Android 6.0 Marshmallow review: S'more to love

Android 6.0 Marshmallow review: S'more to love

October 5, 2015, will be remembered as the day when Google decided it is high time it released the Android 6.0 Marshmallow factory images onto the world. That's right, they are up for a couple of compatible Nexus devices — namely Nexus 5,6,7, and 9 — and just anyone rocking one of the mentioned handsets might get themselves immersed in the marshmallow-y taste of Android 6.0. 

Eager to check out all the goodies that Google demonstrated a couple of months ago, we quickly flashed it on our trusty Nexus 6 and delved to find out if it's as good as we expected. True, most of the new features have been around for some time, given that Mountain View released a total of three developer preview versions of the OS; still, we're rather impatient to finally experience the real deal the way Google intended. 

So, sit around the campfire, grab a roasting fork in hand, and hear our impressions of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. 

The subtle interface changes


Android 6.0 Marshmallow review: S'more to love

The Material Design vibe that debuted with Lollipop is here to stay, and it hasn't been changed a bit. This is not a bad thing or an issue in our book, mind you - we still think that this refreshing design language is one of the best things that could have happened to Android. This means that you still get a host of card-based UI elements, paired with colorful icons, and predominantly white menus. Sorry, folks - the nifty dark UI theme that got spotted in one of the early dev previews will probably make the cut next time, as it isn't a feature found in Marshmallow.

One of the more notable additions to the OS is the revamped app drawer. Gone are the horizontally-scrollable cards that were present in Lollipop! Marshmallow comes with a stock launcher that displays the installed apps in a neat vertical window, which is not comprising separate cards (the same applies to the widgets pane as well). As usual, it sorts the apps in an alphabetical order, yet some of the apps you use the most will appear at the top of the drawer page, providing you with easy access. There's also a nifty search bar at the very top of the app drawer that allows you to manually search for an app. 

Additionally, we have a teal slider on the very right side of the app drawer that provides users with an easy way to navigate the window; still, the slider itself is somewhat inconspicuous and you might not notice it if you don't pay attention. Although it's a matter of personal preference, we like the new vertical app drawer as a whole a bit more. 

Another area in which Android 6.0 Marshmallow has received a visual update of sorts is the lock screen. In Lollipop, you had a dialer and camera shortcuts, but the new variation of the OS has ditched the former for a Google Now voice search shortcut. That's pretty understandable considering that Marshmallow puts emphasis on the improved pro-active and contextually-aware Google Now. Still, we miss the dialer shortcut a bit.

This is not everything that's changed within Marshmallow, of course - we have a surplus of minor other changes that aim to make the user experience more coherent. Some of the more notable ones that we will highlight are the revamped Apps menu, a new Do Not Disturb toggle in the quick settings pane (which allows you to easily configure it straight from the notifications panel), as well as a revamped stock Phone app. Check out the gallery right below for additional differences between Marshmallow and its predecessor. 


Heading to the Settings menu, we quickly notice a handful of structural changes. For example, RAM usage has been decoupled from the Apps menu and now exists as a separate section in Settings. This new menu shows the average memory your phone has used during the past 3, 6, 12, or 24 hours, as well as a list of the apps that have eaten the most of your RAM. Sadly, we can no longer view the current memory usage, whereas you could do this in Lollipop, of sorts.

The battery section of the Settings menu has also scored some improvements. For the most part, this menu provides the same functionality as before, but it now provides Android fanatics with an approximate estimation of how many mAhs (milliampere-hours) each app has consumed. Previously on Android, this was only achievable via a third-party app.

The storage menu is another field in which Android Marshmallow delivers a couple of interface changes, mostly for the better. Sadly, the colorful bar that displayed the amount of storage the different types of content take is gone — it's substituted with a much simpler bar that only displays the used versus free storage on your device. Right below, you still get a broken-down list of the apps, images, videos, audio, and user-downloaded files that dwell in your on-board storage; tapping on each and every category opens an explorer that allows you to browse the items. 

Bottom-line: As a whole, the minor tweaks of the interface are definitely a step in the right direction that we definitely like. Although the majority of these are certainly "not-in-your-face" ones, seasoned Android users will most probably notice and appreciate them.

Now on Tap - relevant information at your fingertips


Android 6.0 Marshmallow review: S'more to love

Android 6.0 Marshmallow review: S'more to love
The changes that Google Now has scored are rather significant. The star of the show is Now on Tap, a proactive and contextually-aware functionality for Google Now. You enable it by holding the home button of your device and once you do so, the feature will "scan" the screen for places, people, movies, song names, others, and provide you with relevant actions. Sounds a bit dull on paper, but it's actually pretty exciting in real life, we promise! 

For example, imagine someone sends you a specific location in Hangouts. If you open the specific conversation and enable Now on Tap, you will be shown a couple of information-rich cards. In our case, these were two Google searches of names that were present in the conversation, as well as a card providing us with relevant information and actions about the venue, the location of which we received.

Apart from viewing it in Google Maps, procuring a general Google search of it, and directly opening the venue's website, we were also allowed to straight up call or even see what is the venue's events schedule. Both nifty and helpful!

Let's imagine another scenario. You're casually browsing YouTube while you stumble upon a video depicting the career of basketball player Louie Dampier. In case you're not familiar who Dampier is, launching Now on Tap will allow you to quickly procure a Google search and open an Wikipedia article in a jiffy, which will quickly reveal that Louie Dampier is a famed basketball legend that is one of the latest additions to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In case you're wondering what the latter is, launch Now on Tap while on the same screen and you will learn that it's an American history museum and hall of fame located in Massachusetts. Of course, you can do all of these manually, but it will take you significantly more taps and time.

Now, we should mention that Now on Tap is not a magical feature, so don't expect it to show you available actions for just anything that you have on your screen. As we mentioned, it will work best if you have a certain place, a person's name, or another easily-searchable item visualized on your screen. Opening your empty Google Calendar and launching Now on Tap will return an empty search. 

Additionally, the more apps you have on your device, the more actions Now on Tap will provide. For instance, having Foursquare, Yelp, or TripAdvisor will provide you with some additional shortcuts in comparison with a device that doesn't have them on board. The feature can potentially save you tons of time that would be otherwise spent on app switching.


Revamped app permissions provide meaningful choice and control


Android 6.0 Marshmallow review: S'more to love

One of the key new features of Marshmallow are the granular app permissions. These provide a stricter control over the permissions each and every app requires. Just like in iOS, apps in Android 6.0 Marshmallow will only you to grant them a certain permission immediately before the app needs it and not in bulk during the installation, which was the regular practice until now.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow officially introduces API Level 23, which is one of the requirements to have app permissions that can be granted on demand. All Android apps need to be updated so that they support the brand new API Level 23 libraries in order to introduce the individual granular app permissions. The permission manager can be found in the Apps section inside the Settings menu; once you go there, you need to tap the gear icon at the top, which will hence open the menu giving you access to the app permission manager. 

Inside, you're presented to a list view of various permissions, like body sensors, calendar, camera, contacts, location, microphone, phone, SMS, storage, and three new categories that came with the Marshmallow developer preview 3, car information, read instant messages and write instant messages. Under each type of app permission, you can see how many apps have been granted access to it by you, the user.

Of course, they wouldn't be called "granular app permissions" if they didn't allow you to fine tune and disable permissions for individual apps. Tap on a given category and you will be greeted by a list of the apps that are currently enabled to make use of it. You can flip the corresponding switch and grant or revoke the permission in question for the particular app.


Battery and performance improvements


Android 6.0 Marshmallow review: S'more to love

Let's be honest, the features mentioned so far are worth paying attention to, but the most important ones are usually hidden from our eyes under the hood. Android 6.0 Marshmallow comes with a rather interesting one, named Doze - a batter-saving feature that aims to greatly reduce the standby drain by putting your device in deep sleep. 

Another nail in the dismal battery life's coffin is the App Standby feature will also have a beneficial effect on battery life by putting apps you don't use much in a reduced activity state and limiting their impact on the battery. Google claims that Marshmallow users should experience up to 30% better battery life thanks to Doze. We're quite eager to see if this is truly the case and we're about to test these appealing claims. 

From a strictly performance standpoint, Android 6.0 Marshmallow does the job top-notch. Although your mileage may vary depending on the device you rock and a couple of other reasons, it seems that Google has finely tuned all the cogs under the hood. In our brief (so far) time spent with Marshmallow, we hardly ever experienced lag or frame drops of any kind, nor any hiccups or lag when switching between apps via the app switcher. The latter is most certainly due to the improvements that the ART runtime has scored: Google has tweaked its multi-tasking abilities in terms of performance and lowered the memory overhead. It feels like the new version of the OS has breathed new life in our handset. Call it a placebo effect, but even animations feel smoother system-wide. We expected no less from the stock iteration of Android and we are happy that Google provided.

Security is key, Android Pay is the lock


Android 6.0 Marshmallow review: S'more to love

With baked-in native support for fingerprint scanning, Android Marshmallow makes it easy for manufacturers to endow their upcoming devices with fingerprint readers without having to feature. Apart from the added security, this also coincides with the launch of Android Pay, Google's brand-new mobile payments service. Currently, there are only two devices that can benefit from this added functionality, and they aren't even being sold yet. We are talking about the spic-and-span Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X, which are the first Nexus devices to both feature fingerprint scanners and Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box.

We guess you're familiar with the gist of Android Pay. Android handsets that come with an NFC chip will be able to use the feature when checking out at retail stores and restaurants that have an NFC-based POS system. Those who had downloaded the Google Wallet app can update it to Android Pay. New users can download and install Android Pay directly from the Google Play Store. New Android handsets from Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile running Android 4.4 or higher will have Android Pay pre-installed. 

Of course, the fingerprint-reading functionality is not exclusively intended to serve as a protector of your financial credentials. In case you have a device equipped with a fingerprint scanner at the back, you can use your own fingerprint to secure it.

Conclusion


Android 6.0 Marshmallow review: S'more to love

The evolutionary step that is Android 6.0 Marshmallow certainly does not flaunt as many eye-catchy features as Lollipop did last year, but along with the latest new iteration of Google's OS debut a hefty amount of significant under-the-hood improvements. We really like Google Now on Tap, as well as the subtle and inconspicuous visual improvements that many users might not notice at first sight. All of the new additions to Android are not "risky" ones, on the contrary, each is carefully thought of and tailored with the user experience in mind. 

We are fairly content with the state of the platform as of now. However, we feel like Marshmallow could have been even more awesome if some of the hinted features from the developer previews were actually included in the final release. You know what we are talking about — multi-window and the night UI theme. Of course, this is just nit-picking and merely a couple of minor gripes that would have most probably made the platform even more appealing to its vast userbase. Maybe in Android 7.0, eh, Google?

As a whole, there's little not to like about the newest Android version on the block. It's polished, doesn't suffer from any major issues (no "memory leak"!), potentially prolongs the time you can spend away from your charger, and feels way more mature than Lollipop. All of these are paired with the regular arsenal of unrivaled features that Android offers. 

Frankly, we are in love with the combination.


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61 Comments

1. tedkord

Posts: 17093; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Cue the imp from the 5th dimension with a trolling comment about Lollipop.

2. Ordinary

Posts: 2454; Member since: Apr 23, 2015

Inb4 bobbybuster's commercial

18. Podrick

Posts: 1283; Member since: Aug 19, 2015

Everyone makes money with Android.

30. BobbyBuster

Posts: 854; Member since: Jan 13, 2015

Everyone is bleeding with Android™

32. DoggyDangerous

Posts: 1028; Member since: Aug 28, 2015

Everyone is healing with ios

59. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

What does healing with iOS means? BobbyBuster is a troll comment but not sure about healing though. Be together, not the same!

20. Mxyzptlk unregistered

You can call it "trolling" but the fact remains that lollipop was a terrible release. So don't get salty at me about it. Google shouldn't have rushed out a half baked os version out.

21. EnigmaticPsychotic

Posts: 70; Member since: Nov 26, 2013

Yeah because Apple has never done that. Nope not once.

23. Scott93274

Posts: 6025; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

How many updates has Apple had to rush out since iOS9 in just the last couple weeks to fix several issues plaguing the iPhone? And iOS8 was in every possible way so much worse than Lollipop on its worst day. But you never see Mxyzptlk say anything about that unless called out on it like I am now.

26. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Oh look here's my groupie girl coming to spew more b.s. Hey Scott maybe you should actually try "reading" my comments before you respond. This is not an Apple article. I've called them out before.

28. Scott93274

Posts: 6025; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

You've never called out Apple unless it's in response to a post like mine where you've been pointed out as being a hypocrite. If I'm wrong then share a link to an article where you said Apple f*cked up without someone else prompting you to do it and I'll say I'm sorry. If you can't do that then keep your mouth shut on the matter.

33. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Don't get salty just because you were put in your place. You started spewing bs and you got owned. Just stop starting craps and maybe I wouldn't make you my b- each time.

34. Scott93274

Posts: 6025; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Stop dodging the question ignorant troll and answer me. Provide a link to an article where you called out Apple for their failures and I'll leave you alone.

35. Mxyzptlk unregistered

I don't have to do a thing you say. Unless you plan on asking me in a more civilized way, don't expect me to answer you. Besides it's not like you're going to accept the answer.

38. Scott93274

Posts: 6025; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

That's what I though, nothing but talk. I didn't think you were up to the challenge. Though it's not like you had a chance to begin with, you knew you were full of crap.

46. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Nothing but talk? Like you aren't guilty of the same thing. Lol you're just a salty little hypocrite. You're mad because what I said was true.

47. Scott93274

Posts: 6025; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

You're just mad because you know I'm right. I challenge you to prove me wrong. "Provide a link to an article where you called out Apple for their failures and I'll leave you alone". It's as simple as that.

50. Mxyzptlk unregistered

You're not right, you're just talking out of your behind again. It's as simple as you shutting up.

51. Scott93274

Posts: 6025; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

"Provide a link to an article where you called out Apple for their failures and I'll leave you alone". It's as simple as that. If you say that you've "called them out before." then prove it. I'm calling bull sh*t. You're a troll talking crap about companies pointing out things you don't like about then when the company you love does so much worse, and you never say a damn thing unless prompted to by someone such as myself who calls you on it.

52. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Right and you're a groupie girl who continues to get salty every time I say something about Motorola. Lol I get it, you're trying to be the new Sniggly. You aren't. You're just that little kid who wants to "fit in" because no one pays any attention to anything he says. You've seen several of my comments where I've said I will be getting the Pure Edition over the 6S. Don't sit and tell me I've never said it because you've commented on it many times before.

54. Scott93274

Posts: 6025; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

"Provide a link to an article where you called out Apple for their failures and I'll leave you alone". It's as simple as that. I think you'll say anything for the opportunity to have justification to troll later, "Oh, I owned the moto x and it sucked". That's the way you work. And you still haven't proven me wrong by posting a link to an article where you were critical of Apple without being prompted from others calling you out as a hypocrite. And the simple reason is you can't. No matter how many time you say that you have, you haven't. You talk sh*t because you're full of sh*t.

55. Mxyzptlk unregistered

It's as simple as this: I chose to go for the PE over the Note 5 and the 6S as my personal daily driver. Are you really this dense? Obviously there's a reason otherwise I would be getting the 6S especially since I've said it several times before I want the new multiwindow feature from the iPads available on the iPhone. Search for it yourself, of course, you won't do it because you're a troll and you're immune to anything that proves you wrong. Checkmate groupie girl.

56. Scott93274

Posts: 6025; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

You won't bother looking for it because you know damn well that you have never been critical of Apple for the things that they're guilty of more so than what you accuse Motorola or Google of doing. You're the troll here, everyone says so, not just me. you're the one that goes to every Motorola, BlackBerry article insulting their devices. Do I do that with Apple? No, I do not. That doesn't mean that I haven't spoken poorly of them, they do a lot of stuff that I disagree with, but I'm not blinded by sheep like behavior to not see issues with the companies I like. And I've also spoken positively of Apple as well, even to the point of being accused of being an Apple Fanboy. The same can never be said of you because you're an ignorant troll that is long overdue to have their account deleted.

57. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Cut the crap out groupie girl. You either put up or just shut the f- up. You're just a a bitter groupie girl who ignores reason. I told you if I am getting a PE over the 6S theeen that should tell you right there. You're just too ignorant to see it.

25. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Don't deflect on me.

42. WallStreetWolf

Posts: 289; Member since: Apr 08, 2013

They absolutely rushed it out and it was still slow to adoption. This is a post by a site I frequent besides my usual Android Authority. https://www.androidpit.com/android-5-0-lollipop-problems-and-solutions iOS didn't have near these issues. Not even close to be honest. And even the ones they did, they update their phones quickly to repair the issues. Some of these devices with these problems will never receive an update. There is a lot of circumstances for Android's slow update rollout, but Google needs to do something besides Nexus and One devices. People will continue to buy Android on value proposition, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be held to a higher standard regardless if their OS is "free" and customizable. There needs to be better quality control.

60. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

Agree with WallStreetWolf, Google do need to improve on their software update model. I suggest that Google push Android One branding to more 1st tier OEM like Sony, HTC, LG, Huiwei. Market Android One aggressively so that its worth the OEM while to release phone with Android One branding.

3. SamDH1

Posts: 419; Member since: Apr 21, 2015

It sure is tasty on my 6, and On Tap is my new favourite thing ever

6. shahrooz

Posts: 792; Member since: Sep 17, 2013

I lost the ability to use Google now after flashing M due to regional restrictions, made me sad, so sad...

4. fancollo unregistered

what about the camera? any changes in camera2 API? what is the camera app? still google camera?

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