Nexus 6 Android 6.0 Marshmallow Hands-on & First Impressions

On September 29th along with announcing the all-new Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, Google confirmed the highly anticipated Android 6.0 Marshmallow update would be released this week. As promised, yesterday Google delivered it, and I’ve been testing it on the original Nexus 6 for over 24 hours. Below are my first impressions, a hands-on video highlighting some new features, and a few other details.

Back in May Google revealed Android M, the codename for what is now Android 6.0 Marshmallow and has just replaced Android 5.1 Lollipop. Over the past few months a few developer previews gave us a good idea of what to expect, but now it’s finally here. The full official version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow is available now, with everything working like Google Now on Tap, and all the other new features. Try it below.

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Read: How to Install Android 6.0 Marshmallow Right Now

With Android 6.0 Marshmallow Google did a lot, but you’ll only notice a few small changes. This update will make Android smooth, faster, have better battery life, be more secure with fingerprint scanners, and introduced some awesome new features like Doze for better battery life, Android Pay for mobile payments, and our favorite, Google Now on Tap. Check out our hands-on video below, and read on for our first impressions of Marshmallow so far.

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Above is a very quick video showing users Android 6.0 Marshmallow on the Nexus 6, which should be nearly the exact same experience on the Nexus 5, Nexus 7, and Nexus 9 tablets. Then of course with the new Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P owners will have the same buttery smooth interface, but additions like the rear fingerprint scanner, and other changes.

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As you can see, Android 6.0 Marshmallow appears to be running quite amazing so far. Everything is fast, smooth, and stable, and standby battery life has been excellent as well. The video above goes over Google Now on Tap, which is rather neat and can do much more than just what we showed, and there are tons of small changes inside of Android 6.0 that users may not notice at first glance, but everything has been improved, refined, cleaned up, and just works great.

Read: Android 6.0 vs Android 5.1 Lollipop: What’s New in Marshmallow

With Android 6.0 Marshmallow there’s a new feature called Doze, and as long as the phone or tablet isn’t moved, everything goes into a deep sleep state. This is more for tablets than anything, but has shown to offer nearly 30% better battery life.

That all said, here are some additional thoughts, breakdowns, and impressions of the latest Android 6.0 Marshmallow on Google’s big Nexus 6 from 2014.

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Nexus 6 Android 6.0 Update

Google promised the update to Android 6.0 would arrive by the end of Q3, which was the end of September. For the most part they hit the mark, and it was released just a few days later on October 5th.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow is rolling out as an over the air update right now, as we speak. It’s headed to the Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 7, Nexus 9, and Nexus Player. Although it could take anywhere from 1-2 weeks to arrive for everyone, as Google does slow staggered rollouts to make sure there are no critical bugs while pushing updates.

Those interested in trying it now, rather than waiting for the OTA notification to appear on their own Nexus device, can use the link at the top of the page that explains how to manually install Android 6.0 M. However, it will erase your device.

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Google released the factory images for multiple devices that users can flash right now, but those who aren’t up to date with flashing software may want to just hold off a day or so and hope the update arrives. It should hit all devices by the end of next week, but most likely 90% of owners will see it by the end of the week.

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Nexus 6 Android 6.0 Performance

The developer previews ran good, but this final build is even better. So far the Nexus 6 is butter smooth and amazingly fast, as you guys probably noticed from the hands-on video above. A good way to explain Android 6.0 would be fast, smooth, polished, and stable. We’re not experiencing any problems thus far, but it has only been 24 hours.

I went with a clean install, rather than using Tap N Go or Google’s automatic app backups, as I wanted to start with a clean slate. Those accepting the update or sideloading it, without wiping their device, may have different results. That said, so far I’m having no problems and Android 6.0 Marshmallow is performing as good as, or better than expected.

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I wouldn’t say performance was bad before, on Android 5.1 Lollipop, but it appears to be noticeably better with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. However, I have noticed that while Google Now on Tap is amazing, which we’ll explain more about in a moment, it can be a bit slow at times. Nothing too bad, but results can take upwards of 3-4 seconds at times. At the same time, it’s doing some amazing stuff, so I’m ok with the wait.

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Most of the changes to Android 6.0 Marshmallow are behind the scenes, but everything is slightly more polished and cleaned up. Settings menus remain the same, but small changes to internal storage, app manager and other things shows Google wanted to refine the experience, not change it. The look and feel was slightly adjusted to be easier to understand, and you can see everything that’s new from our walkthrough vs linked to above.

The developer previews were missing features, and would oddly glitch out here and there, but that isn’t the case here. The Nexus 6 and Android 6.0 Marshmallow are running like a well-oiled machine. Google’s done a great job from my initial impressions, but we’ll need to spend more time with it to say more.

Apps

As far as apps go there is nothing to complain about. Considering Google released developer previews way back in May all developers had enough time to update apps for M support, so everything works great. All my apps worked, were compatible, and ran great. I’ve streamed some NFL through streaming apps, watched some TV with Sling TV, and enjoyed some Clash of Clans all without issue. Gaming has been good, and there’s nothing bad to report. At least not yet. As time goes on, things could change. The nasty memory leak issue in Android 5.0 was fixed long ago, and so far we’re seeing no signs of it being present. Performance is good.

I’ve played games like Clash of Clans, Asphalt 8, and UNO, as well as ran Facebook, Instagram, placed calls, sent text messages with Textra, and used nearly every social network, all without fail. I’ve yet to experience any hiccups or app problems since updating to Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but others may have different apps, and varied results.

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For now everything is looking good, and I’m enjoying the new application drawer as shown above. It now scrolls vertical, not horizontal, which isn’t my favorite, but Google shows the top four most recent open apps up top, and added an easy search tool. On tablets it displays the most recent seven apps up top, which is really nice.

Google Now on Tap

In Android 6.0 Marshmallow there’s a new feature called Google Now on Tap. A long-press on the home button turns it on, and a animation will wrap around the screen. Google Now analyses what’s on the users display and searches for relevant information, then displays it without having to leave the app. Our video above showed it off, and it’s amazing.

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Essentially I can get an email or text from a friend saying lets go watch a movie, in this case it was The Martian. Google Now on Tap knows he meant the movie, not the book, so gave me results for the movie. There is a preview, the IMdb rating, apps that have movie information like Flixster, a link to the YouTube movie trailer, and a one-click Google icon to search for more details about the movie.

All of this happened in seconds, without ever leaving the email. This will allow users to multi-task like never before and even set a calendar event to see the movie, say next week. It’s the next stage of multi-tasking. Find out what a band, movie, or item is all about, without stopping what you’re doing. A great way to easily learn more about something while texting a friend. I used it to learn about and hear a song I’d never heard before, recommended to me by my brother. It was rather impressive, and I look forward to trying Google Now on Tap more for a full review.

Nexus 6 Android 6.0 Marshmallow Battery Life

Every Android update claims to improve battery life, but with Android 6.0 Marshmallow Google actually made huge changes to deliver on this claim. It’s called Doze, which essentially allowing apps to sleep, or “Doze” into a deeper state than usual, rather than waiting in memory ready to be called or re-opened. This is a similar approach iOS takes, and should make Android 6.0 much better in daily usage, and especially with standby battery life. Google claims tablets will last nearly 30% longer, and Doze will yield similar results to putting a phone into airplane mode, which can often have it lasting for days, rather than 12 hours.

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We noticed a huge increase in standby battery on the Nexus 9, but need more time with the Nexus 6 to truly have an opinion. Overnight my Nexus 6 battery drain was about the same as it has been since installing Android M months ago, if not slightly better. It’s hard to tell after just 24 hours of usage, and we’ll update at a later date. It did seem to flatline, and I only lost 2% overnight. Impressive, to say the least.

So far battery life does appear slightly better, but again, we’ll need more time to fully test Android Marshmallow.

WiFi & Bluetooth

Connectivity is a major area of concern after any update, especially a large one like this. And while the Nexus 6 didn’t have too many issues, we’re not experiencing any either, so that’s good. My Nexus 6 connected to my Pioneer stereo in my car without issues, streamed music to my Samsung Level-U wireless headphones, and even with Android Auto in my Toyota truck. All without any issues. So that’s a good sign.

Android-M-tuner

In the earlier Android M releases Google had a few things that are now missing. One being a dark mode for the settings menu, or a dark theme, and another was a system UI tuner that let us customize the quick settings and notification bar. One is gone, the settings, but the UI Tuner can still be unlocked.

As shown above, long-press the gear-shaped settings button will enable a “System UI tuner” option in settings, which gives users some neat advanced controls over the interface and notification pulldown bar. The settings icon spins and unlocks this hidden tool, but mess around too much and you make cause issues, so use caution.

With Android 5.1 Lollipop there were a lot of problems with GPS, especially with LG devices for whatever reason. So far with my Nexus 6 on Android 6.0 M GPS appears fine. I used it with Android Auto for navigation and it locked on instantly, stayed, and was perfectly accurate.

Speed

Android 5.1 was built for any device, including Android One budget phones for emerging markets, and Android 6.0 picks up right where that left off. It’s fast, guys. The Nexus 6 is a powerful phone, but so far I’m enjoying the fruits of Google’s labor with Android M. Overall speed, performance and reliability is great since the update yesterday. Next we’ll be testing it out on the Nexus 5, to see if the same excellent performance remains.

Should You Install the Android 6.0 Update?

Well, it’s too early to tell. Personally though, I’d say yes, absolutely. Google Now on Tap itself is worth the update, not to mention the obvious improvements to battery life.

Now that this isn’t a developer preview and is actually a final release, it’s absolutely worth installing on a main device. Some may want to wait a few days to see if any major Android 6.0 bugs or problems arise, but so far I have none to report.

We’d recommend waiting for the actual update to hit your device in the next few days, or if you’d like, try the steps above and get it today. Android 6.0 Marshmallow is the perfect idea of an update. Google didn’t change everything so users will feel right at home, but will notice the subtle changes, enjoy the new features, and feel like it’s a new phone all over again.