September 4, 2016
Android Marshmallow (codenamed M in-development) is the 6th major version of the Android operating system. They unveiled it first in May 2015 at Google I/O. Also, they officially released it in October 2015.
Marshmallow primarily focuses on improving the overall user experience of Lollipop. It also introduces a new permissions architecture, new APIs for contextual assistants (a feature notably leveraged by “Now On Tap”—a new capability of the Google searching by contextualizing an app into a simpler interface by Google Now). In addition it has a new power management system that reduces background activity. This happens when you don’t physically handle a device. It contains native support for fingerprint recognition and USB Type-C connectors, the ability to migrate data and applications to a microSD card and use it as primary storage, and other internal changes.
As of August 2016, 15.2% of devices accessing Google Play run Android 6.0.
A new “Assist” API allows information from a currently-opened app. This also includes text and a screenshot of the current screen. It is sent to a designated “assistant” application for analysis and processing. They use this system by the Google Search app feature “Google Now on Tap”, which allows users to perform searches within the context of information. They currently display it on-screen. Now you can hold the “Home” button and use a voice command. In addition this generates on-screen cards which display information, suggestions, and actions related to the content. “Direct Share” allows Share menus to display recently used combinations of contacts and an associated app as direct targets.
A newly inserted SD card or other secondary storage media can be either “portable” or “internal” storage. “Portable” maintains the default behavior of previous Android versions. In that aspect it treats the media as a secondary storage device for storage of user files. You can also remove the storage media or replace without repercussions. On another note is subject to access restrictions by apps. When designated as “Internal” storage, the storage media is reformatted with an encrypted ext4 file system, and is “adopted” by the operating system as the primary storage partition.
It migrates existing data (including applications and “private” data folders) to the external storage, and normal operation of the device becomes dependent on the presence of the media. Apps and operating system functions will not function properly if the adopted storage device is removed. If the user loses access to the storage media, it will forget the adopted storage. This makes the data permanently inaccessible. Samsung and LG have, however, removed the ability to use an SD card as “internal” storage on their Galaxy S7 and G5 devices, with Samsung arguing that the feature could result in unexpected losses of data, and prevents users from being able to transfer data using the card.
Android Marshmallow introduces an application permission model with a new design. There are now only eight permission categories. Applications are no longer automatically granted all of their specified permissions at installation time. It also uses an opt-in system. I prompts users to grant or deny individual permissions (such as the ability to access the camera or microphone) to an application for the first time. Applications remember the grants, which can be revoked by the user at any time. The new permission model is used only by applications compiled for Marshmallow using its software development kit (SDK), and older apps will continue to use the previous all-or-nothing permission model. You can still revoke permissions for those apps. Though this might prevent them from working properly, and a warning is displayed to that effect.
The introduce schemes known as “Doze” and “App Standby”. If it is running low on battery power, a device will enter a low-power state if it is inactive. In this state they restrict network connectivity and background processing.In addition, it process only “high-priority” notifications. Additionally, network access by apps is deferred if the user has not recently interacted with the app. Apps may request a permission to exempt themselves from these policies. Google Play Store will reject them as a violation of its “Dangerous Products” policy.
Android Marshmallow provides native support for fingerprint recognition on supported devices via a standard API, allowing third-party applications to implement fingerprint-based authentication. You can use fingerprints to unlock devices and authenticate Play Store and Android Pay purchases. Android Marshmallow supports USB Type-C, including the ability to instruct devices to charge another device over USB. Marshmallow also introduces “verified links”. You can configure them to open directly in their specified application without further user prompts. You can automatically back up user data for apps targeting Marshmallow, up to Google Drive over Wi-Fi. Each application receives up to 25 MB of storage, which is separate from a user’s Google Drive storage allotment.
As of Marshmallow, the Android Compatibility Definition Document contains new security mandates for devices, dictating that those that are capable of accessing encrypted data without affecting performance must enable Secure boot and device encryption by default. This is done in order to certificate the operating system, and be able to license Google Mobile Services software. They intended to require mandatory device encryption to take effect on Lollipop. On another note they delayed it due to performance issues.
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