We're used to seeing huge waits for carrier-branded devices to receive updates to the latest and greatest version of Android. Actually, sometimes they don't arrive until the next version has been announced. HTC is trying to set a new standard, apparently. After pushing 4.3 out to most of the HTC One variants, it is pledging to get 4.4 rolled out to all devices in the US within 90 days. The Google Play edition One?
Many mobile users who regularly access their files across multiple devices have found that relying on cloud storage just makes life simpler, but many of us don't keep our files stored in just one place. Now Android 4.4 is rolling out a new way to open files within apps that makes accessing all of these providers both easier and prettier. With KitKat's new storage access framework, apps that prompt users to browse for files will open a sidebar navigation menu that lists recent files, available cloud storage providers, and files stored internally.
If you've never heard of the Bluetooth MAP profile, I don't blame you. Bluetooth profiles are super, super boring stuff. But stay with me here, because you may be more interested in MAP than you thought.
Do you own a car that is "Bluetooth-enabled"? If your car's model year is somewhere in the neighborhood of the last 3 to 4 years and supports Bluetooth, it probably uses the MAP standard to communicate with your phone.
For a smartphone operating system, Android hasn't always had the best features for, you know... calls. One of the especially annoying omissions has long been caller ID, but Android 4.4 takes a big step toward fixing that. If you get a call from a business that Google knows, it lets you know on KitKat's incoming call screen. Neat.
The Play Store is consistently pelted with new apps that always run in the background, counting our steps, tracking our location, or listening to us as we sleep. These tasks require that a process remains in an active state, and whenever there's any activity going on within a smartphone, battery life takes a hit. Android 4.4 reduces the impact of these processes with new support for hardware sensor batching.
This optimization allows Android to collect and deliver sensor events in clumps, rather than keep track of them individually.
This feature is perhaps bigger news for app developers than end users, but it's an important one nonetheless. Ever used an app that feels really slow, clunky, and unresponsive - almost like a mobile web page? It probably is one! You see, many publishers of apps out there don't actually build real mobile apps. Credit card companies, cell phone carriers, airlines - you know, the sort of companies you kind of live to hate.
If you do any sort of document editing from your phone, there's a good chance you've needed to print something at some point. Or maybe you need a quick copy of an image and don't want to go through all the trouble of transferring it to your computer and then printing. Or maybe there's some other scenario that I can't think of right now when you've needed to print something from mobile.
If you've used Android 4.1 or later on a phone or tablet with 1GB of RAM, you know things can get a little tight in the memory department. That's what makes newer and slightly underpowered devices like the Lenovo Yoga a little disappointing. Google has decided to trim the fat with Android 4.4 in an initiative they've christened "Project Svelte." This isn't a single change, it's a wide range of additions to the Android API and optional hardware configurations designed to make KitKat run smoothly on devices with as little as 512MB of system memory.
According to the new 4.4 developer page, Project Svelte starts with recommendations and options targeted at device manufacturers.
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.