What you didn’t know about Marshmallow
Android Marshmallow isn’t an overhaul of everything you thought you knew about Android. Rather, it’s a refinement and extension of the core features and functionality of Android Lollipop. In this Android Marshmallow review, I take a look at the major features of Google’s latest OS version to let you know where it hits, where it misses, and where it has room to improve.
Android Marshmallow design
Android Marshmallow is visually similar to its predecessor, Lollipop, in many ways. Google’s Material Design language is now more pervasive than ever before and the main areas of the UI – settings, notifications shade and navigation – remain the same. But Marshmallow does have some differences in appearance and new features.
The Marshmallow lock screen is almost identical to Lollipop’s, complete with expandable notifications and app shortcuts. This small update is the first clue as to just how integral voice commands are to Marshmallow.
The app drawer in Marshmallow went through a couple of changes during the developer preview process and appears in the final version as a vertical scrolling list as opposed to the paginated horizontal list from Lollipop. You can scroll through the list or use a new scrubber bar on the right to jump to a particular letter of the alphabet. An endless vertical list means it’s easy to swipe right to the end of your app list – certainly moreso than swiping through multiple cards in Lollipop.
RAM usage has typically been the reserve of Android geeks rather than regular users. Marshmallow aims to put RAM management a little more in the foreground by giving it its own dedicated settings menu area called Memory. In this section you can view memory use by the system and individual apps over different time frames, which should hopefully make more people familiar with what is normal behavior for their device.
This is one of the unsexy but incredibly important parts of Android Marshmallow. The Android system now offers user-facing controls over some, but not all, app permissions. While iOS has had this feature for years, Android is only now catching up.
Android Marshmallow introduces system-level fingerprint support via the new fingerprint API. Both new Nexus devices have a fingerprint scanner. The rollout of Android Pay and other touchless payment systems that rely on fingerprint scanners for authentication can now be handled by Android itself rather than a manufacturer add-on. Fortunately, Google has set minimum standards for scanner accuracy in order to pass its device certification.
Automatic app backup
Historically, Android has offered a pretty weak app backup solution. The Backup and reset section in Lollipop was opt-in, vague and incomplete. Marshmallow can now automatically back up both your apps and data, so any apps restored from a backup will be the same as they were before – you’ll be signed in and right where you left off.
Smart Lock has been around since Lollipop, but it bears repeating now that smartwatches are more prevalent. Smart Lock on Marshmallow provides options for unlocking your device or keeping your device unlocked depending on various intuitive scenarios. Smart Lock is found in the security settings and requires the use of some form of lock screen security.
I’ve complained before about Android’s awful multi-tasking abilities. It works, but it’s clumsy, slow and not very intuitive. Marshmallow attempts to make things a little more intuitive, but unfortunately doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head. Direct Share is a new feature. It doesn’t work everywhere yet, but the idea is that when you hit the share picker, instead of just seeing a list of apps, you’ll see some contacts at the top as well.
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