Google outlines improvements in Android 6.0 Marshmallow

During its press event today, Google outlined many of the improvements it's made to Android 6.0 Marshmallow in more detail. The company says this release focuses on contextual computing, where the device tries to learn what users will want to do based on what they've done in the past—andon what they're doing at a given time.

The natural starting point is the lock screen, which shows more information and now offers quicker access to the camera and voice search. Double-tapping the power button brings up the camera app. Swiping up and in from the lower-left of the screen opens Google Voice Search. When a phone is charging, the lock screen says whether the phone is charging quickly and how long it will take to charge in full.

On phones with Google's Android Sensor Hub, picking up devices like the Nexus 5X and 6P will wake the screen in a low-power, white-on-black mode that shows the time and any pending notifications. From the low-power mode, touching a notification wakes the phone fully and shows details about the selected notification.

Notifications have been updated in more places than the lock screen, too. Touching a notification when it appears at the top of the screen will show more information and give quick access to tools for taking action, like a quick interface to reply to text messages. 

The application drawer has been updated, as well. In some ways, this update resembles older Android releases, with a vertically-scrolling endless list. The drawer also shows apps at the top that it thinks users want to use, based on usage patterns. 

Now On Tap was a big feature on display when Google first announced Marshmallow, and now it's been fleshed out. Tapping and holding the on-screen home button gives access to a menu with quick context-sensitive actions. A demo on stage showed a user receiving a message through Google Plus with an invitation to dinner at a restaurant. Now On Tap showed some context-sensitive actions like pulling up a review of the restaurant, directions to the location, and creating a calendar reminder event. 

Google has also exposed voice interactions to app developers. The on-stage demo included launching an updated version of the NPR app. The app asked if the user wanted to catch up on recent news or jump into live programming. 

Another feature shown off at the Marshmallow announcement is Doze mode, which should improve battery life. Doze mode checks the phone's sensors to see if it's being left unattended, and if so, it allows the phone to sleep longer in between background tasks. Google claims idle battery life on the Nexus 5 and Nexus 6 has been increased by 30% in Android 6.0 compared to the 5.x releases.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow will come installed on the new Nexus phones, and will also roll out to the Nexus 5, 6, 7 (2013), 9, and Nexus Player starting next week.

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