While many Nexus fans laud Google's software navigation button initiative, it's always been a bit irksome that they take up valuable screen real estate at times when they're not really needed. If you're reading a book, watching a movie, or playing a game, the software nav buttons are more a distraction than anything. In fact, until now, only the YouTube app (and perhaps a couple other system apps in certain circumstances) was able to hide those buttons.
|David Ruddock||David's phone is an HTC One. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, imparting a legal perspective on tech news, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.|
A much-requested Android feature for some time now has been infrared support, with the likes of Samsung, LG, and HTC all outpacing Google to enable the technology on their devices. As such, a fragmented API ecosystem has emerged, and now Google's here to set things straight - or so it would seem at first glance.
Android's new IR blaster support only supports one real action: transmitting an IR signal. It does this with a new API and system service that any app can take advantage of on IR-equipped devices running Android 4.4 or higher.
Android 4.4 supports a couple of new Bluetooth features, but one of them will undoubtedly appeal to the cries of OCD sufferers more than the rest: as part of an extension to Bluetooth AVRCP 1.3, Bluetooth audio devices can now directly control Android's system volume. If you use a lot of Bluetooth speakers or headphones, you know how maddening this kind of problem can be. Because your audio output device has its own volume setting independent of your phone or tablet, you're never quite sure how loud things are going to be, or if you'll need to adjust one or the other to get the sound where you want it.
We all love listening to music on our phones. In fact, listening to music, audiobooks, or podcasts regularly on our smartphones is probably one of the few things we all really share in terms of our usage patterns. The problem with listening to audio for extended periods, though, is that it can really put the hammer down on your battery life. Now, there's more than one reason for this - streaming high-quality audio over the web probably consumes more battery than the actual act of listening, but the power consumption of the processor while decoding that audio isn't negligible.
Google Wallet's single-biggest problem to date in the US has inarguably been carriers. US carriers (except Sprint) wouldn't allow Google the necessary control of the "secure element" in order to make NFC payments, and as such, Google Wallet consumer adoption has essentially been trivial. With Android 4.4, that finally changes.
The new version of Android completely eschews the secure element paradigm and has instead opted for a virtual solution, using what Google calls "Host Card Emulation" technology to get the job done.
With a new version of Android comes a new promotional glamor site for Google's beloved mobile OS, and this time KitKat's getting the treatment. Android 4.4 packs a bevy of new features and capabilities, but if you want the basic rundown, Google's official splash for KitKat (here) is the prettiest way to educate yourself. (Bonus: here's an equally pretty site for the Nexus 5.)
If you're looking for a deeper rundown of Android 4.4's new features, don't worry, the Android Developers site has you covered with detailed, technical information about the new OS version.
Update: Here's an official Google Support answer stating the GNex will indeed be stuck in 4.3-land for eternity.
At the bottom of Google's official Android 4.4 announcement post on the company's blog, some rather pertinent information for current Nexus / GPE device owners is thrown in: OTA update news!
KitKat will be coming to the Nexus 4, Nexus 7 (presumably both models, but not explicitly stated), Nexus 10, and the Google Play Edition Galaxy S4 and HTC One.
After the Nexus 5's unannounced unveil this morning, you're probably wondering about your soon-to-be new phone's official case options. Well, here they are - Google's announced two different case types for the Nexus 5, in the form of bumper cases and the new quick cover case. Bumper cases, pictured below and in the thumbnail of this post, come in four colors - red, black, gray, and highlighter yellow. They protect all sides of the phone, with cutouts only for the camera button and flash.
Seemingly following in Google's footsteps, Motorola has released one of its phones' core applications on the Play Store today, in the form of Motorola Camera. Unlike Google's apps, though, it doesn't seem likely the Motorola Camera app will be making its way onto non-Moto devices - it's only compatible with the Moto X.
Likely, the app is simply a way for Motorola to quickly update the camera software on its smartphones without having to develop its own app updating system, similar to the practice it began by putting Touchless Control on the Play Store.
While Sprint's tri-band LTE network is far from a secret, the company's going on an all-out marketing offensive promoting the technology, which it's now given a name: Sprint Spark. Capitalizing on the unique capabilities of its newly-purchased Clearwire spectrum, Sprint is set to roll out what will likely be the US's largest LTE network in terms of spectrum usage over the coming years. That's primarily because Sprint's Clearwire acquisition granted it a block of wireless spectrum from 2500-2600MHz, the single largest contiguous frequency lease in use by any mobile data provider in the United States.