Review: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Oct 26, 2015, 2:00 PM by Eric M. Zeman
Google's latest mobile operating system, Android 6.0 Marshmallow, is a tasty treat indeed. New features, such as Google Now on Tap, Doze, Direct Share, Permissions, and Nexus Imprint offer compelling reasons to upgrade. The many small tweaks Google made under the hood forge Android 6.0 into a more complete platform for smartphones and tablets alike. Nexus-branded devices are first in line to gobble up some Marshmallow, with others to follow in the months ahead. Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth review of Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
Google's latest mobile operating system, Android 6.0 Marshmallow, feels like more of an incremental update to 5.1 than a leap forward to a full new version. Even so, there are plenty of new features to examine and put to use.
Marshmallow carries forward the design language we saw in Lollipop, which Google refers to as Material Design. Though the larger elements are left more or less intact, Google made some small tweaks that are noticeable throughout.
For example, the fonts. It hits you in the face most when you view widgets or other text in large format in the screen. The lock screen clock, in particular, is clearly thicker and cleaner looking. I can see slight differences in text elsewhere.
A core facet of Material Design is color. Color abounds. Reds, greens, blues, yellows, and oranges are all over the place. Apps have their own color, such as red for gmail, blue for the phone/contacts, and green for messaging. More than simply having green headers and footers, apps have one big, floating action button that matches in shading. This circular button is placed in the same spot within apps that require it. It's a thoughtful approach, I guess, but would be better if mandated by all apps rather than just those made by Google; in other words, it is not applied consistently.
There's nothing subdued about Android these days, and in fact, some might find it overly bright and cartoonish. Perhaps the lone exception is the settings menu. The settings tools are defined by drab green text on a white background. It's utterly depressing by comparison; I can't stand it. I was truly hoping for an update to the design of this core set of screens. Alas, Google left it gathering mold.
Google has always (tried to) put an emphasis on speed and ease of use. Though it makes only a few design changes, Android 6.0 Marshmallow is indeed the fastest and easiest-to-use version of Android yet.
I tested Android 6 Marshmallow mainly on a Nexus 5, but also used it on an HTC One A9 (which adds HTC's Sense software.) The install process for the Nexus 5 was smooth, but the upgrade to Android 6 fried my Nexus 6.
Considering the Nexus 5 is two years old, it performed flawlessly. In fact, it's like a brand new phone. Not only does the operating system run without issue, it actually made the Nexus 5 a better phone. This could be because Google adjusted ART (Android RunTime) to lower the memory overhead for smoother application performance and quicker multitasking. Whatever Google did, it worked. I was getting ready to retire the Nexus 5 permanently, but Android 6.0 has given it new life.
Marshmallow performed just fine on the One A9 as far as I could tell, though it's more difficult to assess due to HTC's Sense user interface overlay. The tentpole additions to Marshmallow certainly functioned without problem.
Not all phones will be updated to Marshmallow, and the update may take a while for others. Obviously, most Nexus handsets will be given access to Marshmallow, as will the newest phones from Motorola, Samsung, and LG. The timeline for receiving these updates is another story. With the code from Google in hand, phone makers have to rewrite the platform, submit it to the carriers, and wait for approval before the updates can be pushed to end users.
Unless you have a Nexus phone, you may be in for a long wait. That's one of the frustrations of the Android platform, especially compared to Apple's iOS.
(To put this into perspective, Android 5.x Lollipop, released in October 2014, has just reached 25% penetration on Android devices worldwide. iOS 9, released September 2015, is already running on more than 60% of iOS devices worldwide.)
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