardware fingerprint scanner, but with Google’s full support, you can expect to see these appear on many more future devices.

8. Improved cut, copy and paste

In Android Marshmallow, the words ‘cut’, ‘copy’ and ‘paste’ will now float above selected text, making the process much simpler and this new intuitive approach mirrors the iOS way of doing things.

9. Power and charging

Welcome to ‘Doze’ which improves device standby time. It uses motion detectors so that Android can recognize when a device hasn’t been used for a while, saving you battery power. Testing on a Nexus 9, Android M provided twice as much standby time compared to Lollipop. Even in Doze mode, though, Android can still start alarms or notify you of priority notifications.

Android Marshmallow also supports USB Type-C, which provides faster charging and lets users charge other devices with their phone.

10. Google Now

Google Now has been improved. It is now smarter and focuses on three key areas: being aware of different contexts, providing answers and helping you take action. Google’s Knowledge Graph now understands one billion different entities, from sports teams to gas stations, TV shows to recipes.

Google Now is also rolling out a pilot program called Now on Tap with 100 popular apps, so you can ask questions without having to leave the app. This is very useful with apps like Spotify for example, when a song is playing you can ask Google Now, “OK Google, who is this?” without having to leave the app you’re in, Now on Tap will know you’re talking about the musician you’re listening to and provide search results right there and then.

The same goes for the content of emails, for example, if someone asks you a question about a restaurant or to remember to collect something on your way home, Now on Tap can automatically pop up a restaurant card with Maps as well as offering to set a reminder for whatever it was you were supposed to remember to collect.

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Giles

Giles Hirst