The news out of Google is coming rapid-fire with the Nexus 5 going on sale, KitKat becoming a reality, and now the rollout of Google Play Services 4.0. The updated framework comes with a host of improvements to Google+ Sign-In, Wallet Instant Buy, Location Based Services, Maps, and comes with a brand new Mobile Ads SDK.
One of the most popular features announced during Google I/O 2013 was a massively improved set of tools for Location Services, which included geofencing and substantially improved location discovery.
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 may produce Android and maintain Google Play so that we can easily get content onto our devices, but at the end of the day, it's the developers that make the magic happen. They create the apps that make Android devices worth buying in the first place. So it's good news to see, as we would expect, that the Android 4.4 SDK is now available. Developers can make the upgrade from directly within the Android SDK Manager.
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.
Sprint customer's missed out on the Nexus 4 last year, but that won't be the case this time. The carrier will start offering the Nexus 5 on November 8th for $149 on contract (after a mail-in rebate). This applies for customers looking to sign up for a new line or those who are eligible for an upgrade, and anyone who jumps on the offer will get guaranteed unlimited data for life.
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.
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.
Google's first official Nexus 5 commercial is titled "I Do," which should tell you pretty much what it's about. Yes, lots of happy folks tying the knot and snapping photos of the event with a Nexus 5. Check it out.