Commentary
8/18/2015
03:25 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary

With 'Marshmallow,' Android 6.0 Matures Anew

Android 6.0, or "Marshmallow," brings mostly low-key refinements, but also a few stand-out features.



10 Google Milestones: From Stanford Dorm To Alphabet
10 Google Milestones: From Stanford Dorm To Alphabet
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Get ready for "Marshmallow."

Google this week officially named Android 6.0 after the soft, spongy treat and released the operating system's penultimate build to developers before it is pushed to consumers later this year. What's in Marshmallow? Plenty.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow follows Android 5.x Lollipop and is the next-generation version of Google's mobile platform. The operating system has grown a lot over the years, adding new features with each major release. It is the number one platform in use globally, with a market share of about 79%. IDC expects Google's handset partners to ship approximately 1.2 billion handsets before the year is out.

Marshmallow gives Android lovers lots to get excited about.

Google Now On Tap is the killer feature in Android 6.0. The key is context and situational awareness. The basic idea is to improve the usefulness of Google Now by providing the exact type of assistance when and where needed.

[Have you heard the one about Google's restructuring? Read 10 Reasons Why Google Alphabet Exists.]

Google explained that Google Now can understand the content of a text message, for example, and see that it includes an invitation to dinner at a new joint in town. A long press of the home button will bring up reviews and directions for that particular restaurant and offer to book a table. Google Now On Tap does this all automatically.

New power management software, called Doze, claims to double smartphone battery life when in standby. Doze makes use of a handset's sensors to determine its status. Is it at rest on a table, or is it moving in a pocket or the owner's hand? When it determines the phone isn't being used, it will shut down various background processes, such as notifications, to conserve energy.

(Image: Alex Ruix)
(Image: Alex Ruix)

One feature Google believes will have a big impact is called App Links. It reduces the number of popup dialog boxes that often interrupt users as they jump between apps. App Links will allow apps to transition automatically without bugging users for permission.

Then there's Android Pay, Google's latest attempt to bring mobile payments to Android devices. Android Pay will be the rebirth of Softcard (formerly Isis) and has the support of US carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Google says it will be available at some 700,000 retail locations when it goes live in the coming months. Given Android's wide adoption, it's possible Android Pay can invigorate the public's interest in mobile payments. Worried about security? Android Pay will be protected by users' fingerprints.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow has plenty else hiding under the hood.

The third and final developer preview released this week is meant to help developers ensure their apps are compatible with the new operating system when it goes live. All the tools developers need, including the SDK, are available from the Android Studio.

Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio
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