Mobility

Android Marshmallow: The smart person's guide

This comprehensive guide covers the must-know details about Android Marshmallow.

Image: Claudia Cruz/CNET

Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) makes massive strides in polishing the dull sheen left behind by Android 5.0 (Lollipop). In fact, Marshmallow is the best incarnation of Android yet.

Here's a look at what Marshmallow has to offer. We'll update this guide as new information about Marshmallow becomes available.

Executive summary

  • What it is: Marshmallow is version 6.0 of the Android platform. It significantly improves on Android 5.0 in matters of UI, security, and especially Google integration.
  • Why it matters: Any Android user who has concerns over battery life and security should be scrambling to get their hands on Marshmallow.
  • Who this affects: Any Android device user who already enjoys Lollipop and would like more control over app permissions, better Google integration, and better battery life.
  • When this is happening: Marshmallow rollout began in October 2015.
  • How to get it: You can either wait for an Over The Air (OTA) update, or you can take the steps to load the firmware manually.

What is it?

Marshmallow is the sixth release of the Android platform that runs on devices manufactured by:

  • ASUS
  • Google/Nexus
  • HTC
  • Huawei
  • LG
  • Motorola
  • NVIDIA
  • OnePlus
  • Sony
  • Xiaomi

The notable features that make Marshmallow a must-have for Android users include the following.

  • App Permissions: Finally, Google has seen to it to allow end users to manage app permissions (without a third-party software). With this feature you can disable permissions for each app by feature such as Body sensors, Calendar, Camera, and Contacts (Figure A).

Figure A

marshmallowa.png
Marshmallow app permissions on a Verizon-branded Nexus 6.
Image: Jack Wallen/TechRepublic

  • Google Now On Tap: Every Android user is familiar with Google Now. You ask Google Now a question, and it will answer. You tell Google Now to schedule an appointment, and it will do it. Google Now On Tap takes this to a whole new level. When you're in an app screen and you long press the Home button, Google Now On Tap will present cards related to whatever you are viewing on the screen. This is an incredible breakthrough for those that want instant information about specific subjects.
  • Quick Settings: Android has enjoyed Quick Settings for some time, but out of the box, you were limited to what Android offered. With Marshmallow (thanks to the UI tuner) you can now add/remove Quick Settings to the pull-down notifications and even arrange them exactly as you choose.
  • Google Settings: Unlike previous iterations (when Google Settings was an app), you will now find quick access to Google Settings within Settings | Personal | Google.
  • Intelligent battery management: Android Marshmallow brings a significant improvement in the realm of battery life, thanks to two new features: Doze and App Standby. Doze offers intelligent battery life management by knowing when your device hasn't been used for a longer period of time and sending it into hibernation. Prior to the addition of Doze, Android would use up to 15-25% of your battery overnight; now, that percentage has dropped to the 3-5% range. App Standby functions similarly to the Greenify app by identifying apps that haven't been used in a while and placing them into a deep sleep (the equivalent of disabling them) so they cannot use system resources.
  • Type-C and reverse charging: If your device makes use of the USB Type-C interface, Android will allow for reverse charging — meaning your Marshmallow device can be used to charge other devices.
  • Adaptable storage devices: The issue of microSD support has been a hotbed of contention over the last year, and with Marshmallow that all changes for the better. You can set up your microSD cards as either portable storage or internal storage. Note: If you set it up as internal storage, it will be encrypted and, if removed, the data will be erased.
  • Improved auto backup: Marshmallow makes it much easier to understand how the automatic backup works and even now backs up app data so passwords, settings, and more will be retained.
  • Full disk encryption: Device security is at a prime now. If you purchase a new device running Android Marshmallow, full disk encryption will be enabled by default. Devices upgraded to Marshmallow will have encryption disabled by default.
  • Silent mode returns: Although I've been a fan of Interruptions since it was introduced in Lollipop, Google listened to the outcry over Silent Mode, and they brought it back. Best of all, Android users now have both. You can quickly set your device on Silent, or you can set up the Interruptions feature.
  • Improved text selection: Selecting text for sharing or copying/pasting has never been great in Android; Marshmallow makes solid improvements in this area. When you highlight a selection of text, a new popup menu will appear asking want you want to do with the text (Figure B).

Figure B

marshmallowb.png
Improvements to the text highlight feature.
Image: Jack Wallen/TechRepublic

Additional resources:

Why does it matter?

Android 6.0 is a significant step forward for the Android ecosystem, as it brings to the fore solutions for security and storage issues that have haunted the platform for some time. This iteration of Android also exemplifies that Google listens to what consumers want. By bringing back features that went away in Lollipop and improving upon them, Android Marshmallow has turned out to be the best incarnation of Android yet.

Additional resources:

Who does this affect?

The release of Marshmallow affects any Android user with a compatible device. Users whose devices are running Lollipop should check daily for the upgrade. As soon as you see the upgrade available, run it.

The devices that are certain to receive Marshmallow include the following.

ASUS

  • PadFone PF500KL
  • ZenFone 2 ZE550ML/ZE551ML
  • ZenFone 2 Deluxe / Special Edition ZE551ML
  • ZenFone 2 Laser ZE500KG/ZE500KL/ZE550KL/ZE600KL/ZE601KL
  • ZenFone Selfie ZD551KL

Nexus

  • Nexus 5
  • Nexus 6
  • Nexus 7 (2013) WLAN
  • Nexus 7 (2013) LTE
  • Nexus 9
  • Nexus Player

HTC

  • HTC One M9
  • HTC One M8
  • HTC One M9+
  • HTC One E9+
  • HTC One E9
  • HTC One ME
  • HTC One E8
  • HTC One M8 Eye
  • HTC One Butterfly 3
  • HTC Desire 826
  • HTC One 820
  • HTC Desire 816

Huawei

  • Honor 7
  • Honor 6+
  • Honor 6
  • Honor 4X
  • Honor 7I aka Huawei ShotX
  • Huawei P8
  • Huawei P8 lite
  • Huawei Mate S
  • Huawei Mate 7
  • Huawei Ascend G7

LG

  • G3
  • G4

Motorola

  • Moto X Pure Edition
  • Moto X Play
  • Moto X Style
  • Moto X (2014)
  • Moto G (2015)
  • Moto G (2014)
  • Moto G (2014) LTE
  • Moto E (2015)

Samsung

  • Galaxy Note 5
  • Galaxy Note Edge
  • Galaxy Note 4
  • Galaxy Note 4 Duos
  • Galaxy S6 Edge+
  • Galaxy S6 Edge
  • Galaxy S6
  • Galaxy S6 Duos
  • Galaxy S5
  • Galaxy S5 NEO
  • Galaxy S5 LTE-A
  • Galaxy Alpha
  • Galaxy Tab A
  • Galaxy Tab S2 9.7
  • Galaxy Tab S2 8.0

Sony

  • Xperia Z5
  • Xperia Z5 Premium
  • Xperia Z5 Compact
  • Xperia Z3+
  • Xperia Z3
  • Xperia Z3 Compact
  • Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
  • Xperia Z2
  • Xperia Z2 Tablet
  • Xperia M4 Aqua
  • Xperia C5 Ultra
  • Xperia C4
  • Xperia Z4 Tablet
  • Xperia M5

Xiaomi

  • MI 4
  • MI Note

Additional resources:

How can you get it?

Android Marshmallow began deploying in October 15, 2015, though the OTA upgrades have been very slow to release primarily because of carrier soak testing.

If you become impatient for the upgrade, you can always load it manually. This isn't a difficult task, but it's one that must be run carefully. If you have a Nexus device and have yet to get the OTA upgrade, you can download the correct factory image and, using the adb tool, manually install the upgrade.

Additional resources:

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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