There's mildly good news for Galaxy Nexus owners and anyone else who can't participate in the Android 4.4 "KitKat" rollout coming to devices in the coming weeks. Enterprising enthusiasts have extracted a few of the highlights of the new Nexus 5's software and made them available for installation on non-KitKat Android devices, including the new launcher, search app, keyboard, and clock.
Alongside a Nexus device release, Google typically unloads a factory image of the new device's software. These releases are meant primarily as tools for restoring a Nexus device to factory settings. But lucky for early adopters, hackers also like publish some of the cool bits of the latest Android release as downloadable APKs for everyone to enjoy.
Not without risk
Trying out the latest and greatest Android OS improvements can be great fun, but installing unofficial software isn't without risk. First of all, these APK downloads are meant for the Nexus 5 specifically and may not play nice on other hardware. Secondly, there's always the risk that unofficial software can come with malware or other nasty code that messes up your device or steals data. That's unlikely in this case, but don't say we didn't warn you.
Google finally gives us a break
The new version of Android is rolling out to most Nexus devices, with the notable exception of the Galaxy Nexus, which falls outside of Google's official 18-month support window. Anyone running a community-built Android ROM such as CyanogenMod will also have to wait until Android 4.4 comes to their preferred Android build.
And that's where factory image teardowns come in handy: They allow daring enthusiasts to at least sample upcoming Android offerings, even if their handset doesn't officially support the new features. Just don't forget to back up your phone before diving in.