Android Marshmallow: Google reveals name of Android 6.0
Google has revealed that the next version of its mobile operating system will be called Android Marshmallow.
The tech giant traditionally names its operating systems after sweet treats – with Jelly Bean, KitKat and Lollipop all featuring in the past – so there has been much speculation about what the latest release, previously known as "Android M", would be called.
"Whether you like them straight out of the bag, roasted to a golden brown exterior with a molten center, or in fluff form, who doesn’t like marshmallows? We definitely like them!" wrote Android product manager Jamal Eason, on the Android Developers Blog.
The announcement coincides with the release of the final developer preview update for Android Marshmallow, which includes the official Android 6.0 software development kit. Developers can now also publish their apps for Android Marshmallow on the Google Play store.
The new operating system, which was first unveiled at Google I/O on 28 May 2015, is expected to launch to the public in the third quarter of 2015.
Power and charging
Google claims that Android Marshmallow is the most powerful Android release yet. The update brings hundreds of improvements, but many of them are very incremental, so will be almost invisible to most users.
For example, a new feature called Doze detects when the device's motion sensor is inactive and cuts down on the level of background app activity. Google claims this can double the device's battery life.
Android Marshmallow also brings support for a new type of USB connector called USB-C, which Google claims charges devices three to five times faster than the current microUSB chargers.
Like Apple's Lightning connector, USB-C chargers can be plugged in either way round, so you'll no longer have to fumble around in the dark trying to plug in your charging cable.
The new permissions system makes it easier for users to decide what information the apps on their phone can use, by giving them the opportunity to confirm or deny access in context.
For example, if you download WhatsApp on an Android device today, you will be asked to grant permission for WhatsApp to access your contacts, calendar, location, photos, camera, microphone and more. This can seem very invasive.
With Android Marshmallow, users will not be requested to give any permissions at the point of download. It is only when they try to send a voice memo, for example, that they will be asked to grant access their microphone.
You can also revoke permission for an app to access certain information via a new option in the settings menu.
As part of the Android Marshmallow release, Google is updating its Google Now personal assistant to allow users to access information anywhere on their device, no matter what they are doing.
By tapping and holding the home button, users can pull up a query without leaving the app they are in. They can also use Google Now on Tap to find new apps and in-app content.
For example, if they are discussing a night out with a friend on Facebook, they can call up Now on Tap to check showing times for a film, or book a table in a restaurant using OpenTable.
The Android Marshmallow update will bring support for Android Pay, Google's answer to Apple Pay, which lets you pay for things in shops using your Android smartphone.
Once you have registered your cards, you can simply unlock your phone and place it near a merchant’s contactless terminal to make a payment. Loyalty cards can also be used in this way.
Android Marshmallow has native fingerprint support, so Android Pay can also confirm a purchase with their fingerprint. Fingerprint on Marshmallow can also be used to unlock devices and make purchases on Google Play.
Developers can also build fingerprint authentication into their own applications, allowing users to sign in without the need for a password.
Other improvements in Android Marshmallow are incremental, but should help to improve the overall user experience.
For example, app links are being changed so that if you click on a Twitter link in an email, Android will launch the Twitter app on your phone automatically, rather asking if you want to open it using Twitter.
Meanwhile, a new feature called Android Auto Backup and Restore for Apps will be used in conjunction with Google Drive to automatically backup app data and settings with a file size of 25 MB or less.
The app drawer, where you can access all the apps on your phone, has also been redesigned, so that most recently used apps appear across the top, and other apps are arranged alphabetically, and scrolls vertically instead of horizontally.
The developer preview of Android Marshmallow is already available on the Google Nexus 5 and 6 handsets, Nexus 9 tablet and Nexus Player.
It is also available on a selection of Sony devices includng the Xperia Z3, Xperia Z3 Compact, Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact, Xperia Z2 Tablet, Xperia Z1, Xperia Z1 Compact, Xperia Z Ultra, Xperia E3, Xperia M2, Xperia T2 Ultra and the Xperia T3.
Following the second developer preview, which was released on 9 July and brought some minor bug fixes and changes to the user interface, the latest preview will be the last before a public release.
The public release date is set for the third quarter of 2015. Google has not been more specific than that, but many people are expecting a September launch.
As usual, the Nexus devices will get the update first. Given Sony's involvement in the developer preview, these handsets may also be among the first to get the final release. However, Google has not yet confirmed which devices will be updated first.