Android 6.0 Marshmallow – New features explained

by: Joe HindyOctober 9, 2015

After months of waiting, the beginning has arrived. We’ve been excited about the changes that Android 6.0 Marshmallow is bringing to the table. Not just new features, but bug fixes and stability improvements over Lollipop as well. The first official builds of Android 6.0 Marshmallow have hit and it’s time to see what this operating system can really offer!

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Changes to the UI

Let’s start with the UI because not a lot has changed over Lollipop. The home screens are set up the same way with new screens being added at your request with Google Now off to the left side. The quick settings are still just a swipe away and even the Settings menu is set up pretty much like it was before. If you’re coming from stock Lollipop, you should have no trouble finding your way around.

There are a few changes that are more notable than others. The apps section of the Settings menu has been changing to accommodate the new permissions system which we’ll talk about more in a minute. The priority notification settings that caused quite a stir in Lollipop have now been relegated to the Quick Settings. Other minor changes include a more colorful Google Search bar, a new app drawer which we’ll talk about in a moment, and dragging app icons around the home screen now provides a shortcut to uninstall.

There are also a host of new animations that are too numerous to list here. Some of the more notable ones include the new Google Search animations and a more streamlined set of animations for opening and closing the app drawer and applications. Text selection also got a slight revamp with a little box that pops up now with the usual set of controls.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

New app drawer

One of the bigger changes in Lollipop is the new app drawer. The horizontal app drawer which has ruled the day since the good old days of Jelly Bean is now gone, replaced with a vertical app drawer. This allows for much faster browsing of your applications and puts an end to scrolling many pages horizontally to find the app you want.

In addition, you can now grab the scroll bar on the right side and scroll quickly through the apps with a letter popping up to denote where you are in the list. We found this helpful if you’re looking for something quickly and it matches the kind of mechanics found in the Contacts app, most music apps, and any other app with long lists of items.

Perhaps the most prominent change is the addition of an app search bar at the top. Using this, you can quickly tap in a few letters and find the app you’re looking for. This is the quickest way yet to find something buried in the app drawer and it’s definitely a welcome addition.

Google Now on Tap review

Google Now on Tap

Google Now on Tap is the latest big feature to hit Google Now. The premise of Now on Tap is to give you information far more quickly than if you were to search for it in a web browser. For instance, if someone mentions a place, you don’t have to leave the messaging app, travel to the browser, and look it up. Instead, you long press the home button and Now on Tap pops up to tell you all about that place.

For now, it’s a hit and miss service. This was expected because it is brand new and Google is still adding things to the already impressive list of recognizable keywords that Now on Tap can utilize. We expect this to become better over time or at least much better by the time non-Nexus devices start picking up Marshmallow. You’ll have to browse through the Google Now settings to enable it, but otherwise it’s very easy to use.

Google Now best news apps for androidSee also: Google Now on Tap quick look8

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Chrome Custom Tabs

Chrome Custom Tabs is something we’ve not heard a lot about since it was announced at Google I/O earlier this year. The premise for Chrome Custom Tabs is simple as it provides developers a way to have an in-app browser without having to build their own. It essentially opens a Chrome Browser tab inside of the application that developers can control and customize to suit their app’s needs and thus eliminate the half-baked, usually slow built-in browsers like you see in apps like Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and others.

Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of examples available. Ars Technica had to build an app using an open source demo in order to preview it but we managed to find at least one application that uses it right now. It’s not altogether different from most in-app browsers except you’ll have features from Chrome baked in such as auto-complete, various website cookies, and log-in history so you don’t have to do that over again. It is infinitely better than custom built-in browsers and we hope it gets a higher rate of adoption.

You can easily identify apps using Chrome Custom Tabs by looking in the overflow menu where you’ll see a small banner that says “Powered by Chrome”.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

App permissions exist now

Having more control over app permissions has been a long time request of many power users. In Marshmallow, those wishes have been granted and the new permission system has been released in Marshmallow in full force. You now have more control over app permissions than you’ve ever had before. If you use the gear icon in the top right corner of the Apps section in Settings, you can see which apps use certain permissions on your device.

In the Settings menu, you can access application permissions and opt to turn certain ones on or off as needed. To avoid any potential conflicts with turning off a permission, Google has a built-in system that feeds fake data to the app so it keeps on chugging along as expected. That means you shouldn’t have to worry about legacy apps crashing when you disable permissions. That said, we still don’t recommend you turn off vital ones like the Camera permission for the Camera app.

Another addition includes pop up boxes that will show up whenever an app wants to access a permission for the first time. The most frequent example is the Location permission as apps all over Android seem to love asking for it at various times. You can confirm or deny permission when it pops up. This is an amazing addition because it allows even the less tech-savvy to engage with application permission regularly and they can prevent apps from having those permissions if needed.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Doze Mode

Doze Mode is a new addition to Marshmallow that’s supposed to help improve standby time. The idea is that once the phone has been off for a while, it’ll enter into Doze Mode. In this mode, it will ignore pretty much everything and just kind of exist in a state of stasis. Screenshots and reports have shown this can keep even the Nexus 5 alive for days, sometimes weeks, at a time.

Unfortunately, there are a few issues with this one. The device has to be off long enough to engage Doze Mode which really only happens if you’re one of those few people that don’t check their phones at work. The other is that Doze Mode can be ignored by applications if the app is set to priority. Since developers choose whether or not their app qualifies as a priority in Doze Mode, we expect most apps to simply bypass this battery saving function almost entirely.

Still, it’s a nice addition overall and we hope to see it expanded and maybe improved in future iterations of Android.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Volume has returned to normal

One of the less important complaints about Lollipop was its newfangled volume slider system. Instead of the customary way this used to work, with a silent mode, Google added in a Priority Mode where only certain apps, mostly alarms, could send you notifications and a Do Not Disturb Mode which silenced everything, including alarms. The problem was this was way too much information to deal with in a volume slider.

In Marshmallow, the volume slider returns to its old school ways. Lowering the volume all the way puts you in vibrate mode with one more lowering bringing you to a modified Do Not Disturb Mode that lets only alarms through. The aforementioned Priority Mode has been sent to the Quick Settings where you can tweak it there. This is, in my opinion, the perfect compromise between the way things used to be and the way things were in Lollipop. It’s a subtle change, but a welcome one.

For what it’s worth, tapping the icon on the right side of the volume slider bar still lets you change the system volume and media volume which was an addition in Android 5.1 Lollipop.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Fingerprint API brings a lot to the table

One of the more exciting APIs that should make its way across the Android ecosystem is the new Fingerprint API. There aren’t a lot of uses for this one yet but that’s going to change. The new Nexus devices both have Fingerprint scanners that can be used to turn on the device and bypass the lock screen. You can also use the fingerprint scanner in Android Pay.

This one is going to take a while to shine because it is so new. The API itself gives developers the capacity to fully integrate fingerprint scanning into their application in a variety of ways. You’ll be able to unlock apps like Android Pay, pay for items, and more. Really, the sky is the limit here and it’ll be fun to see the creative ways this gets implemented in the future.

nexus 6p first look aa (20 of 23)See also: Nexus 6P hands-on and first look13

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

App Links

App Links is another feature announced back at Google I/O. This one is pretty simple to explain. Remember all those times a box popped up asking which app you’d like to use for a link you clicked on? Well App Links aims to remove that as much as possible by giving apps the ability to take ownership of their own links. For instance, if you click on a Twitter link, the Twitter app will just automatically open instead of asking you first.

This will save some time in the long run and help applications keep control over their own content. The box will still pop up in some instances, like if you have two browsers installed. In most cases, though, the app that owns the link should automatically grab it up and open the app itself. It’s a small thing, but it contributes to a more seamless experience between Android and applications.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Under the hood and other changes

There were plenty of other, smaller changes and additions that are worth noting even if they are minor in terms of scope and every day use. Some of them include:

  • A new API that lets other assistant apps do what Google Now on Tap does. Thus, you could use something like Hound and it could read the text on your screen just like Now on Tap. This gives you the option to choose your personal assistant as long as you don’t mind it reading what’s on your screen.
  • Auto Backup is a new addition to Marshmallow that improves over the previous backup and restore functions in Android. With Auto Backup, it will backup the majority of your data along with the app. That means when you restore it, you’ll be able to continue more or less where you left off before. It’s better than it was before and a welcome change.
  • Adoptable Storage allows you to insert an SD card into your device and then make it work like your internal storage. That means if you have 32GB of on-board storage and a 32GB SD card, you can use adoptable storage to essentially give you 64GB of on-board storage. There are some caveats and bad things happen if the SD card dies or gets removed, but it’s definitely something to consider if you have a device with an SD card slot.
  • App Standby is a feature that hasn’t gotten a whole lot of press. This feature essentially takes applications you don’t use and puts them in a sort of standby mode, rendering them unable to stay open while sucking down processing power, data, and memory. Do note that this feature only occurs on battery power. When you’re plugged in, these apps can more or less roam free again.
  • Direct Share is a new sharing feature enabled in Marshmallow. What it does is remembers who you share things with and in what apps you do your sharing. Over time, it will begin recommending people you can directly share to over the app you generally use to communicate with them. It’s a small thing, but it could save a lot of time if you always share to the same people.
  • Some new devices are now natively supported in Android, including MIDI devices and the Bluetooth Stylus. We imagine the Galaxy Note series will take advantage of the latter next year.
  • There is now a System UI tuner. You can access this by long-pressing the gear icon in the Quick Settings. This allows you to organize your Quick Settings, remove buttons from Quick Settings, and enable a battery percentage read-out on your status bar. It’s not overly useful, but it’s there and fun to play with. Just be warned that it can break stuff.

Of course, there were tons upon tons of other, smaller improvements including bug fixes, security patches, and a lot more. If you’d like to discuss them more, leave us a comment and talk to us about it!

samsung-galaxy-fame-microsdSee also: Diving into M: Android M lets you move apps to microSD thanks to “adoptable” storage58

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Stuff they could have added or done better

Of course, no operating system is perfect and Android 6.0 Marshmallow has its share of flaws too. Some of them include:

  • There still isn’t a clear-all button in the recent apps. That means you still have to clear these out one at a time. Of course, there’s a debate as to whether this does anything at all but a clear-all button seems like such a minor thing to not include.
  • Unfortunately, Doze Mode seems destined to have problems. Developers have control over whether or not their apps qualify as “priority” in Doze Mode and we imagine most developers will make theirs a priority. This is likely negate many of the good things about Doze.
  • On the lock screen, the left side shortcut used to be to get to your phone dialer. Instead, it’s now a shortcut to voice search. We understand Google wants us to use voice search more often, but removing the phone dialer from the lock screen feels awkward.
  • They removed the dark theme and all dark theme aficionados were disappointed.
  • Multi-window support didn’t make it in time for Marshmallow, but Google teases us by having at least part of the framework in there which can be enabled. Think of it like ART support in Kit Kat. It’s there, you can turn it on, but it doesn’t work all that well yet.
  • A lot of Google’s security improvements won’t translate to OEM skinned devices. It’s been continuously reported that Google wants to do monthly security patches and there are parts of the OS where you can see that. As one could guess, these monthly patches will likely take eternity to reach devices assuming they reach them at all.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Wrap up

Overall, Marshmallow is a big step forward over Lollipop. There isn’t much change in the UI but we can’t expect a design overhaul every year. That’s unreasonable. Under the hood, Google has shored up a lot of the weaknesses and complaints of Lollipop while adding some truly unique, useful, and functional new features. Is it perfect? Of course not, but it’s a lot closer than Lollipop was. If you agree or disagree, tell us why in the comments! To see even more of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, check out the video at the top or the gallery below.

  • Guest123

    Should allow users the option to select how long the phone is in standby before Doze kick in and also a blanket setting that override all over apps that are given priority to bypass Doze.

    • Badelhas

      Lets hope someone creates an APP for that, one that works without root.

  • Thomas Cai Jinzhan

    Is Doze Mode manually triggered or enabled by default regardless? Please advise.

    • A.M

      Doze happens when the phone it isn’t in a constant state of movement such as when your sleeping studying watching a movie etc

      • Daggett Beaver

        “Wow, my battery lasts longer when I don’t use my phone!”

        A breakthrough in battery saving technology.

        • ziplock9000

          Just because you are not using your phone does not mean it’s not working.

          • skyelm

            Yeah right.. You know what he means. My LG G4 is not working when i sleep. I sleep 100% battery 6hours later 100% battery. So Doze wont help me cause i have no problem when the phone is sitting there. Doze should work when i’m actively using the phone to tweak screen,ram,cpu usage and thus save battery not while i’m asleep.

            Come up with a tuning algorithm that sits on top of all OEM implementation to control everything from there. Google can just test all CPU and find right balances for usage and tweak it like that. Have a toggle for performance for the others that love it. This should be built in not some app that support some rooted phones.

        • м ч × Φ м α † ● s ı s

          I literally LOL’d.. u made my day, thx!

  • Oli72

    Next business phone 5x.

  • John Michael Rivas Hamor

    how about zenfone 2

  • JBMTechTycoon

    I’m wondering if when it’s in the modified DND mode, will it let notification lights come through? In my opinion, that was a critical piece that needed to be addressed along with the alarms. I want to be able to use my volume rocker to silence my phone (no vibrate, nothing), but still see notifications for texts, missed calls, alarms, etc. I understand that I MAY have the ability to tweak that but why should I have to tweak something that used to be super simple. Let that be the simple part and let me tweak other volume settings. I can’t wait to see more videos showing how the volume rocker works in Marshmallow.

    • Mary Gonzalez

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  • Badelhas

    Great article.
    I dont believe google has solved the main problems, the one that affect the non nexus phones (most of android phones out there) which are: security, battery life and lag that only goes away when you close all of the recent apps.

    • Meri

      Battery life seems better, I’ve been working 12 hours recently, started at 90ish percent battery, at home about 13 hours later still had 28% of battery left – I’ve done some browsing, emailing and phonecalls during that day.
      Security is quite high already – rooting is harder, you can have encryption on and password required to boot the device.
      Lag – most of the time phone’s issue, I have last years nexus 6 and there’s barely any lag. Not to mention that in fact you should not force close apps and let android do that whenever it pleases.

      • Badelhas

        That´s not what I experience on my M8 since January, when it was updated to Lollipop. Used to never have lag, no I have to clean recent apps from time to time. Also, and more importantly, battery life is just so-so now, used to be great since I got to bed with 40% left every night. And before someone asks, yes I did 2 factory resets already.

        • Meri

          Yar we’re talking about Marshmallow here. On a sidenote – never had problems after lolipop update on samsung’s s5, nexus 7 and 6 as long as I remembered to clean up the cache after updates.

      • Badelhas

        Did that along with 2 factory reset. To no avail.

        • Meri

          Maybe your phone manufacturer addes something to their android that screws up the phone? Try looking around for a android rom that is as close to stock as possible :)

          • Badelhas

            Also tried that. Are you saying that you noticed no difference in battery life from kitkat to Lollipop? ?

          • Meri

            Kitkat->Lolipop – no difference on nexus7 (still terribru battery life), noticable increase on samsungs s5.
            Lolipop->Marshmallow – (nexus6) huge increase at night time and when phone is put aside, no big difference otherwise.

          • Badelhas

            Thanks for your input. Like I said, I am sincerely hoping that htc can solve the problems I’ve been having when they launch the Marshmallow update for my m8.

    • JosephHindy

      A lot of the issues came from bad ram management in Android, something which should be cleaned up in Marshmallow.

      • Badelhas

        I hope so. Used to love and recommend my HTC One M8 to everyone when I was on kitkat, prasing battery life. Since the Lollipop update in January I have a different opinion about the device. I still like it but battery life is just so-so now.

  • Google better double time.
    Windows phone 10 has promising features that could be a game changer – a computer in your pocket.
    My Note3 is again draining its battery even of how careful I was in selecting apps to install. It was performing good for a week after I did factory reset. And also I don’t see ‘ultra battery saving mode’ in my Note3 while it is available in the cheapest Samsung smartphone models.

  • Daggett Beaver

    No clear all in Marshmallow? Was it there in stock Lollipop? I’ve had clear all since forever on the Note 4, now running 5.1.1.

    “I want my phone to pop up a dialog asking me to enable permission for a feature when my app first tries to use that feature.” …said no consumer ever.

    • JosephHindy

      If you’re running 5.1.1 then you’re on CM12 which has added the button or you’re on one of the new builds of Touchwiz which has also added the button. Google’s stock Android doesn’t have this at all.

      • Daggett Beaver

        Sprint updated the Note 4 to 5.1.1 back in early August, which is what I’m using. I didn’t know it was missing in stock, thanks.

        • JosephHindy

          Yeah no problem, literally every ROM dev and OEM added the button because it just makes sense, but nooooo Google HAS to be different lol.

    • м ч × Φ м α † ● s ı s

      Actually, even though I had never said it before, I do say that now.. of course I’ll admit I’m a somewhat paranoid consumer, but this new permission manager is not only welcomed by me but actually among my personal top 3 favourite marshmallow features.. it’s kind of my silent, sweet revenge from app developers who even deleted my play store reviews where I demanded an explanation for permissions that didn’t make sense (or that were even suspicious)

  • Name goes here

    Joe definitely had his caffeine before recording that video. Overly amped.

    • Daggett Beaver

      LOL – I like Joe and his videos. But I’ll admit he often sounds like he’s doing an impression of a salesperson on an Oxyclean style commercial.

      • JosephHindy

        Lmao, I don’t even drink caffeine. At all. I quit 5 years ago :P

  • abqnm

    Chrome Custom Tabs are not a Marshmallow feature. They’re a Chrome feature. They’re already in use and work on Lollipop for sure (in one right now on 5.1.1) but in pretty sure they are supported on 4.1+.

    • skyelm

      Exactly… It seems bloggers don’t know the difference between Android and Google’s apps. Review AOSP v6…. The real Android all OEM will get. Dont tell us about separate apps we can download later or remove

      • JosephHindy

        Keep in mind that many features targeted at Marshmallow are backwards compatible. Other examples include the Google Launcher, Google Apps, and others. Just because they work on older version of Android doesn’t mean they aren’t “Marshmallow features”, it means those features can work on previous version of Android or can rely on a version of Google Play Services that is compatible with previous version of Android. This isn’t the first time either as many Android features targeted at a new release see some sort of proliferation on previous versions.

        Not every new feature needs a new API and that means previous SDKs can handle the new features. That doesn’t make them “not new features”, it just makes them backwards compatible features.

        Nevertheless, these are targeted at Marshmallow and thus deserve to be a part of the conversation when talking about Marshmallow. Especially considering OEMs aren’t using “AOSP V6” unless they’re Amazon or (eventually) Cyanogen. They’re using Google’s Android with the Play Store, Play Services, and Google’s embedded apps (as per the agreements) which makes their contributions through their apps as much a part of Android as anything else. At least to the vast majority of the mainstream.

        • м ч × Φ м α † ● s ı s

          But the chrome custom tabs already existed and worked before Google I/O, and the apps you mention as having “half-baked, usually slow built-in browsers” actually use the Android System WebView (wich is a system app upgradeable from the play store)

          • JosephHindy

            Yeah, and Android Webview is garbage. Just because Google made it doesn’t make it instant gold, just look at the train wreck that was Lollipop. Or those half baked apps coming out of Google Labs these days.

            As for Chrome Custom Tabs, the feature was expanded and made better. Google has a long history of recreating something, making it better/easier to use later on, and releasing it as a new feature. Just look at Google Photos (which used to be Google+ photos, which, frankly, used to be Picasa) or Google Keep (which is actually just a part of Google Drive). Creating something new out of something old doesn’t invalidate the new thing, it just means there’s a history there :) nothing wrong with that.

          • м ч × Φ м α † ● s ı s

            thx for the reply, and especially for calling lollipop a train wreck -I thought I was part of a very small minority who consider it such.. I know it’s not instant gold, I just wanted to clarify that they’re not technically app built-in browsers and that custom tabs have been around for quite a while (even though I don’t know the history too well).. anyway, let’s hope that the M turns out to be better than what the L was.. cheers

          • JosephHindy

            I agree :) cheers indeed!

          • м ч × Φ м α † ● s ı s

            PS: btw I forgot to report I haven’t been able to watch the video, is there some kind of geolocation restriction or something?

          • JosephHindy

            Shouldn’t be any restrictions of that nature on Android Authority. I’ll send it up the chain and see if we can’t find a problem on our end. Thanks for letting me know! The video is also on YouTube :)

          • м ч × Φ м α † ● s ı s

            Oh ok, I’ll search for it.. thx again

  • Steve Brain

    Hugely detailed, thanks for the article Joe.

  • Kevin N

    Like the video but maybe a little less coffee before the next one:)

    • JosephHindy

      You’ll be amused to know that I don’t consume caffeine at all. That’s all meeeee!

  • Nisarg

    I need help I have updated to Marshmallow and since then apps like Instagram,Filpkart, sanpdeal etc. Are crashing I have restarted my mobile also but nothing happened they still crash.. Please anyone tell me what to do

    • KVragec

      You should do a factory reset. I do that after every major update and never had a app crash

  • Gaurav Pandey

    Sepearte Volume controls please.
    For Media, Notification and Ringtone and Other (Alaram/Reminder). I want to my ringer to be full but notification volume to be less.

    • м ч × Φ м α † ● s ı s

      hTc sense offers that option

  • Mikey B

    Why arent wired head phones with remotes Universal???????! Like how can Samsung get it and no one else?

  • Diamen91

    gosh, this guy needs to calm down and drink some camomile!

  • Eduard

    I use this app that basically contains a book, i use it to learn a programming language, anyway from time to time a pop-up ADD opens in full screen over the current app, even if that book type app that generated the ADD is in background and i’m currently in another app, anyway, how much would you bet that the ADDs frameworks (and their usage in all these add-supported applications) will render Doze Mode unusable ? :) Right now that app will wake my device from time to time to show me that freaking add (and from time to time that ADD is a video – with sound) – if android would allow the user to set Doze Mode exception/priority and make sure to enforce that policy it would be golden. These is such thing as overly-smash-the-phone-or-uninstall-the-app-anoying-And-super-battery-draining advertising and that is not nice.

  • Shuren Inferno-Flames

    i was hoping that battery problems were solved from lollipop to marshmallo T.T

  • Luka Koprivica

    That volume rocker settings are tremendously stupid… I want to lower the volume to mute, totally, not to priority mode! And I am not alone, for sure.
    Only viable option is to force all producers to implement switch like OnePlus have done it.

  • Rindaman

    When I left the phone on the table, and I shake it… or when I move it a little bit, then the screen goes on and shows a new black lock screen. I hate this feature. Is the any way to disable it? Thanks.

    • AE

      Settings–>Display–>Ambient display toggle OFF

  • dvdlgh

    Love the app permissions.

  • DosCentavosMios

    Good to see the app permissions. Android still falls short of Apple when it comes to privacy though. There are still all the Google “services” that run by default and have permissions for ID, contacts, location, etc. and Google’s privacy policy allows them to collect personal info via “services that run on Android”. Apple doesn’t do that.