Months after its official unveiling in May, Google’s Android 6.0 Marshmallow update is now available to consumers. If you have a Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 7 (2013), Nexus 9 or Nexus Player, you can either download the update for your respective device and flash it manually, or simply wait for the OTA, which is currently rolling out to users now. We flashed the update on a Nexus 5 and Nexus 6 here in the office, and made a quick video to remind you folks what’s so delicious about Android 6.0.
While there aren’t any big visual changes this year (the app drawer is now vertical, but that update came a few weeks before Android 6.0), Marshmallow is still one of Google’s larger updates. First and foremost, we get deeper control over app permissions, while security is being beefed up with native fingerprint support. The biggest addition, however, is Now on Tap, which makes your Android device incredibly smart.
Now on Tap essentially puts search inside every crevice of your Android phone, and is contextually aware of what’s on your screen. For example, if you’re in an email about meeting someone to see The Martian this Friday, simply call on Now on Tap, and you’ll get cards to create a calendar event, see the movie’s trailer, and more. And that’s not all.
If you’re listening to music through Spotify—say the new Drake mixtape—you can bring up Now on Tap to see when he’s touring and where—and you can even ask Google questions with your voice. How old is he?, and Now on Tap will tell you, even without specifying who “he” is.”
Even in the early going, Now on Tap is a fun, well-executed feature that makes Android smarter, and that’s an important distinction. It beats the hell out of iOS 9’s Proactive feature, which I have found zero use for ever since updating my iPhone 6. Having used it, I’m looking down at iOS 9 with a little bit of disgust. Siri Suggestions is just plain bad.
Some of the other features included in the Android 6.0 are Doze, more granular app permissions, and native fingerprint sensor support. Doze will essentially recognize when your device is idle and conserve power accordingly; setting app permissions will let users decide if Facebook can access your phone’s mic, and native fingerprint support just means you’ll have new ways to secure your phone, use Android Pay and buy stuff through Google Play.
We’ve been playing with Android 6.0 Marshmallow for only a few hours, and there’s a lot to like. Now on Tap appears to be a serious contender for one of the coolest mobile features ever, while it’s about time Google got onboard the fingerprint train. Check out the video above to see the final version of the OS in action.