The latest version of the world’s most popular mobile operating system, Android 6.0 Marshmallow, will begin seeding into selected devices starting from next week.
Unveiled back at Google I/O 2015, Android 6.0 further refines what is the most-used mobile platform in the world. Most of the updates and changes are made under the hood, with Google maintaining the look and feel of Material Design that debuted in Lollipop. There are plenty of enhancements beneath, including App Permissions, the Doze power-saving feature, and USB Type C support.
Perhaps the most exciting addition is the introduction of Now on Tap, which is basically Google Now on steroids. It is a testament to Google’s progress in machine learning, allowing Android to understand the context when a user calls up Google Now, provide answers based on the context, or even suggest an action. These all depend on what the user is doing on the screen as he or she calls up Google Now – making it all the more impressive.
On top of that, one minor – but very important – change happening on Marshmallow is hidden in the Settings menu. Marshmallow users will soon see an option called “Android Security Patch Level”, where upon tapping, users will see a date. This date is when that Android device was patched with the latest Android patches available. This is important, as it encourages smartphone companies (and carriers in the US) to place much greater emphasis on software updates.
With the recent Stagefright vulnerability on Android, Google is taking security on its mobile platform very seriously. This move to introduce a simple date may be a relatively minor one, but it will inevitably prove to be incredibly powerful. Imagine a user whose flagship smartphone hasn’t gotten a software update in months – when a software update isn’t hidden as a bunch of version numbers, it becomes easier for the consumer to see and immediately understand the status of their Android devices.
Most major smartphone makers should find this less of an issue. But in particular, Chinese smartphone makers with a poor track record of Android updates will be the ones who will potentially face more issues with its users – many cheap Android devices today still run on Android 4 KitKat due to hardware stability and lower R&D costs, among other reasons.
As expected, the current crop of Nexus devices will begin seeing the updates via OTA from next week. Other devices will follow, with companies such as Sony and HTC already pledging that its 2015 flagships will sport Android 6.0 by the end of this year.