The next version of Android is bringing a lot of visual options to the table, and they're not just for Google to play with. Buried deep within the KitKat 4.4 API (level 19) is the ability for apps to request translucent system UI overlays, specifically on the top notification bar and the bottom navigation bar (if your device has one). You can see this feature in action in all the promotional photos of the Nexus 5's homescreen, where the wallpaper is visible form the top of the screen to the bottom.


There have been a few OEMs that have tried this sort of thing with their own software skins, notably Samsung (various 4.2 devices), LG (on the new G2), and Motorola (on the DROID RAZR HD and its siblings). Now the capability should be available to all developers, giving them access to a little eye candy for their interface. It looks like the translucent effect can be applied to a static background image or a solid color, and a subtle gradient will be applied to help distinguish navigation buttons and notification icons. Interestingly, it looks like even Google isn't applying it everywhere - check out the standard black bars on the Nexus 7 next to the translucent ones on the Nexus 5.

Update: There is further evidence that translucent bars aren't enabled on all devices. For example, this commit seems to have disabled it on the Nexus 10 (thanks, TheManii!).


Admittedly this isn't the most useful feature in KitKat, but it is one of the most visual ways that it's distinct from Jelly Bean. I can't wait to see what the custom ROM developers and theme makers do with it.

Source: Developer.Android.com

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • Adam Truelove

    Why the hell would they do this on the N5, but not the N7? Perhaps that image of the N7 is wrong/outdated?

    • spacekobra

      I looks outdated, look at the app drawer icon.

      • 4sq4

        I think they just did that to show comparison

      • Oliver Bastholm

        That Nexus 7 is running KitKat (look at the clock and battery color at the top bar), so i think Brayden Reesor is right. It must be running another launcher.

        • spacekobra

          Correct, but the app icon is what threw me off.
          But I looked into it.
          The feature page says only the N5 is getting the transparent bars. Why? I don't know.

          • Michael J Carroll

            To sell more N5's.

    • Brayden Reesor

      It's because it's built into the launcher application. And it appears from the app drawer icon that, at least for now, the Nexus 7 isn't using the new "Nexus 5 Launcher" they keep mentioning.

    • AtWorkBored

      Only for comparison, matey!

    • WhyDeleteMe

      Clearly, it's only to compare two devices.

    • Justin W

      I saw somewhere that on the Nexus 7, you had to enable it through the settings, but obviously we can't verify that until we have it on ours :)

    • Guest

      If you look at the developer website, it says that only the N5 will get the fancy translucent navigation and notification for now. Basically, if you want it, you'll have to wait for a ROM or a third-party launcher to add it in.

  • DoubleP90

    I would like to have the notification and nav bar colored like the apps Action bar, this would be much seamless and look cool :D

  • Sergiu Dogaru

    for all those who are wondering: the new IR Blaster APIs are only for sending IR commands, not for receiving/learning/recording. Google did a half-ass job with this one. I hate you Google.
    Disclaimer: developer behind Smart IR Remote here

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Thanks for stopping by, useful info.

    • Walkop

      But what would the purpose be of receiving IR commands? An NFC tag replacement for longer ranges?

      • Dennis Ulijn

        Learning functions, for instance if you have a tv that is not yet supported. Also, you can change the volume or input on your phone or tablet. Or tv, because they can be Android powered as well, if manufacturers want it

      • shonangreg

        Programming an android device to act as a universal remote for devices that rely on IR for their control.

    • Joshua

      Just out of curiosity, what would you use the reception functionality for if were implemented? I thought IR was strongly limited in its ability to transmit data. Also, wouldn't the device need a receiver to pick up the signals in addition to a blaster to send them out, which would further complicate the engineering and manufacture (and thus price) of the device? I just feel there are so many reasons why it wouldn't be very important to have this functionality.

      If you can name something, though, I'd be glad to listen. I don't mind being shown wrong, so please do your "worst," haha!

      • Sergiu Dogaru

        It's simple actually: this kind of IR signals aren't really meant to transmit data (as in data transfer), but to send commands to home equipment (TVs and stuff). Of course, each of these commands is different, so it's impossible to have all of them in a single app/place, so that's where this reading/recording comes in.

        • Joshua

          Ahhh, I see. That means that if you want to program a "universal" remote, you'd actually have to manually enter every single value that you expect your users may face (assuming that would work, that is).

          Daaamn, I can see why that would be a pain. I sympathize.

    • Ben Baranovsky

      Awesome app! Thanks for that one.

  • Zyre

    Does the Nexus 4 also get this?

    • Imparus


  • http://mikebdev.blogspot.com/ Michael Baumgartner

    Google says on their new page, that this translucent feature is only available with the nexus 5. In the "Whats New" page, this is marked with an "*" which is explained as this at the bottom

    • Zyre

      This was the only thing I would be happy about on my Nexus 4. So the N4 won't get this? :(

      • Stacey Liu

        Yes it will. The commit was only done for the Nexus 10.

    • Chev Chelios

      Can you give us the link where you read that info? Thanks! If this is indeed true, my Nexus 4 will be very sad..

      Edit: Nevermind, saw it already here---> http://www.android.com/versions/kit-kat-4-4/
      Darn.. For those Nexus 4 users like me who would like to know..
      Here are the features that are CURRENTLY only available to the new Nexus 5:

      Full-screen wallpapers with preview
      Your wallpaper now extends through the notification tray and system buttons. And when you change your wallpaper, you can preview just how it will look before you set it.*

      HDR+ photography
      HDR+ mode on Nexus 5 automatically snaps a rapid burst of photos and combines them to give you the best possible single shot. Daytime pictures are vivid with clean shadows, and nighttime photos are sharp with less noise.*

      Low-power audio playback
      Android 4.4 on Nexus 5 lets you listen to music for longer - up to 60 hours of audio playback.*

      Touchscreen improvements
      Improved software and Nexus 5’s new hardware mean Android responds to your touch faster and more accurately than ever before.*

      *Currently only available on Nexus 5

      I am really hoping that they only said that because only the Nexus 5 has 4.4 out of the box so yeah, obviously it has all those features especially with the supported hardware and 4.4 will come in a few weeks to older Nexus devices.

      • Stacey Liu

        The same file in AOSP indicates that transparency is enabled on the Nexus 4.

        • Chev Chelios

          Thank you very much for that information!

    • lbrfabio

      They were talking about the always on voice search

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        Yup, you're correct: "You don’t need to touch the screen to get things done. When on your home screen* or in Google Now, just say “Ok Google” to launch voice search, send a text, get directions or even play a song."


        That's the only thing that has a *.

        • Ryuuie

          Aaand you just saved my day, sir

        • matthew jones

          I'm afraid it's not keep reading there's quite a few nexus 5 only features

        • Andrew

          Nope (

          If you click "Check them out >" under "Even more features" it opens the list, where fullscreen wallpapers have the asterisk.

          • kyLe

            Maybe it's just the preview? Would be a shame to release a API which can request that bar and not use it across devices

          • Andrew

            I can understand why sensors things and HDR+ can require new phone, but fullscreen wallpaper? Only thing I can imagine is backlight bleeding of Nexus' 4 IPS panel. But Nexus' 7 screens have no edge bleading, at least 2012 model

          • Daniel Smith

            I think the API is still on every 4.4 device, it's just that the N5 is the only device shipping with the Google Experience launcher.

            The other devices are still using the AOSP Launcher.

          • Andrew

            It would suck, not to have GEL.

          • http://twitter.com/shriiiiimp Jonathan Richard

            Best answer here! That would explain a lot.

          • bremberdee

            That would be a dick move from Google. Apple gave iOS7 UI all the way back to the 3yr old iPhone 4...way to follow "Don't be evil."

          • Andrew

            I hope it is just misplaced "*", but that screenshot with black bars on Nexus 7 suggest it is not.

        • Chris Seward

          does this work with the screen off like on moto X?

      • http://mikebdev.blogspot.com/ Michael Baumgartner

        "Your wallpaper now extends through the notification tray and system buttons. And when you change your wallpaper, you can preview just how it will look before you set it.*"

        I meant this. Sounds like they are talking about the translucent notification and navigation bar

        • lbrfabio

          oh, I totally didn't notice the "Even More Features".

          I hope it's not available because older Nexus devices don't have 4.4 for now...

          I wonder though if they don't what they did with jelly bean when the new Nexus was released with Chrome but the Galaxy Nexus still had the Stock Browser after the update...

          Anyway API 4.4 for this will be available for all devices so any custom launcher will support it, but it will be really a bad move if the new Google Launcher won't come to older devices...

  • Zak Taccardi

    It looks like whoever was using that N7 was using the 4.3 launcher. The 4.4 launcher has a different package now, so theoretically you can have both on the device.

    Either that or they're using Nova/Apex

    • http://twitter.com/shriiiiimp Jonathan Richard

      Nope, look closely, the tray has white icons and clock. That's 4.4 With AOSP launcher.

      • Zak Taccardi

        The Status Bar has nothing to do with what launcher is being used. The status bar is part of Android's framework - not a separate app.

        Whoever took that photo could conceivably be using Nova or Apex on top of Android 4.4

  • Nexus Owner

    Black - 16gb sold out. Why you do this LG ?

    • Roberto de Lima Barreto

      buy the 32gb one lol

      • Nexus Owner

        its sold out too

        • Walkop

          Your username is very ironic.

  • Danger3hren

    Cmon where's the nexus 10?

  • Nathan

    Sony does it too.

  • Guest

    Android 4.4 KITKAT allows developers to build full screen apps, and I called it!

    • simp1istic

      They will probably send your pat on the back shortly.

    • Justin W

      Deleting your comment doesn't help, since you left the image in the original :P

  • Dinofan01

    I like the look of it on the homescreen but I hope it isn't overused. Not every app needs full screen and I expect many developers to shoe horn it in because they can.

  • Ashmedai ♔

    Is 4.4 out for Nexus 7 yet?

    • Zyre

      No but will be in the coming weeks.

  • Sergiu Dogaru

    It's confirmed, App Ops will be public in 4.4. Or.. was that already a known fact?


  • Henrique Melissopoulos


    Henrique Melissopoulos
    • 17 days ago

    I hope they build a way to the app developer choose the color and alpha of the navbar and statusbar of his app.

  • dhananjaysathe

    Why the hell is the fullscreen wallpaper and translucent bars a nexus 5 only feature! Really Google really ?

    • gierso

      where it says its exclusive?
      they are comparing the actual nexus 7 jelly bean with the nexus 5 kitkat

      is not out yet for the nexus 7 but im sure the same will apply

      • JayQ330

        They're not sure if it can or can't, maybe Google thinks that in a bigger screen it's easier to see the notification bar note easily with it in black, but I've also read rumours of the option to turn it on. Better a good review than a bad one for a hard to see notification bar, don't you think?

  • dhananjaysathe

    How the hell is this a N5 only feature , makes no sense !

  • Andrew

    Although I searched for every android kitkat 4.4 full review . I still haven't seen the NEW NOTIFICATION WINDOW"

  • deebee396

    From the file changed in the linked commit: ` `

    • deebee396

      Haha woops I guess this comment thing doesn't escape HTML/XML comments, it said "Translucent status & navigation bars perform poorly on this device" in a comment next to the line that changed it

  • nicksdr

    i made a nexus 4 version

  • JayQ330

    Nexus 5's translucent bar isn't only fort static background, if you play a game you can yahoo the top edge just for the time or drag the notification down & then let go back up & you'll see the time network signal &everything else keeps moving while in the translucent notification bar. Even YouTube videos showing that you can now pull the notification down during gameplay shows the notifications bars see threw right into whatever Ida's in the background & moving... Should do some experimenting before posting android as having a weakness &composing it to Samsung's static image it takes to give the illusion of a clear notification bar, this is the real thing not a simple trick.