The latest Android operating system, Android 6.0 Marshmallow, has begun shipping on Google’s Nexus devices. It should begin arriving on other makers’ handsets soon, too.
People haven’t been this excited about the arrival of a marshmallow since Mr. Stay Puft plodded his way through Manhattan in Ghostbusters. The Now On Tap feature is the biggest new feature, allowing Google Now to scan the screen for items the user may want to know more about and serve up information at the push of the home button. It’s effectively a shortcut for Android's “Okay Google” voice activated search, without actually having to say the words “Okay Google” — or even the thing you’re searching for.
But this kind of high-powered mobile computing won't work on just any old Google handset. Here are the five best Android phones available today, all of which are either rumored or confirmed to get Marshmallow.
Samsung Galaxy S6
The Sharpest Shooter
As we make ever fewer phone calls on our smartphones, the importance of things like cellular antennas go down. But we’re taking more digital photos than ever, so all the camera bits, from lenses to image sensors, matter much more. Proving megapixels aren’t everything, the Samsung Galaxy has a relatively unimpressive-sounding 16 megapixel rear-facing camera. But it’s optics that matter most, and this quick shooter can snap off a pic in under a second, simply by double-tapping on the home button to pull up the camera. A motion tracking auto-focus feature helps photographers lock in on moving targets.
But the real magic inside this shooter is a larger aperture that lets in 34% more light, an improvement that makes the Samsung Galaxy S6 a great shot in darker spaces. So if you take a lot of smartphone photos at night or in dimly lit conditions, this could be the phone for you.
Motorola Moto G
Teen Choice Award
Kids want the latest and greatest in order to stay connected to (and keep up with) their friends, but often times they literally can’t handle an expensive handset. Drops, spills, and scratches kill many a teenager’s phone, so taking a value approach to an Android handset is ideal for youngsters. Starting at $179, this water-resistant, Gorilla Glass-fronted phone can take a splash and keep on streaming.
Fully customizable through the online Moto Maker program, the 5-inch handset can sport a range of back, front, and accent colors. You can even engrave a name or a phrase on it, to help make sure no one accidentally lifts it from the locker room. And when it comes to software, social media savvy features like the Moto G’s “quick capture” gesture score big with the young set. Using it, a simple twist of the wrist launches the phone’s camera quickly—a great way to capture those did-you-see-that moments your teen's friends would never believe.
Google Nexus 6P
Best Android Experience
Made by Huawei, Google’s newest flagship phone accompanied the company’s rollout of Marshmallow. For Android aficionados, the phone’s dense 5.7-inch, 518 pixel-per-inch AMOLED display is a window into the best Android experience available. That means, from Chrome to Photos, it comes with all of Google’s great apps, right out of the box.
But beyond Marshmallow, the 6P has introduced several new features to the Nexus line that will be big parts of Android moving forward. For instance, Nexus Imprint, a fingerprint sensor located on the phone’s back side, unlocks apps and mobile payments with just a touch. Another hardware improvement is the phone’s addition of a USB-C charging and data port. At last, Android users can rid themselves of the chance that they’ll be inserting their charger the wrong way into their phone. Oddly enough, while there’s only a 50/50 chance of that occurring, it seems to happen 100% of the time.
Road Warrior Weapon
On many critic’s list as the best smartphone camera due to its 16 megapixel rear shooter with excellent manual controls, the the 5.5-inch LG G4 also does double duty as a great travel handset. That’s because at a time when most manufacturers are closing up their hardware, LG continues to let users remove the casing to swap out batteries and memory cards.
Featuring a removable 3,000 mAh battery and up to two terabytes of storage on microSD cards, the G4 can crunch through email, phone calls, and web surfing all day on its 538 pixel-per-inch display, without having to be tethered to a wall or an external power bank—just swap out the battery. And if you take it from a morning meeting where you’re wearing brown to a black tie affair in the evening, you can even change out the G4’s rear plate to match your attire—so this is a smartphone that looks even smarter.
Moto X Pure
Most Valuable Player
With phone carriers largely abandoning handset subsidies, the cost of smartphones is climbing. It used be that everyone wanted the latest and greatest, but top-end phones now cost more than $700 unlocked, so there’s a rush towards devices that offer better value.
Essentially an amped up version of the Moto G, the Moto X Pure stacks up the specs. For instance, its rear camera has an eye-popping 21 megapixels, and it's capable of capturing 4K video. Its TurboPower system boasts the world's fastest charging, pouring 1,000 mAh of juice into the battery in just 15 minutes. the 5.7-inch 520 pixel-per-inch screen looks great, and is backed by three gigabytes of RAM. It can also be customized through the Moto Maker program. The only spec that isn’t big is the price — unlocked, the Moto X Pure starts at just $399.