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Android Marshmallow is here. After months of speculation and rumor, Google has finally started rolling out the latest update to its mobile operating system.
But what exactly makes it so special? And more importantly, when will you get it on your own device?
The Latest and Greatest
Google have fallen into the well-worn path of releasing a major operating system upgrade on an annual basis. For the last 12 months we’ve all been using Lollipop, but that’s now about to be superseded by Marshmallow.
The initial Android “M” developer preview was unveiled and released back on May 28th at the Google I/O conference. Since then, additional developer builds have been steadily released, and now it’s finally really for the general public.
There’s no major design overhaul as we saw with the release of Lollipop — “Material Design” stays. Instead, the new features mainly focus around improving the user experience.
Let’s investigate some of the biggest headline grabbers.
Google Now on Tap
Google Now becomes more impressive by the day. It’s basically like Google’s version of Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana — but it starts off with a significant advantage thanks to the sheer amount of data Google has about you.
“Google Now on Tap” aims to integrate the service even further into the fabric of the phone itself. The idea is that the service will be able to give you contextual information for whatever is on your screen at that moment, regardless of what you’re doing or which app you’re using.
For example, if your friend asks if you want to go for dinner at a fancy new restaurant across town, Google Now on Tap will be able to instantly show you information such as customer reviews, opening times, the menu, and directions.
To access it, just long-press your phone’s Home button.
Some apps’ extensive permissions requirements have been a sore point in the Android operating system for a long time — why does that new game need access to your camera and contact list? In Lollipop and earlier there was no way to manage these permissions without third party tools. Thanks to Marshmallow, you can toggle which app permissions you want to grant.
Of course, you need to keep in mind that disabling some permissions might have unintended consequences. Luckily, you can reverse any changes at a later date by going to Settings > Apps.
Some Android models have supported fingerprint login for a couple of years, but these were always developed by the hardware manufacturer rather than being native to the operating system.
Marshmallow incorporates it into the OS for the first time. This integration means the feature’s benefits extend beyond just logging in — Android Pay is set to become much more streamlined and easy to use as well.
Android Pay is essentially the successor to Google Wallet. It was announced along with Marshmallow at the I/O Conference in the spring, and it will roll out along with the new operating system over the coming months.
It will let users link multiple cards to a single phone, and upon launch will be instantly usable in more than 700,000 stores in the United States. It can be secured by using a PIN code, a password, or the aforementioned a fingerprint scanner.
Google Wallet isn’t going away entirely — it will continue to act as a way to transfer money between friends and will power the recently-announced ability to send money via Gmail.
Silent Mode is Back!
One of the biggest criticisms of the otherwise highly popular Lollipop release was the change Google made to the phone’s silent mode. There were basically three options — loud, totally silent (disabling alarms et al), and priority mode (which no one ever really understood, though we tried very hard). It was a mess.
Thankfully, Google has come to its senses. Now you just need to turn your volume all the way down and your phone will be totally silent with the exception of alarms — just like the good old days.
Priority mode remains for those who found it useful.
Revamped Cut, Copy, and Paste
Android has persisted with confusing cut, copy, and paste icons for years. If you don’t do a lot of copying and pasting on your device, it was easy to forget what each of the icons signified.
Thankfully, these icons have been replaced with the actual words. It should make day-to-day usage a lot more straightforward.
They’ve also been supplemented by a new “Share” button — it’ll let you share any selected text directly to another app on your phone, almost removing the need for a copy and paste feature entirely.
Translation Is Easier and Faster
Marshmallow makes Google Translate more ubiquitous than ever. If you do a lot of work in multiple languages, you’ll be pleased to learn you can now translate any text on the fly without leaving the app you’re working in via the text selection menu.
It has also been reported that other apps will be able to add options to the menu, so we can expect to see more useful possibilities arriving in the coming months.
When Will You Get It?
We know you’re all itching to get your hands on it, but sadly, the fragmented nature of the Android operating system means the rollout will be at best erratic, and at worst non-existent.
Here’s a look at which phones will get it, which might get it, and which won’t get it — along with potential release dates
As ever, owners of recent Google Nexus phones will be the first to get their hands on it, and the updates have already started rolling out.
Google has confirmed the following devices will be eligible:
• Nexus 5
• Nexus 6
• Nexus 7 (2013 version)
• Nexus 9
• Nexus Player
• Android One
Of course, the newest Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P will ship with Marshmallow pre-installed. The Nexus 4, Nexus 7 (pre-2013), and Nexus 10 will not receive the update.
HTC has announced that most of their flagship HTC One range will get the update by the end of 2015, along with some of their other models.
Here are the phones that have been confirmed so far:
• HTC One M9
• HTC One M8
• HTC One M9+
• HTC One E9
• HTC One E9+
• HTC One ME
• HTC One E8
• HTC One M8 EYE
• HTC Butterfly 3
• HTC Desire 826
• HTC Desire 820
• HTC Desire 816
Samsung was quite fast at updating from KitKat to Lollipop last fall, so owners can expect quite a fast turnaround again this year.
There is currently no official list of which Samsung devices will receive the upgrade, but it’s safe to say that the following will be included:
• Galaxy S6
• Galaxy S6 Edge
• Galaxy S5
• Galaxy Note Edge
• Galaxy Note 5
• Galaxy S6 Edge+
• Galaxy S6 Duos
• Galaxy Note 4
• Galaxy Note 4 Duos
• Galaxy Alpha
• Galaxy Tab A
Motorola has always been one of the fastest when it comes to upgrading their handsets. As they move increasingly closer to a “pure” Android experience, some devices have even received their updates before the Google Nexus range.
Here are the devices that have already been confirmed:
• 2015 Moto X Pure Edition (third-gen)
• 2015 Moto X Style (third-gen)
• 2015 Moto X Play
• 2015 Moto G (third-gen)
• 2014 Moto X
• 2014 Moto G and Moto G with 4G LTE2 (second-gen)
• 2014 Moto Maxx
• 2014 Moto Turbo
Sony has confirmed several of the devices from their Xperia range will get the upgrade, but they haven’t released a timeline. These include:
• Xperia Z5
• Xperia Z5 Compact
• Xperia Z5 Premium
• Xperia Z4 Tablet
• Xperia Z3+
• Xperia Z3
• Xperia Z3 Compact
• Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
• Xperia Z2
• Xperia Z2 Tablet
• Xperia M5
• Xperia C5 Ultra
• Xperia M4 Aqua
• Xperia C4
Will You Upgrade?
Will you make the switch to Android Marshmallow? What new features are you most excited about? If you’re not planning to upgrade, why not? What’s holding you back?
You can let us know your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below.