5 things you didn't know Android 6.0 could do

Google Nexus 6P smartphone.
PHOTO: Google

Unless you're the proud owner of the Huawei Nexus 6P, you probably haven't had the chance to experience the latest version of Android yet. Google's latest Nexus phone may have shipped with Marshmallow, the yummy moniker slapped onto the most polished version of Android so far, but it'll likely be a while before other manufacturers roll out their own updates.

But while you're sticking your neck out trying to catch wind of roasting marshmallows, here are some of the nifty features (not all of them are equally useful) that you can look forward to. Granted, some of them are dependent on manufacturers themselves to implement, but it's nice to have the function there at the very least.

PLAY FLAPPY DROID

As with Android Lollipop, Google has snuck in a hidden Easter Egg in Marshmallow that you have to sniff out for yourself. The surprise this time is also a Flappy Bird clone like on Lollipop, but with some tweaks to suit the latest version of Android. Instead of giant lollipops that threaten to crush your droid avatar, you have to guide the tiny red droid through an endless parade of skewered marshmallows.

To launch the game, navigate to the 'About Phone' section in 'Settings' and tap the Android version repeatedly until a large 'M' icon appears.

Tap the icon and a marshmallow with a pair of Android antennae will appear. After that, tap and hold the icon briefly (you have to do this a few times) until the game launches. Now, just try not to get killed by giant marshmallows!

CUSTOMIZE YOUR QUICK SETTING DRAWER AND STATUS BAR

This feature is a little more useful than the first one. Marshmallow has a hidden System UI Tuner that you can call up by tapping and holding down on the gear icon. The gear icon will then spin to let you know that the activation was successful, and you'll also see a pop-up toast message to that effect.

The System UI Tuner sub-menu will then appear at the bottom of your Settings menu.

There are fewer options than its name suggests, but there are some useful options like the ability to select which notification icons you want to see in your status bar. This essentially means that you can keep your status bar uncluttered even if you have a lot of things going on at once.

Android also doesn't show the battery percentage in the status bar by default, but now you can choose the option to show the battery percentage in the status bar when the phone isn't charging. On top of that, you can customise your Quick Settings panel by re-arranging the tiles or removing those that you don't need.

MORE CONTROL OVER BATTERY SAVINGS

You might have read about a new battery-saving feature in Marshmallow called Doze. In a nutshell, what Doze does is detect when your device is not in use, such as when you go to bed or leave it unattended for long periods at work. It will then kick in to put your phone in hibernation.

However, Doze isn't an all-or-nothing feature and you can choose which apps you want it to apply to. Doze essentially halts all notifications from apps that are dozing, but there will likely be apps that you want to always receive notifications from. In order to exclude these apps from going completely silent, go to your 'Battery' settings and hit the three dot menu at the top right.

Select the option for 'Battery Optimization', tap 'Not Optimized', then hit 'All Apps' to select the apps that you want to exclude from Doze. This way, you can ensure that you'll always receive Hangouts or WhatsApp messages the minute they come in.

USE YOUR MARSHMALLOW PHONE TO CHARGE ANOTHER DEVICE

Thanks to Marshmallow's support for the USB Power Delivery specification, you can now use one USB Type-C device to charge another. One key feature of the Power Delivery specification is that power direction is no longer fixed - as long as the product has power (regardless of whether it is a host or peripheral), it can supply it to another device. USB Type-C cables also do away with the host-to-peripheral concept of older USB ports, which is why they can have the same connector at both ends.

Unfortunately, USB Type-C ports aren't all that common on phones yet, but as we move into 2016 and beyond, we'll hopefully see more phones that support the specification. So the next time you forget to bring your portable charger, you could just leech power from a friend's phone.

USE MICROSD CARDS IN A SECURE FASHION

Support for microSD cards has virtually disappeared from flagship phones, but Marshmallow may just have paved the way for their return. A new feature called adoptable storage now puts external storage like microSD cards on the same level as internal storage. As the name suggests, the phone adopts the external storage and reformats it so that it is treated as if it were part of the internal storage. This is also more secure, as a reformatted card can no longer be used on another device and is encrypted with a static 128-bit AES key.

Adoptable storage lets you install apps and store private app data on the external card. In contrast, previous versions of Android only supported SD cards in a limited way and restricted users to storing things like photos. There were ways to circumvent that, but they were bothersome and perhaps caused more trouble than they were worth.With adoptable storage, manufacturers may now have more incentive to bring back support for external storage. This is definitely good news for you the consumer, as you could save money by buying a lower capacity model and pairing it with an external card. Does this mark the return of 16GB phones?

[[{"fid":"529622","view_mode":"original_image","type":"media","link_text":null,"attributes":{"height":202,"width":150,"border":"0","class":"media-element file-original-image"}}]]This article first appeared in the Jan, 2016 issue of HWM.  HWM, Singapore's #1 tech magazine is available in both print and digital. Subscribe atwww.hardwaremag.com.

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