The Play Store is consistently pelted with new apps that always run in the background, counting our steps, tracking our location, or listening to us as we sleep. These tasks require that a process remains in an active state, and whenever there's any activity going on within a smartphone, battery life takes a hit. Android 4.4 reduces the impact of these processes with new support for hardware sensor batching.

This optimization allows Android to collect and deliver sensor events in clumps, rather than keep track of them individually. Think of this as the difference between ordering one T-shirt and ordering a thousand. Just as producing a product in bulk is easier on the manufacturer, sending bite-sized tracking data in batches puts less of a strain on your phone, as it reduces how often it has to wake up from an idle state.

Tracking1 Tracking2

KitKat also adds platform support for two new sensors, step detector and step counter. The former can recognize when a user takes a step and trigger an event as a result, while the latter tracks the total number of steps taken since the last device reboot. Here that is again, in developer speak:

This sensor triggers an event each time the user takes a step. Upon each user step, this sensor delivers an event with a value of 1.0 and a timestamp indicating when the step occurred.
This sensor also triggers an event upon each detected step, but instead delivers the total accumulated number of steps since this sensor was first registered by an app.

Since these functions are now implemented into the platform and underlying hardware, individual app developers no longer have to develop their own detection algorithms. These sensors are already available in the Nexus 5, but Google is working with chipset partners to bring support to additional hardware as quickly as they can.

Source: Android Developers Blog [1],[2]

Bertel King, Jr.
Born and raised in the rural South, Bertel knows what it's like to live without 4G LTE - or 3G, for that matter. The only things he likes sweeter than his tea are his gadgets, and while few objects burn more than a metal phone on a summer day, he prefers them that way anyway.

  • Tills13

    Is that first app a Play Store app, demo app, or just an example of what something that used this might look like? I want it.

    • dirtyid

      It's an app called Moves.

    • Emilio

      It's called Moves, and it's on the play store

  • Tom Drummond

    I know I made the right choice! 32gb here we come!

  • dirtyid

    Finally a built in fitbit. Just need an official app. Wonder if Google is going to resurrect Google health for fitness tracking and analytics. They already report calories and stalk location information anyway.

    • remister

      I loved Google Health, it sad I have to resort back to Wikipedia now.

    • ddpacino

      Yea, but I'd like the sleep tracking and step tracking as well. That aside, I'm super curious about this Airo band. You dont have to manually enter your food. It can tell what you eat, when you're stressed, increased blood pressure, etc. by shining light from the inside of the band into your arm. CRAZY! Highly intrigued. Releasing 12 months from now, though.

  • Andrew

    I do not entirely understand why is Google working with chipset partners now, and not in all those months, when 4.4 was in development?

    And don't Nexuses 4 and 7 (2013) have same chipset partner as Nexus 5?

    • ddpacino


    • MindFever

      ...what are you talking about ? I don't understand what you mean

  • droid4lif3

    No need for the Nike Fit shit

    • ari_free

      Nike hates android so Google has to step in. :) It also prepares for a Google smart watch.

  • Hudayfah

    does this work for nexus 4?

    • ddpacino

      Move works already. I tried this several weeks ago. However, I'm not sure how accurate it is. From day to day, mt steps were relatively close. Wish I had a Fitbit to Airo band to match that against my stats.

      Is 3500-4000 steps/day normal for most people? I have a desk job, take public commute most days (all while using that app), and 10min walks from work/home and my stops.

      • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

        Hudayfah was referring to this feature, not Moves. I don't believe the feature will work because it requires new hardware.

      • Gabernasher

        10k / day is what you should aim for.

      • varun

        It depends a lot. Most people I've measured this on walk about 100 steps a minute walking purposefully. Thus you could be getting 2K steps on your 20 minute roundtrip walk. The WHO recommends 10K steps as optimal for health - about 100 minutes of purposeful walking, or about 4-6 mi daily. Make what you will of that. :)

      • http://thisismartin.com/ Martin Spa.

        I used moves on my HTC One S, in my case it was highly inaccurate.. just one example (of many): one day I was just visiting a mall, another day I was mountain hiking (greater distance, steps and time), and the steps measured were almost the same.

    • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

      Probably not. Sounds like it requires new sensors.

  • ginobili

    "and we're working with our chipset partners to bring them to new devices"

    Why new devices? Aren't they using just accelerometer?

    I hope we can get it on Nexus 4.

    • ginobili


      I reply to myself:

      Both step sensors are hardware dependent (Nexus 5 is the first device to support them), so you should check for availability with hasSystemFeature(), using the FEATURE_SENSOR_STEP_DETECTOR andFEATURE_SENSOR_STEP_COUNTER constants.


  • ddpacino

    Hey Nike!

  • Frederico Silva

    Ok, no one has talked about this, but... where the hell is the LED notification light?

    • ddpacino


    • Justin Quang

      Same place as previous Nexus (minus the Nexus S).

      • Frederico Silva

        Yeah I saw that in the service manual, but it's weird that it doesn't appear in any of the photos taken.. It's well hidden, I tell you that!

        • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

          Well, it's not visible on the 4, either, when not on.

          • MindFever

            I can see the LED opening when in a bright room. The Nexus 5 has the notification light hidden in a better way. I can't see it is there (when off obviously) even when the phone is in a well lit room

          • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

            I'd have to compare them. But in the vast majority of lighting conditions, at a glance, it wasn't visible on my 4. Same goes for the 5, but if I actively look for it, I can find it on either at the right angle. Point is, though, it was designed to be hidden on all the more recent Nexus devices.

          • MindFever

            That's true. But I insist the Nexus 4's is more visible in my opinion. A bit off topic,I have to say that the white light from the notification LED seemed cleaner on the N4

  • duke69111

    I wonder if the g2 had them and they are inactive?

  • Jay

    My gs4 already has this. Pretty accurate too. :)

  • http://quartapessoa.blogspot.com Tarilonte

    That's good news.
    I used to use the Moves app and found it pretty accurate.
    But due the high battery comsumption i had to remove it.

    With this new android native features, the task of observe our steps will be more battery-friendly, but it will require the apps being recoded to get advantage of this new features.

  • Kenton Douglas

    "Google is working with chipset partners to bring support to additional hardware as quickly as they can" ... the Moto X has these sensors ready to go. Just like it's got a fuller implementation of the ' OK Google ...' voice activation. What happened to the "firewall"?