Google has now launched the latest version of Android, 6.0 Marshmallow, for its Nexus phones. But Android updates don’t roll out to all phones at the same time, especially the non-Nexus ones, and they often take a long time. But you get can some of the Marshmallowy goodness right now — regardless of what phone you have!
Whether you’re on Lollipop, KitKat or older versions, you can get several of Android 6.0 Marshmallow’s best features on your phone right away. Not everything, mind you, but enough of the cool stuff.
It’s easier if you root your Android phone, but even if you haven’t, there are ways to get those features.
Get the Marshmallow Look Right Now
For the first time, Google has released the stock Android launcher for anyone who wants it. The new Google Now Launcher is exactly what Marshmallow ships with, and it supports some cool new features such as:
- Swipe left to get the new “Google Now homescreen”, which has all the information you need from Google Now cards, complete with offline support.
- When you’re on the homescreen, just speak quick “OK Google” commands, no taps or activation necessary.
- The App Drawer now scrolls vertically, and is automatically arranged alphabetically.
- You can search installed apps through the Search Bar, and it will also give suggestions of other apps you might like.
The Google Now Launcher is pretty impressive and lightweight enough to work fast on low-powered hardware too, so it’s definitely a contender for the best free Android launcher.
Download: Google Now Launcher for Android (Free)
Backup App Data and Restore (No Root)
Marshmallow brings a much-wanted feature, the ability to backup an app with all its data and then restore it to a device, without rooting your phone. Well, you might be surprised to know you can already do that.
We already have a multi-layered plan to backup non-rooted Android devices, but Helium is a core part of that. The app, made by the famous Clockwork Mod team, lets you backup apps complete with their data.
All you need is the Helium app, the companion Carbon app for Windows, Mac, or Linux computers, and a USB cable. Start the app, connect the phone to your computer, and you’re ready to go.
Helium backs up most apps, and it will notify you of which ones it can’t. I suggest you also backup the APK, since it makes restoring easier for some apps that break compatibility with new versions.
When you’re ready to install all this to a new phone again, connect it to your PC, download the app, and restore all your apps. It’s seamless and just works.
Helium Premium will also let you backup to cloud devices and external storage, and it supports apps that the free one doesn’t. Cloud backup makes it easier to sync an Android phone or tablet over WiFi. It’s well worth $4.99, if you ask me, but try out the free app first.
Helium isn’t a perfect solution though. For a full and complete backup of Android, you’ll need a rooted device and Titanium Backup Pro.
Download: Helium for Android (Free)
How to Manage Individual App Permissions
Android Marshmallow finally, finally brings the ability to control app permissions on an individual basis. What this means is that if an app asks for permission to read your text messages and your GPS data, you can choose to grant access to location but not your messages.
Controlling individual app permissions helps avoid the seven deadly security risks from apps. If you are using Android 5.x Lollipop or Android 4.3/4.4 KitKat, you can control individual app permissions with App Ops. On Android versions 4.2 and older, you’ll need to root your phone to control permissions.
App Ops is super simple and you’ll be able to toggle the permissions any app uses with a simple switch. That’s exactly how it works in Marshmallow too. So if you’re on Android 4.3 or higher, you’re in luck!
One thing to note: Uninstalling App Ops isn’t as easy as just deleting the app from your phone, you need to download a special App Ops Uninstaller.
Download: App Ops for Android (Free)
Better Cut, Copy, Paste for Android
Mimicking the iOS look, the new Android 6.0 makes it easier to cut, copy, and paste anything by giving you clear options when you select any text or image. However, there’s actually a better way than Marshmallow’s options.
Native Clipboard is probably the best way to improve copy-paste on Android. The app requires deep access to your Android device, but once you grant it those rights, it will copy anything in any text box, and paste any of your recent clipboard copied items to any other box. Double tap an empty box, and it just works.
Even after trying out Marshmallow, I found myself wanting to get this app back, so in this one case, the current systems actually outdo what you’ll get on Android 6.0.
Download: Native Clipboard for Android (Free)
Boost Your Battery Life With Two Apps
Marshmallow has two cool features to lengthen your battery life. First, it automatically puts unused apps to sleep. Second, it detects when you aren’t using your phone and stops using data at that time.
But what do you know? You already have a couple apps that will do the same things! You need to download Greenify and JuiceDefender.
Greenify’s auto-hibernation mode (available on Android 4.1 or newer phones) will stop updating apps you aren’t using and prevent them from slowing down your phone. JuiceDefender, on the other hand, is an all-in-one solution for almost any battery-saving tip on Android.
You get a lot of options in the free app, so try it out. I think you’ll be compelled to fork out $4.99 for JuiceDefender Ultimate.
Download: Greenify for Android (Free)
Download: JuiceDefender for Android (Free)
Ditch Chrome Custom Tabs, Get Firefox 42
One of the cooler features in Android Marshmallow is Google Chrome’s new Custom Tabs. With this, apps can open an optimized browser tab with saved passwords and other Chrome data intact. Plus, the pages will preload in the background so they seem faster.
Even if you aren’t using Android 6.0, you can get all of this goodness with the new Google Chrome for Android, which includes this feature.
Now, Chrome is the fastest Android browser, so this is great news. But Chrome isn’t necessarily the best browser. Personally, I’d recommend going with the new Firefox 42 Beta for Android.
Firefox 42 has a new awesome “Tab Queuing” feature, which is reason alone to get it. With this, when you are using any app, you can continue using it. When you see a link, tap it and it’s added to a queue, without moving you away from the app. Go to your notifications to find your Tab Queue, and with one tap, open them all in Firefox. It’s fantastic!
Download: Google Chrome for Android (Free)
Download: Firefox 42 Beta for Android (Free)
Which Marshmallow Feature Is Your Favorite?
Personally, I love the idea of a universal fingerprint scanner that is built into Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which is obviously not something you just can download an app to get.
What’s your favorite Android 6.0 feature, and is there any way to get something similar on older phones? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credit: Phone android M by taromanaiaivia Shutterstock