By now you've probably heard about ART and how it will improve the speed and performance of Android, but how does it actually perform today? The new Android Runtime promises to cut out a substantial amount of overhead by losing the baggage imposed by Dalvik, which sounds great, but it's still far from mature and hasn't been seriously optimized yet. I took to running a battery of benchmarks against it to find out if the new runtime could really deliver on these high expectations.
So you didn't get a Nexus 5 – that's okay. You can still get that shiny new KitKat look and feel with the new Nova Launcher beta. It won't get you all the way there (the transparent nav bar is limited, for example), but the new version of this third-party homescreen has a lot of little visual tweaks to make it look almost like the real thing.
The Nova Launcher developer posted recently about the changes that were coming in light of KitKat, and now here we are.
Have you noticed that sometimes your Nexus 5 reverts to the old Ice Cream Sandwich-style pop-up for voice dictation in some apps, as opposed to the less disruptive "endless dictation" on-the-keyboard style? You're not alone. Our fearless leader Artem found that his N5's microphone icon was missing from the default keyboard, and using contextual mic icons (in search boxes and other places) caused the aforesaid behavior. It was also affecting third-party keyboards like SwiftKey.
Most Android devices and ROMs these days include some kind of support for displaying the battery percentage in the status bar, but not stock Android. For whatever reason, Google has neglected this very basic feature – until now. Android 4.4 on the Nexus 5 includes a battery percentage display option, but it's pretty buried and far from an ideal implementation.
Whenever there's a new version of Android on the block, you can bet that custom ROM makers will be some of the first to push it out - for example, the Paranoid Android team had an AOSP build of KitKat available the day after the code was published. This weekend the makers of four of the most prolific custom ROM families out there, CyanogenMod, Android Open Kang Project (AOKP), Paranoid Android, and Omni ROM, have shared their plans for Android 4.4.
The Nexus 5 was perhaps the worst-kept secret in tech this year, but nonetheless, rumor and speculation built up a category 5 hypestorm around it - everything from the farfetched, like revolutionary camera tech and flexible displays, to the mundane-but-desirable, like a much larger battery or 3GB of RAM.
But now the Nexus 5 is finally here, and Google has, for the most part, built a very iterative product.
It's fair to say that Android went through some chaotic years in the beginning. The pace of development was frantic as the operating system grew at an unprecedented rate. An as-yet undetermined future led to decisions that were made to conform to existing hardware and architectures, the available development tools, and the basic need to ship working code on tight deadlines. Now that the OS has matured, the Android team has been giving more attention to some of the components that haven't aged quite as well.
One of the more drool-worthy aspects of the software from the Nexus 5 (and not necessarily Android 4.4) is the homescreen and launcher, which includes a ton of new features tied directly into Google Now and Google Search. But you might want to curb your enthusiasm: according to a report from The Verge, Google isn't interested in expanding that launcher to other devices at the moment.
Google has been fiddling with the way lockscreen media controls should work since Ice Cream Sandwich, and they've gotten yet another makeover in KitKat. When a supported app like Google Play Music, Netflix, or Play Movies is running in the background (Chromecast-only in the last two instances) you get a full screen display of the artwork associated with the content on the lockscreen. It offers some new functionality too.
You can still navigate around to other lockscreen widgets and the album art will still be there – it essentially takes the place of your background.
One of the many footnotes that came with the announcement of Android 4.4 KitKat was the inclusion of native screen recording. This was pitched as a tool for developers to easily make video demos of apps, but we at Android Police were obviously pretty pleased as well. Google was a bit vague about how the functionality would be accessible, except to point to the developer tools. Now that the Nexus 5 is in the wild, we can take it for a spin and see what this feature can do.