Marshmallow’s Updates and Outcomes

Posted by Ed George

Over the last few months, Google has finally started releasing both factory images and over-the-air updates to upgrade their Nexus family of devices to the latest version of Android, 6.0 aka Marshmallow.

Given the significant version bump from Lollipop 5.1, we at Hi Mum! Said Dad were excited to try it out and see what’s changed.

The first noticeable difference was the lack of obvious differences. Compared to the updates of years gone by — such as the introduction of the Holo Theme in Honeycomb, followed by the visually stunning Material Design in Lollipop, 6.0 — it looks and feels almost the same as its predecessor. The subtle visual differences include smoother animations and not much else. The majority of the changes for this update can be found behind the scenes in the form of improvements in battery usage, added support for new technologies (including USB C and fingerprint authentication), as well as a plethora of other system changes to improve the underlying operating system of the devices.

One blindingly clear key area Google has focused on is the privacy and security of users. Google has really upped their game and added many new features to ensure Android devices and its users are kept safe from anyone with un-toward intent.

One example of this is demonstrated through the new Verified Boot feature. Starting from 6.0, when an Android device boots up it will warn you if the firmware and operating system has been modified from the factory version. This simple change can mean big things in terms of keeping personal data safe, as maliciously modifying the firmware of an Android device is a silent but deadly approach for cyber criminals.

The most noticeable of the new privacy features is the overhaul of Android’s app permission management. From your photos to your phone calls, permissions within apps govern which features and personal data the app can access in your device. It’s been a cornerstone of Android’s operating system since its inception as it’s been long overdue for an upgrade.

In previous versions of Android, users were expected to accept all of the app’s permission requests when they downloaded it from the Google Play Store, no matter how farfetched. Accepting permissions was a one-time action that could not be revoked unless the application was uninstalled.

The new process has taken a leaf out of Apple’s iOS book and brought in ‘Runtime Permissions’, which give users the ability to accept or deny specific permissions. For example, if you want to upload a photo to Twitter in 6.0, you’ll be prompted with a message box asking if the Twitter app can have permission to use your photos held on your device. You can now choose to accept or deny this request, have the device remember it and behave appropriately by either showing your photos or a page explaining why you should enable a certain permission.

Users can also now turn on/off permissions for all installed apps from their security settings; meaning apps that are too permission heavy in the user’s eyes can be reigned in and not allowed to access anything the user deems unnecessary. From a developer’s perspective, this is slightly more tedious as scenarios in which the user hasn’t granted permission for certain actions must now be considered.

Some good news for users and developers is that apps that pre-date these permission changes will run as they did previously; the only difference being that permissions for these apps can be enabled or disabled through the device security settings like those of the newer apps. Users will be warned when disabling permissions for these apps that it may cause issues for, as they were not originally designed to handle permission denial. This is really helpful as users can now make clear informed decisions about permissions regardless of the target API of the application.

Overall, the jump from 5.1 to 6.0 might not initially feel like the version upgrades we have come to expect from Android, but it’s certainly paved the way for the future of mobile operating systems. It’s without hesitation when we say Marshmallow is certainly sweet and has left us wanting more.

Want to know more about how Android’s latest updates will affect your apps or make better new ones? Don’t hesitate to drop us a line, we’d love to hear from you!

Originally published at