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.
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.