Android 6.0 Marshmallow: 10 tips to master Google’s OS update
1. Let your device Doze
One of the headline features introduced with Marshmallow is called Doze. It saves battery life when your phone or tablet isn’t in use, reducing background activity and checking for new alerts less often. As soon as you pick up the device again, it comes back to life. Android 6.0 activates Doze automatically when it detects your phone or tablet is not in use, so there are no options to set: just make sure you do something worthwhile with all the extra battery life.
2. Recheck app permissions
App permissions have changed in Marshmallow and are more (whisper it quietly) iOS-like. Instead of asking for permissions up front, apps ask for them as required: permission to use the camera when you take a photo, permission to use your location when you open a map, and so on. It also means you can approve some permissions and not others within the same app (eg Facebook could have access to your location, but not your contacts). Go to Settings, choose Apps, and then tap the cog icon followed by App permissions to toggle them on or off.
3. Embrace USB Type-C
This isn’t a tip you can use on a device you’ve updated to Marshmallow, but you’re going to notice it on new Android 6.0 devices (such as the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P). The new OS brings with it support for USB Type-C, the cutting edge USB standard that supports faster data transfers, faster charging, reversible cables and multitasking (so you can output video and charge your device at the same time). USB Type-C has begun appearing on laptops too, including the new Apple MacBook and the latest Chromebook Pixel from Google.
4. Tap into Google Now … on Tap
Android’s digital assistant Google Now has been given some extra superpowers with the release of Marshmallow – specifically the ability to see what’s on screen and understand the context of what you’re looking at. Long-press on the Home button to activate Google Now on Tap and whenever you repeat an action in future you’ll be given information relevant to the app you’re in and the information it’s displaying. A movie might link to Wikipedia or IMDB entries, for example, or a local business might prompt links to directions and its official website.
5. Ask questions of your apps
Google Now on Tap works with your voice as well, if you want to test out the new context-aware features. Launch Google Now as normal with a long-press on the Home button, then speak your query and assume the virtual assistant knows what’s on screen: try “who is this?” when listening to a song on Spotify, for example, or “when is it showing?” when someone mentions a film in an email. As more apps adopt the Google Now on Tap standard, it should be able to get even smarter.
6. Choose your own Quick Settings
The Quick Settings pane is the one that shows in Android when you drag down with two fingers from the top of the screen. In the latest release, if you long-press on the cog icon above the pane you can activate a System UI Tuner entry in the device’s Settings app. If you follow this menu entry you can change which tiles are shown on the Quick Settings screen and move them around; it’s also possible to hide certain icons (such as Bluetooth or Aeroplane mode) from the status bar.
7. Show the battery level as a percentage
This is another entry in the hidden System UI Tuner menu, so if you haven’t yet enabled it we refer you back to the previous tip (long-press the cog icon on the Quick Settings pane). Third-party modding programs have enabled you to see the battery level as a percentage on the status bar for some time, but now it’s a native feature – head into System UI Tuner from Settings then tap Show embedded battery percentage. If you want to know exactly how much juice your device has left at a glance, this is the way.
8. Back up your app settings
This is more of a tip for app developers rather than app users, but it’s something everyone should be aware of. Android Marshmallow gives apps the option to back up data and settings to your Google Drive account, free of charge. That means whenever you sign in on a new Android device, as well as finding all your contacts and emails in place, all of your apps will be in the same state as when you left them – assuming the app developers have decided to take advantage of the feature.
9. Share quickly to apps and contacts
Android’s Share menu has long been one of its strengths – the way you can send almost anything from one app to another with just a couple of taps – and it’s got even smarter in Marshmallow. Whenever you tap Share inside an app, the mobile OS brings up the contacts and the apps you share to most often, so if you’re a frequent tweeter then Twitter is most likely to appear first when you share a link. All the other apps and contacts appear too, but your favourites get pushed to the top.
10. Change the default apps
Like a desktop operating system (and in contrast to iOS), Android lets you set default apps – apps that are automatically chosen to open websites, pictures, text messages and so on. In Marshmallow, the way this works has been simplified slightly: if you go to the Apps entry in Settings, then tap on the cog icon and choose To default Apps on the subsequent screen, you can edit these associations. Tap on Browser, for example, and you can choose something other than Chrome to spring into action whenever you’re trying to view a web page.