Android Marshmallow: What You Need to Know

Android Pay, simpler app permissions, and battery-saving options

Getty Images

If you're still sporting Android Lollipop, you could be missing out on some cool Android Marshmallow (6.0) features. Some are brand new functionalities, while others simply give you more control over your phone, which is great news. Here are the top new features that should convince you to upgrade your OS.

The information below should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

So long Google Wallet, Hello Android Pay

OK, Google Wallet hasn't gone away. It still exists as a way to send money to friends and family, as you would with PayPal or Venmo. Android Pay is what you use to make purchases at the register without having to take out your credit card. It's not an app you have to download and set up; it's built into your phone's operating system (starting with Marshmallow), making it much easier to use. Like Apple Pay, you can make purchases simply by tapping your phone at the point of purchase; you can also use Android Pay to make online purchases on your smartphone. 

Google Now on Tap

Likewise, Google Now, Android's personal assistant app, is more integrated with your phone with Google Now on Tap. Rather than firing up Google Now separately, in Marshmallow, it can communicate directly with your apps. For instance, if you're texting a friend about going out to eat, you can view a restaurant's address, hours, and rating right from your messaging app. You can also find out more information about an artist while playing music, or about a movie while making plans with friends over email.

By the way, if you're lucky enough to have a Google Pixel smartphone, you can take advantage of Google Assistant, which offers even more sophisticated assistance. You can have a more natural conversation with Google Assistant (no awkward voice commands) and even get recurring weather information without having to ask every time. You'll also, of course, get all the great features that Android Nougat has to offer.

Power over App Permissions

Whenever you download an Android app (on an unrooted phone, that is), you have to agree to give it certain permissions, such as access to your contacts, photos, and other data; if you choose not to, the app is rendered useless. Marshmallow gives more control: you can decide specifically what apps can access. For example, you can block access to your location, but allow access to your camera. In some cases, this may cause the app not to work properly, but that's your choice.

Doze Mode

Android Lollipop already offers a number of ways to save power and battery life, and Marshmallow ups the game with Doze. Have you ever been frustrated by finding your phone's battery nearly drained when you haven't even touched it in hours? Doze Mode saves power by preventing apps from waking up your device with unimportant notifications, though you can still receive phone calls and alarms, and other important alerts. 

Redesigned App Drawer

Android apps haven't always been very organized; some are in alphabetical order, and others are listed in order of when they were downloaded. That's not helpful. In Marshmallow, when you pull up your list of apps (or app drawer), you'll be able to use a search bar at the top instead of scrolling and scrolling (or going to the Google Play store and viewing your apps). In addition, the app drawer will go back to scrolling up and down as it did in older Android versions, rather than left and right.

Fingerprint Reader Support

Finally, Marshmallow will support fingerprint readers. Many smartphones now have this built-in to the hardware, so that you can use your fingerprint to unlock your screen. But this update means that you can also use the fingerprint scanner to make payments and sign into apps as well. 

Reigned in Your Notifications

Smartphone keep us connected which often means getting a constant barrage of message, calendar, and other app notifications. Marshmallow gives you a few ways to manage the chaos with Do Not Disturb and Priority-Only modes, which let you decide which notifications can come through and when. Read our full guide to managing notifications in Marshmallow.