Android 4.4 KitKat official – here’s what you need to know

October 31, 2013

    Google unveiled its new Android version alongside the Nexus 5 – Android 4.4 KitKat – and in what follows we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about it.

    Announced out of the blue in early September, while we were waiting to see Samsung and LG announced new devices at IFA 2013, Android 4.4 KitKat is the first new Android OS version to have a new desert name after three Jelly Bean servings.

    But the Google-Nestle publicity stunt may be more than just a simple marketing trick, as Google has some big plans for KitKat.

    Project Svelte

    First and foremost, Android 4.4 KitKat will offer something that its predecessors did not bring to the table, and that’s support for older devices that were left running dated Android versions.

    In other words, Project Svelte is joining Project Butter:

    KitKat streamlines every major component to reduce memory use and introduces new APIs and tools to help you create innovative, responsive, memory-efficient applications.

    Google is apparently interested in fixing that fragmentation issue Android has – some people don’t see it that way, but clearly Google thinks it should be fixed. The company has already provided some of the core Android apps as independent downloads, which are available to users that own older Android versions, but that’s not enough.

    Android 4.4 KitKat

    Android 4.4 KitKat will work on old phones and tablets that are stuck on older Android versions, with a recent report also suggesting that the OS will be compatible with other gadgets, including wearable computing devices such as smartwatches or Google Glass.

    In addition to optimizing KitKat to work on devices with 512MB of storage, the new OS also introduces a new concept, “hardware sensor batching.” Instead of collecting information from sensors individually, KitKat will deliver sensors “efficiently in batches,” which should improve the battery life of smartphones and tablets.

    Tools for analyzing memory use are available to help developers better monitor their apps in time, especially when it comes to memory consumption.

    Android 4.4 KitKat

    Overall, KitKat should offer a faster multitasking experience and a more responsive touchscreen display.

    Android 4.4 KitKat is supposed to offer an even more “buttery” experience than Jelly Bean, with developers being able to use a new transitions framework in order to animate scenes in their apps.

    Graphics performance improvements are also present in Android 4.4, which “upgrades its SufraceFlinger from OpenGL ES 1.0 to OpenGL ES 2.0,” resulting in an improved performance, better color calibration and support for “more advanced special effects.”

    Design

    In addition to optimizing KitKat to run on devices that have as low as 512MB of RAM, Google has also tweaked the design of the OS.

    We have already seen plenty of leaks that confirmed the new design cues, so we were not surprised to see some of those leaks were indeed accurate.

    Transparent effects have been added to the navigation and status bar on lock screen and home screen, but developers will be able to use the translucent system UI styling to offer the same effects in their apps.

    Android 4.4 KitKat

    When it comes to apps, Android 4.4 KitKat lets developers take up the entire screen, and offer a “full-screen immersive mode,” doing away with “all system UI such as the status bar and the navigation bar.”

    Users will be able to easily switch launchers directly from Settings by going to Settings > Home.

    Features

    Besides improving the overall Android experience available in Jelly Bean, Google has added some interesting new features to KitKat, which users may certainly appreciate.

    Always-on Google Now and Google Search

    Google’s core business is still Search, and that means the search apps in KitKat have also been tweaked both when it comes to design but also functionality.

    Android 4.4 KitKat

    KitKat brings new always-on listening features to Android devices, which means that much like the Moto X or Google Glass, other Android handsets and tablets will be able to respond with immediate search results when called upon by voice.

    All you have to do is say “OK Google” followed by your query.

    However, initially only the Nexus 5 will have the always listening feature enabled.

    Smarter calling

    In KitKat, the phone app will automatically prioritize contacts based on the people you talk to the most and will let you search for “nearby places and businesses, your contacts, or people in your Google Apps domain.”

    The caller ID is also smarter, as it will try to match a call from a phone number that’s not saved in your contacts with business and add a Google Maps listing for them.

     

    Hangouts and the default SMS app

    You already know by now that Hangouts has received SMS integration, but users won’t be forced to use Hangouts as their default SMS application.

    The concept of default SMS application comes with Android 4.4 KitKat, something Google revealed not so long ago.

    A new NFC

    NFC has also been tweaked in KitKat, as Google is not yet ready to give up on its NFC vision. Even though it encountered some stiff resistance and/or competition from carriers, Google is ready to move past their needs by letting developers offer NFC features to interested buyers without requiring access to the secure element on SIM cards, which is controlled by mobile operators.

    KitKat uses Host Card Emulation (HCE) to offer NFC “payments, loyalty programs, card access, transit passes and other custom transactions,” without actually requiring a secure element present.

    Printing

    Android 4.4 KitKat will bring wireless printing support to Android users. As we have already seen in leaked images, users will have the opportunity to print documents and pictures directly from their handsets, and customize the print jobs from the phone and/or tablet.

    Android 4.4 KitKat

    Storage access framework

    KitKat will let users access their local and cloud content in a single spot, whether it’s documents, images or other files. Google Drive and the local storage of the device will be available inside the new service, and “Google apps that work with files also use the new framework.”

    Android 4.4 KitKat

    Developers will be able to use the framework to add support for their apps – in the screenshot above users can select files from Drive, Box, or from the Downloads and Gallery apps.

    KitKat and the TV

    The new OS also comes with TV-related powers, which will let KitKat handsets and tablets act as TV remote controls – as long as an infrared sensor is present inside the phone. That way, KitKat will already have build-in infrared support, meaning that more OEMs will be able to use the feature in the future.

    A Wi-Fi Tunneled Direct Link Setup (TDLS) feature will let Android 4.4 devices “stream media and other data faster between devices” that are on the same Wi-Fi network.

    Android 4.4 KitKat

    Audio and video improvements

    KitKat brings a variety of tools that should help with entertainment-related chores:

    • Resolution switching through adaptive playback will let apps seamlessly change resolution during video playback
    • Support for Common Encryption (CENC) – “a standard, multiplatform DRM scheme for managing protective content.”
    • Audio Tunneling to DSP – audio decoding and output is moved to a digital signal processor (DSP) in order to conserve battery power in such cases when the screen is not turned on but music is playing.
    • Audio monitoring – apps get new tools that let them “monitor any currently playing audio on the device”
    • Loudness enhancer – media apps can increase the loudness of spoken content
    • Wi-Fi Certified Miracast
    • System-wide settings for closed captioning
    • Music and movie seeking from lock screen – by long pressing the play button, you’ll be able to move to a certain part of a song or video directly from the lock screen

    More Bluetooth profiles

    After finally rolling out Bluetooth 4.0 LE support with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, Google seems determined to take Bluetooth support one step further by letting Android apps interact with more Bluetooth-enabled devices.

    KitKat will offer support for more Bluetooth profiles including Bluetooth HID over GATT (“gives apps a low-latency with low-power peripheral devices such as mice, joysticks and keyboards”), Bluetooth MAP (“exchange messages with a nearby device”) and an extension to Bluetooth AVRCP 1.3 (which will let users “set absolute volume on the system from their Bluetooth devices”).

    Screen recorder

    A new screen recorder app will let users record videos of the apps they’re using in order to create “walkthroughs, tutorial, marketing videos and more.”

    Step Detector and Step Counter

    Android 4.4 will come with support for two new sensors, a step detector and step counter, that will let apps track steps when the user is walking.

    Android 4.4 KitKat

    Location features

    A new tile in Quick Settings will let users quickly access their Location settings. Furthermore, in order to save battery life, users will be able to go to Settings > Location “to switch between high accuracy and battery-saving location mode.”

    Security features

    Security has also been enhanced in Android 4.4, as app sandboxes “have been hardened with Security-Enhanced Linux,” and support has been added for two more cryptographic algorithms.

    Wrap up

    As you can see, KitKat appears to be a major upgrade for Google, especially when it comes to support for older devices. This is something that hasn’t been done before, and users should be happy to hear that they may be able to jump from a pre-Jelly Bean OS version directly to KitKat.

    However – and this is where Google can’t do anything about it just yet – there still are obstacles in the way that will prevent Google from immediately fixing fragmentation and these are OEMs and carriers that each have personal agendas when it comes to software updates for older devices, which may not coincide with Google’s plans.

    We’ll put KitKat through its paces in the future, and tell you all there is to know about Google’s new mobile OS version.

    What do you think about KitKat so far?

    Developing…

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    Comments

    • naveen

      Good improvements indeed..

    • TechDevil

      Is it OK for me to yell “Finally!” and dance around now? Can’t wait to get my hands on Nexus 5 and Android 4.4 KitKat! :D

      • adam evans

        It is! Its been playing out for so long , its like that friend you always knew was gay has finally come out the closet! Relief !

        • TechDevil

          What a comparison, hahahaha!

    • dogulas

      “Android 4.4 KitKat will work on old phones and tablets that are stuck on older Android versions” …so I’m curious why they aren’t supporting the Galaxy Nexus. Maybe they’ll leave that up to outsiders?

      • Roberto Mezquia Jr

        because that phone falls out of the 18 month support time frame…

      • MasterMuffin

        Custom ROMMMMMs :)

      • Databoy2k

        Neither custom roms nor the time-frame issue address the inherent contradiction. How can Google expect dumb companies like Sony (who will never update their Tablet S, for example) to update if they themselves won’t update. This should have been released for the S and GNex. Period. End of story. And if they are waiting for Samsung to do it as manufacturer, then they should have put pressure on Sammy long before today.

        • John A

          Well said. My thoughts exactly. And 18 months is too short for a Nexus device anyway imo.

      • Simos Katsiaris

        because a specific company payed for it’s development and doesn’t want it to get 4.3

      • Rabid Rotty

        the same reason why Jelly bean didn’t come to the nexus s and the same reason why ICS didn’t come to the Nexus 1. google only give approx. 18 months support to their devices.

      • Tiago Azevedo

        I don’t understand that either! They could have shown a new way of updating devices by updating a capable device like the Galaxy Nexus! It seems I’ll have to wait for a Custom ROM.

      • Sepehr Mostofi Afshar

        of course its us that has to do the job ! and there are plenty of forums and tutorial stuff for that ! which makes android more lovely ^_^

      • John A

        THAT is exactly what I wanna know too!!!

      • Hoggles

        Its been reported….and the reason makes perfect sense. The Galaxy Nexus used a Texas Instruments chipset. T.I. is now out of biz… hence, you’ll never see another update. Let’s be honest… if you’re still rockin the G Nexus… you’re obviously not a big technophile and it really shouldn’t make too much difference to ya.

        • dogulas

          those are good reasons.

        • Jayfeather787

          I have a Samsung Galaxy Exhibit, with a 1 GHz single core processor, (Snapdragon S2) and 512 MB of RAM, and an Adreno 205. I am a big techophile though. I am running 4.3 jellybean instead of the stock 2.3 gingerbread. I have also overclocked it to 1.4 GHz and created a 500 MB swap file. It makes an enormous difference to me on what version of Android I have. Even though my phone has come a long way, there is still room for improvement. With updates come improvements, which I why I will never stop trying to get a new ROM for my phone.

          Or I could just buy a Nexus 5 :)

      • Jayfeather787
      • Aaron

        If KitKat works on older phones then how can I get it on my Galaxy Note 2?

      • Aaron

        How can I get the 4.4 KitKat on my Galaxy Note 2?

      • Anonomous.TECH.man

        Because the gallaxy nexus uses a Texas instrument prosseser and the no longer actively make or support mobile chips so it would of been hard to get the new OS working on the phone.

    • Joachim Nilsson

      Which Linux kernel version is it running? Is it the new long-term 3.10?

      • MasterMuffin

        No way, at best 3.8

        • Jayfeather787

          It is likely 3.4, but 3.8 would be amazing.

      • Simos Katsiaris

        i hope it’s 3.10 but i can’t see it for now

    • Cecil

      Does the always on feature wake the phone up like the moto x?

      • Dexter

        Since they haven’t promoted it i guess it doesn’t

        • Jayfeather787

          No, the phone has to be on the homescreen or not in any other app besides Google Now.

    • Jack Parker

      If its been optimized for 512mb of ram, anything more then that its just going to be so smooth, us android fans have always hated the way Apple was smooth no matter what the specs, but alas the tables have turned

      • Jayfeather787

        They have indeed. Android 4.2 jellybean runs smoother on my 1 GHz single core with 512 MB of RAM than ios 7 does on a phone with similar specs. (My phone is the Samsung Galaxy Exhibit, the phone with similar specs is the iPhone 4).

        • Jack Parker

          Jesus xD you need an update!

          • Jayfeather787

            Damn right, but my dad said I have to wait 2 more years.

      • Aniruddh

        Exactly, I have a three year old LG P500 with 512RAM and with a 600MHz processor. Even after facing countless drops, the phone runs smoothly with just some lag here and there

    • n11

      Still one of the biggest areas of potential Google is the task manager, just having those apps hover there seems like a waste. It would be a good idea to be able to do something to them.
      For example, be able to use two or three individual apps at once, split across the screen. You’d drag the task manager into “split view” menu and you’d able to for example see your web browser and gmaps side by side.
      I’d love to see something like that, cause so far just swiping tasks away seems like such a lost potential.

      • duh

        go get a samsung phone, it has multi window mode if you haven’t know.

    • uuee

      I know this is a long shot, but does the support for older devices mean it’s coming to the s2?

      • Thomas Vales

        The Galaxy Nexus isn’t getting it so probably not. They designed it to run well on older phones but apparently it won’t actually be running on any older phones, lol.

        • Tom Hayden

          Point is you can flash it yourself. While Google don’t (can’t?) officially embrace doing so, they are clearly not averse to people moding Android. Head on over to Cyanogenmod and watch that space. I guarantee there’ll be a 4.4 rom for your device before too long. :)

        • John Mortimer

          CPU company is out of business

        • Jayzee Dizon

          The funny thing is that Google is advertising it or showing to the people that it works perfectly on older devices but the problem is… will THIS COMPANIES update their old phone to Kit Kat ? But this one will work perfectly on a Low end phone and here’s the problem again…. Most of the low end phones are running on Android 4.1 or 4.2 . For example the GALAXY Ace 3 running on Android 4.2.2 (released this year) and again there’s no news if this will be updated or not. Yes there’s this Custom Roms (and I used one) but most of the users don’t know how to flash or their scared to flash it.)

    • Abdel Aziz Farhi

      Custom ROMs is the answer to all this, Even with this, companies such as Samsung or Sony will still not update their phones. Google can not force them to do so.

      • Jayfeather787

        Custom ROMs is the answer to everything.

    • wezi427

      I think that Android 4.4 sounds great. I’m with Verizon, and I know they aren’t going to support my phone anymore. I have a RAZR Maxx. They would say it’s too old, because they want me to upgrade. I hate Verizon.

    • adam evans

      Seems a sizable update, the only thing missing for me is project roadrunner to double my battery life !

    • KK

      Am i the only one wondering why there was no new nexus 10 or other google product announced today?

      • dogulas

        Google likes to spread out their goodness. Makes it feel like there is a new Google Gift every other week.

        • padlock1

          plus a little gift from NSA…the one that doesn’t give but takes and keeps on taking! I’m not convinced any of these upgrades are actually making our lives better but rather compromising us and our sense of freedom…..sadly!

          • jake

            Couldn’t agree more mate

    • my god fucking update my notes

      I think samsung should dump the 4.3 update and move on to 4.4…
      I doubt that they’re going to support my note 2…

    • james forbes

      when will it be available to download for my note 3 i like the sound of everything above how long do we have to wait? :-)

      • Aniruddh

        Probably an year

        • rahul batra

          haha

    • Roberto Richardson

      Am I the only one that’s pumped about the native infrared sensor support? One of the few things that keeps my HTC One running stock sense is the infrared support. On a few AOSP roms that say it’s supported gets way too confusing and technical (for me, at least) and I hope this will at least make slightly easier. I know it sounds gimmicky, I thought the same too, but it’s actually really nice to not worry about losing your remote (or not having one at all in my case). Not to mention all the other pieces of tech that use it.

    • Aishwary

      Thumbs Up… (y)

    • Ric

      what is the minimum requirement it looks “almost” a like desktop pc

      especially recording 1GB RAM will be enough? i don’t think so… but i would like to hear from android authority

    • BB BB

      So I guess its not so “Svelte” for the Galaxy Nexus

    • abc

      is it compatible with my sony xperia L ???

    • Glimmer

      Were is the DTS, DD sound support.
      Iam all for android and my Note2 but when Nokia 1520 supports this out of box, i feel that iam going to Nokia and MS…

    • Ruz

      Awesome

    • Nexuslover

      Does it now give proxy wifi access to apps?

    • http://myanimelist.net/profile/xSubZero SubZero

      Android really is becoming the Jack of all trades OS

    • Paul Potter

      I’m loving the sound of this. This really will be superb.

    • Imri

      For some reason, I can’t update my Nexus 4…

    • Aaron

      How can I update my Galaxy Note 2 with Android 4.1.2 to Android 4.4 KitKat?

    • Robin Singh

      Where to get new maps app with translucent action bar in imersive mode?

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