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 tells us that the new Launcher on the Nexus 5 is exclusive to the phone — though the company may change its mind and offer it for the Nexus 4 and perhaps even put it on the Play store someday.
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.
As if you needed another reason to lust after the Nexus 5 and/or Android 4.4, Google just announced a huge new feature for the default Phone app in KitKat. The new version of the dialer/contacts app will match incoming numbers against Google's various databases to provide an automatic caller ID for businesses using Google Places, as we've already seen. But starting next year, this feature will be applied to people as well.
Google finally unveiled KitKat last week, but you may have noticed something was missing. Yes, there was no news on the so-called Google Experience Launcher. Earlier leaks led us to suspect that Google's homescreen experience was coming to more Android devices, but the big day came and went with no mention. Recent revelations about how the Android 4.4 homescreen works breathe new life into the possibility of a more Googley experience for all.
Now that KitKat is finally out in the world, we're finding all sorts of little tweaks that make the new OS nicer to use. Google didn't give this particular feature a big headline on the Android site, but maybe it should have. Android 4.4 now lets you access your notifications from any full-screen app. This is a feature Samsung has included in TouchWiz for a while, so it's not entirely new to the world of Android.
It's a good time to be a Samsung owner, at least if you've got some recent hardware. After beginning an extensive campaign of Android 4.3 updates for US models of the Galaxy SIII, S4, and Note II (likely motivated by the Galaxy Gear compatibility it provides), Samsung is now starting to update the massively popular international SIII model, the GT-I9300. According to SamMobile, Irish S III owners on Vodafone are the first to get the update, with no other regions reporting in at the moment.
Looking for the new Android 4.4 wallpapers? We've got 'em, ready for your downloading pleasure. There are 8 wallpapers in total, 6 of which have a native resolution of 3966x3966, so you can put them on pretty much anything! The two nature wallpapers are at a slightly smaller 3966x2644, since they're actual photos. Here they are.
Update: The colorful wallpaper everyone was after - the one with the number 5 - was hiding in a different place, but we found it after all.
Google has been talking up Snapseed and it's enhanced HDR mode in recent blog posts and events, but the Gallery-based photo editor is getting a boost in Android 4.4 as well. This new editor will be shipping with KitKat, but it's also part of AOSP.
The layout of the editor has been tweaked a bit and has support for both phones and tablets. A lot of the filters and effects were already present in the Gallery, but it looks like you have much finer control over things now.