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Android 6.0 Marshmallow features: What's new?

Andrew Williams


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Google has started the rollout of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Here are the features you can expect from the latest version.

It’s time to prod the Marshmallow: Android Marshmallow is here. But you still have a while to wait unless you own a Nexus 6, Nexus 5, Nexus 9, or have recently picked up a Nexus 5X or Nexus 6P.

So, the question: is Android 6.0 Marshmallow worth getting excited about? We’ve been spending some quality time with the new software to see what it offers over the Android Lollipop version we’ve been using for what feels like forever.

Here are the features that take Android Marshmallow a step further. Is it enough to steamroll iOS 9 and Windows 10? For now at least, we’ll leave that to you.

The apps menu is crazy-different

One Android Marshmallow change all of you will notice is the way the new apps menu works. It’s totally different to Lollipop and the other previous versions of Android.

Related: When will your phone get Android 6.0 Marshmallow?

This time, instead of a bunch of apps ‘pages’ you flick through horizontally, the apps box is a scroll thumbed through with a smooth vertical movement. It’s a lot more like Windows 10/Windows Phone’s apps menu, or that of the HTC Sense custom Android interface.

Is it better? Is it worse? This is very much a case of being different rather than better, but it does scroll very snappily on the Nexus 6 we’ve been using. Those with big app collections may find it faster. And, as in Android Lollipop, the apps are arranged alphabetically rather than letting you move them about yourself.

As before, there are no app menu folders either. You have to keep these on the home screens, if you want ‘em.

App search bar and favourites

In order to help those who think the new apps menu is worse, and there will be some, there are some extra features to the apps area. First, there’s a search bar up at the top.

This is a text bar you just type words into, and Android Marshmallow searches your app collection for any apps with that name. There’s also an option to use the search term to look for other apps in Google Play.

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If your apps library is so massive you can’t remember which apps/games you’ve uninstalled, this bit will let you get them back on-board sharpish.

There are also four special apps slots right at the top of the apps menu. These are filled using an algorithm that picks the most important apps based on those you use most, and have used most recently.

On the Nexus 6 these extra interface elements can feel like a bit of a stretch to reach. But then 95 per cent of people think the phone is that bit too big anyway. The Nexus 6X should feel comfier.

The clock has gone all stylish

Lollipop upped Android’s style game, and Marshmallow tries to take that a step further with a redesigned clock. It’s little more than a font shuffle, but does give the new software a bit of a different, sharper visual personality.

Check it out below. The date text is now written in all-caps, and the font of the time characters seems to be a bit thicker, as if Google has hit the ‘bold’ button.

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Google has added a memory manager

One of the complaints about Android Lollipop was that its memory-hungry nature introduced all sorts of performance problems in phones without absolutely loads of RAM.

A new feature lets you check out the memory usage of all your installed apps without using a third-party app.

There’s a whole new ‘Memory’ area in the main Settings menu.

Related: Nexus 5X vs 6P: What's the difference?

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However, before you get too excited, it’s mostly about monitoring RAM use and seeing if there are any apps doing things they really shouldn’t rather than tinkering with how much memory apps are allowed. You can see the RAM use over the last 3, 6, 12 or 24 hours, to let you identify when and where things are going wrong without too much active monitoring on your part.

As is so often the case with Android, you’ll still likely have to try uninstalling/reinstalling any apps that are seriously misbehaving.

You can add a lock screen message

A tiny little tweak of Android M is that you can now add a little line of text to your lock screen. Maybe you’ll want to add a little tag to your ‘Jim’s VHS and DVD rental’ small business, or a way to tell you and your other half’s his ’n’ hers Nexus 6s apart.

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Unlike the date font, this little extra line is written in lower case, and seems to have opacity of just under 100 per cent, making it a bit less bright than the clock.

It’s basically a custom number plate for your phone: go to town.

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Battery optimisation now on a by-app basis

Android only really started to embrace proper a battery-saving mode with Android Lollipop, even though custom skins have had such features for years now. Android Marshmallow adds a whole new battery area called ‘optimisation’.

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This tweaks how apps eat energy when not being actively used in order to save battery life. As standard, all apps bar the Android system itself use battery optimisation, and all you can do is make important apps exempt from this feature.

Google hasn’t laid out too clearly exactly what optimisation does, but you can bet part of it is about regulating access to mobile data and how freely they can perform background processes.

The volume controls have changed yet again

One part of Android Lollipop that everyone got quite angry about originally was the volume control. The silent mode was ditched completely. It caused a bit of a fuss.

Related: What is Google Now on Tap?

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It has returned, sort of. Android Marshmallow has a Do Not Disturb shortcut in the notifications drop-down that lets you switch off certain alerts for a period of time, or indefinitely. It does feel kind of fiddly still, but is designed to make sure you don’t switch the feature on and then end up missing your early morning alarm.

This new spot for Do Not Disturb lets Android Marshmallow pare down the volume controls a bit. Press the volume button and you’ll see the slider for system notifications. Next to it there’s a drop-down arrow that gives you access to the separate ‘media’ and ‘alarms’ volume dials.

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Fingerprint scanners supported as standard

Finger scanners have been found in Android phones for years now. However, it’s only with Android Marshmallow that the system supports the hardware natively. Before now, software for these scanners had to be jammed in by the manufacturer.

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Both the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P have rear fingerprint scanners, and Google calls the system Nexus Imprint. It lets you unlock your phone with a finger-press, as an identification measure in apps and to sign off on Pay wireless payments.

Pay has been around for years now, but more recently Google re-announced it as Android Pay. Hopefully it’ll catch on this time.

Instant Google Now ‘Ok Googling’

Android 6.0 makes the system’s digital assistant way more useful. Where before it was largely consigned to the Google Now area of the phone, it can be accessed to look up things wherever you are, using something called Now on Tap.

Related: Android 6.0 Marshmallow tips and tricks

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First of all, you can talk to the assistant whenever the phone is on the home screen just by saying ‘Ok Google’.

Don’t like talking to your phone? One of the neatest parts of Android Marshmallow is that the digital assistant can now be called up everywhere. A long-press on the Home button makes the Google Now assistant scan whatever’s on the screen to find extra info online that might be helpful.

It works absolutely anywhere. One example of a good use we found was looking at Tripadvisor for a local restaurant, then using Google Now to fly straight to that place’s menu URL. Neat, right? The only bit it doesn't seem to do yet is to OCR text in photos to Google Now-ify your photo gallery. Maybe one day, eh Google?

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Permissions are on lock down

Before Android Marshmallow, app permissions were granted at the point of install. You agree to give an app access to, say, your camera, contacts and storage as soon as the app begins installing. This has changed.

From now on, apps will have to ask for your permission to access the camera, at the point where they want to use it. It’ll make things much clearer, letting you see exactly what apps are doing in the background.

For all apps already granted permissions, you’re also given a much clearer round-up of what’s what in the Settings menu. A dedicated section shows you which apps have access to your camera, your contacts and so on, and you can revoke them at the press of a switch.

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USB Type-C/3.1 support

One important bit of future-proofing is full support for USB-C, which is closely linked to the USB 3.1 standard. We’ve seen this plug already in the OnePlus 2, but it was really just a USB 2.0 port with a different connector.

The big news is the new set of capabilities we’ll see when ‘proper’ USB-C phones arrive, with USB 3.1 support. They’ll be able transmit 40x the power of the current USB connectors, although exactly how much power phones of the future are going to gobble up is something we don’t know yet.

Bandwidth will increase too, but it’s the prospect of even faster-charging batteries that has us excited.

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In a bid to hopefully give your battery life a boost, Android Marshmallow introduces a feature that recognises when the Android device is in a rested state to help conserve power. Google says it has tested it with a Nexus 9 and claims it can help make battery life last two times longer in standby mode by using fewer background services. If you're worried about missing out on alarms and incoming instant messages, Doze will still allow those notifications and modes to be activated.

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When will Android 6.0 Marshmallow be available?

Google has announced that the Android Marshmallow launch will be at the beginning of October. Currently, developers can play around with the final Android Marshmallow builds on the Nexus 5 and 6 smartphones plus the Nexus 9 and Nexus Player set-top box. Google has since confirmed that the Nexus 7 will also be among the first devices to the get the Marshmallow treatment.

Are you impressed by Android 6.0 Marshmallow? Let us know in the comments section below

Prem Desai

February 25, 2015, 9:46 am

Backup and restore:

I would love to see backup and restore functionality Apple style.

So if you change your handset or need to reset it or whatever, you can restore back to exactly where you were - all apps, folders, app settings, etc ....


May 7, 2015, 9:00 am

Android 5.1 does this already. (but I don't think it's fully there for 5.0)

I recently had to get my Nexus 5 replaced on warranty and when I set up the new device and logged into my Google account, it synced all of my saved WiFi settings, Bluetooth pairs, the homescreen was exactly as I left it and all the apps I had installed started downloading (with placeholders on the homescreen until ready) Even all the homescreen widgets were ready and waiting with a "tap to set up" prompt.

If you have a tablet and a phone (or even several phones) then you can chose which device to restore during the initial account setup process

Edit: most settings from *within* apps do not get transferred across, though. That would require continuous cloud backup of the apps internal database which would be great for future Google Drive integration!


May 7, 2015, 9:04 am

"Wouldn’t it be so much easier if these could all be combined into one super-powered hub? Messages from all these apps coming in to one single point, so you can easily tap out replies without jumping around."

You mean a clone of the Blackberry hub,,,,,,,


May 28, 2015, 9:14 pm

Nothing for me to get excited about when WIndows and Blackberry already have these features or most of them and they work superbly. I find Android a bolt it together system as long as it sticks together and works... Why they cannot create a seamless OS operation beats me its just a mess and is only popular really because manufactures don't have to hardly do anything other than supply the phone. So hats of to Blackberry, Windows and sadly even Apple at least the provide a real managed OS for their own handsets with the odd exception to Windows.


May 29, 2015, 9:32 am

Its a totally different approach. Apple only needs to manage the OS on what, 9 different handsets? And MS has a similarly small and controlled set of handsets. Android is available on thousands upon thousands of different handsets, all of which have different parts, sizes, device drivers etc. (http://www.trustedreviews.com/...

The whole success of Android came from the fact that there is no licence fee for using it and any manufacturer can jump on board. That may have been diluted by Gapps licences and patent litigation, but it certainly explains the initial take-up.

The improvements matter because they will be baked into the next generation of handsets. Just because you as the end user don't necessarily benefit from every high tech innovation announced doesn't meant they won't affect you. Most people seem to upgrade their handsets about once every 2 years, so people will benefit.

Hamish Campbell

August 18, 2015, 7:09 am

Although with Windows phone they not only don't have to do anything but supply the phone, but also can't do anything but supply the phone. And yet that is failing.


August 31, 2015, 8:37 am

Uh, this has been in Android for some time now!
When you reset your phone, you have the option to reset everything you had on the other (apps, settings, bookmarks, even WiFi passwords)

Matt Smith

September 3, 2015, 3:14 pm

As someone who owned the original HTC Desire (with Android 2.1), ended up despising it so moved over to Windows Phone for the life of 2 devices (the Lumia 800 and the Lumia 1020) I was cautious when considering moving back to Android due to the buggy, inconsistent mess I believed it to be. However I decided to throw caution to the wind and went with a Nexus 6 and couldn't of been happier. The Android of old that I'd come to hate so much was gone.

Don't get me wrong, Lollipop still has issues, but I recently cracked the screen and whilst my Nexus was being repaired I switched back to my Lumia 1020 and hated it. It just felt clunky and basic. I've now got my Nexus back and have even loaded Android M Preview 3 onto it which I can say I've not yet experienced a single bug with and actually seems more stable than Lollipop. Marshmallow isn't a huge leap as far as the UI goes or even when it comes to new UI based features. The leaps are behind the scenes, whereas front of house is more tweaks to help improve the overall experience.

Right now for me, I wouldn't venture back to Windows Phone over Android. I've road tested Windows 10 (for Phones) and still find it pretty basic and don;t even start with Blackberry. The fact that Blackberry is getting ready to put out its own Android device speaks volumes.


September 3, 2015, 3:25 pm

I looked at a Nexus 6 I also own a Note Edge which is a nice phone I still need convincing about android but I guess things evolve in due course. I just cannot get to grips with how all over the place the OS is..No continuity with android. I hate to even admit this but the way BBY are going I am not happy with their choices, still have respect for windows, apple hmm!

Matt Smith

September 3, 2015, 3:38 pm

I do wonder if my recent experience with Android comes from having a device with Stock Android on (not saying you aren't running stock on the Note) as I tried my friends Galaxy 6 Edge and really struggled with using TouchWiz. Thinking about things, looking back at my hate for my old HTC Desire, a lot of its issues probably came from the Sense UI HTC plastered over Android (although Android back then was without a doubt an inconsistent mess).

For me, the biggest issue for Windows is still the app gap. As much as a lot of Windows Phone users claim it no longer exists, going back briefly for me shows that it still does and where some of the big name apps do exist on Windows, they're rarely as feature rich as the iOS & Android versions. Did get round that problem though with the fact that in Windows 10 you can sideload Android apps onto windows phone devices (which shows that even Microsoft knows there is still an app gap).

I do hope Windows 10 can help Microsoft gain a larger market share though as I think that's good for everyone.

As for Blackberry...they're doing what they have to so they can get back in the game.

Ali H

September 7, 2015, 5:27 pm

Their should be a native software support for stylus. A lot of students are willing to use tablets as their main note taking option.

stephen taylor

September 8, 2015, 2:26 pm

Running the final preview of 6.0 on my Nexus 6 and its very well put together, solid and stable. For those that think the Android OS is all over the place the answer is a Nexus. Having used HTC, Samsung, Motorola and Sony phones with their UI overlays it's clear that stock is vastly superior without any of the add on clutter.


September 8, 2015, 7:57 pm

Is Matias Duarte already gone? Is arrival made a big difference in front of Apple, not only with Lollipop but also the Nexus 5 which I refuse to believe anyone than him or his team designed so much it's the only acceptable and nice Android phone.

And now, Nexus 6 is an ugly pile of shit, Marshmallow offers nothing new or better...I guess Matias Duarte already left?


September 10, 2015, 7:20 am

Maybe in your area. On my campus, a large majority of students take notes on laptops. Laptops can do much more than a tablet can, and it's just easier to deal with.


September 29, 2015, 5:18 pm

Get the Surface or Surface Pro. Full laptop with the full capabilities of being used as an excellent note taking device with a native stylus. I've been using one in med school and many of my classmates have slowly started to adopt it.


October 2, 2015, 6:56 am

NOOOOOO! There is no different "approach". Apple has created excellent guidelines on what developers should implement to support all resolutions and that is the only but key advantage, so Apple provides new OSes to everyone immediately. Microsoft has locked device manufactures within the set of drivers, so I can get new Windows when and where I please. Google surrendered to device manufacturers, thus Nexus gets updates and ASUS gets niceties in Zen UI, but nothing and nobody gets everything unlike both Apple and Microsoft. This popular "lots of devices" talk is actually a lie to hide the crappy fundamental Android design, something that can never be fixed, unfortunately.


October 5, 2015, 2:43 pm

The "lockscreen message" has been in Android for a VERY long time!

Settings -> Security -> Owner Info

It may be re-named to "lockscreen message" on M, but it has been there for as long as I've been using Android (Dell Streak)


October 6, 2015, 11:46 am

why isn't anyone talking about the apps that can be uninstalled..huh..

Fay Simcock

October 12, 2015, 2:53 pm

Well, I had one big problem with Lollipop and I still have it with Marshmallow. Can't change the password for a wireless network. Very frustrating! Otherwise I can't say I've noticed much difference.


October 12, 2015, 8:19 pm

Not very exciting.


October 12, 2015, 8:20 pm

That's... not something you can do from a phone.


October 12, 2015, 8:25 pm

Step 1) Get a capacitive stylus.
Step 2) ...
Step 3) Profit.


October 12, 2015, 10:57 pm

if it's because you've entered the wrong password, all you have to do is hold go to the network settings, tap and hold the network you would like to edit.


October 13, 2015, 10:34 pm

just installed android 6 and now when i connect nexus 5 phone to PC i cannot browse the folders on the phone. ideas?

Vibhor Agarwal

October 14, 2015, 8:28 am

It has a explore option as well in storage which lets you access your internal storage. No need to download file manager now :D

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