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.
After announcing KitKat and the Nexus 5 earlier today, and releasing the Android 4.4 SDK, tools, and other related goodies, Google has moved on to the next important step - source code. As announced on the Android Building forum, Android 4.4 is now trickling in, bit by bit, into the AOSP repos. If all goes well, we can expect it to complete within several hours.
Update: The source push is 100% complete.
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.
Well ladies and gents, the day is finally here. It's been a long road full of leaks and teasers, but the Nexus 5 is now available for sale and Google has released full details about KitKat. It looks like this is going to be the best version of Android to date (as if you expected anything less), and there's a lot to talk about. Let's dig in.
Interface and Google Now
We've seen dozens of leaked screenshots and images that show off KitKat's new transparent navigation and status bars and white icons, so it shouldn't come as a shocker to see them as part of the finalized version of the OS.
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.
Easily one of the coolest features of the Moto X (and its sister DROID devices on Verizon) is the Touchless Control function, which allows users to say "OK Google Now" from anywhere and activate voice actions. That functionality is built in to Android 4.4... with some rather hefty limitations.
First of all, the "OK Google" command will be hardware-dependent. Google isn't saying exactly what the required silicon is, but at the moment, only the Nexus 5 will have access to the feature - even the other Nexus devices due to be updated won't be able to join in.
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.
Android has had native support for user-taken screenshots since 4.0, and a few OEMs like Samsung have had supported the feature even before that. But until now, getting a reliable video recording of your device's screen has been a major pain, usually requiring some kind of root solution that doesn't work for all hardware. In KitKat, Google is doing away with that, allowing end users to record video directly from the screens of their devices.
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.