Ars reviews Marshmallow.
Great; I just
got Lollipop set up.
Actually, this may be a good thing; there's a problem with CM12 and Sprint data access. I don't know what keeps fucking up my settings, but I keep losing access to the data network and having to reboot to recovery and reinstall a script somebody wrote to fix it. Yesterday it worked for less than an hour after I ran the script and then quit connecting again. (Obviously something
is causing this; I need to do more research to figure out what keeps messing up my settings -- and what's going on in that zip file that fixes them -- so I can stop it. It hasn't gotten to the point where it's a big enough annoyance to revert back to KitKat yet, since it only takes a minute or two to fix when it happens, but it is
It looks like the main "feature" of the new OS is Google looking over your shoulder even more, all the time. Filing this bit away for later:
If all of this sounds like a privacy nightmare, the assistant feature can be turned off in the settings. Head to Settings -> Apps -> Configure Apps (the gear button) -> Default Apps -> Assist and Voice Input and turn off everything. Here, users can also set which app has access to the Assist API (there can only be one) and pick between sending the app text-only or text and a screenshot.
On the plus side, it looks like Google's been pretty good about publishing API's so you can potentially choose other providers for its services (or, y'know, your carrier or phone manufacturer can choose them for you):
With as much flack as Google gets from the FTC
and other regulatory bodies for restricting rivals' access to Android, the Assist API shows Google's commitment to user choice. While developing Google Now on Tap, Google could have used a bunch of obfuscated, undocumented APIs that lock the operating system into its proprietary solution. Instead, it developed an API alongside Google Now on Tap.
Google added a bunch of hooks to AOSP and then made the most of those hooks, but any company is free to use them the way Google did. Users can also change from Google's solution to any other assistant app in the settings. So if Microsoft chooses to make a Bing or Cortana Assistant for Android Marshmallow (or expand its current Bing Snapshots
functionality), the company is free to do so and users are free to choose it.
Every part of Android is like this. Google takes over the home screen, but any third-party app can do that. Google is the system-wide, always-on voice provider, but any app can plug into the hotword API
. You can replace Google's keyboard, text-to-speech engine, SMS app, browser, or phone app.
Also good: granular app permissions. So instead of granting blanket access to a bunch of different permissions at install time, the app will request
access to functions as it needs them. (Though it looks like it's still up to the vendor whether to let the app run with unnecessary permissions turned off or just error out and refuse to run.)
On the minus side, every app has access to the Internet now and that can't be turned off; I wonder if third-party versions of the OS will fix that.
Another change to the Android permission system is that every app automatically gets access to the Internet now, and users have no way of turning this off. Google's rationale is that because it is preventing apps from accessing user data, there is no reason to limit them from accessing the Internet. Apps also need Internet access to display non-Google ads (Google ads travel through Google Play Services), crash reporting, and analytics.
We'd imagine many users would still want to control what apps have access to the Internet, even if those apps supposedly don't have access to user data. This isn't only a matter of security and peace of mind, but locking down Internet access also lets users better manage their data cap. There is really no reason for a simple app like a flashlight or calculator to have access to the Internet, but under Android Marshmallow, they will.