First Look: Android M, for Marshmallow

Android 6.0
Credit: Google
Android 6.0

It’s here and it’s much as described – Google made the official rollout of Android 6.0, or Marshmallow, on stage at its Nexus event today in San Francisco, alongside new Nexus phones, Chromecasts and a sneak peek at a convertible Chromebook. While Marshmallow doesn’t change the look of the Android operating system that much, there’s still plenty that’s new under the hood. Have a look.

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Credit: Google
Now on Tap

Google Now has received a major update, expanding its functionality significantly and interweaving it more deeply into the basic framework of the Android platform. It provides a lot more contextual information about whatever you happen to be looking at on the device, can answer questions you preface with “OK Google” and more besides.

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Nexus Imprint

The software framework for fingerprint sensors is now an official part of Android, under the “Nexus Imprint” name. The feature is present on both of the new Nexus smartphones Google introduced at the event, the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P.

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Nexus Protect

Not an OS feature, as such, Nexus Protect is being widely seen as Google’s own version of AppleCare – a premium warranty program covering accidental damage for two years. It’ll cost $69 for the 5X and $89 for the 6P.

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Battery management

Google introduced a couple important new battery-saving features in Marshmallow – Doze is a more aggressive sleep state that helps phones save power when at rest, and App Standby keeps infrequently used apps from draining the battery in the background.

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Photos updates

Google announced a lot of new sharing options and tagging features for photos, including the ability to push pictures straight to a Chromecast for group viewing and identify the subjects of photos in a collection.

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Granular app permissions

It’s no longer an all-or-nothing proposition – Marshmallow lets Android users allow apps to perform some actions but not others on their devices, meaning that a good app with some hinky permissions requests is a lot more usable now.

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Nexus 6P

Oh, yes, and the phones – Huawei’s first Nexus phone is an outsized, all-metal device with a 5.7-inch 4K screen and premium internals. Prices start at $500, unlocked and without a contract, and U.S. customers can pre-order them now for shipping later this month.

Nexus 5X
Credit: YouTube.com
Nexus 5X

The slightly smaller, LG-made Nexus 5X features many of the same new features as the 6P, though with somewhat less impressive hardware and a lower starting price point. Pre-orders start at $380 for the 16GB model, also unlocked and without a contract.

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New Chromecasts

Two new Chromecast models, one a straight update and the other a new Chromecast Music model, both in a neat little hockey puck shape, feature improved antennae for better connectivity and support for modern wireless standards like 802.11ac.

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Odds and ends

Google will begin to deploy Marshmallow to existing Nexus devices (including the Nexus 5, 6, 7, and 9) next week, and it’ll come pre-installed on the new 5X and 6P devices. For everyone else, a Marshmallow update will depend on your particular device and carrier – AndroidPit has a helpful rundown of specific information.