Posted by Chris Martin 21 November 2013
What Android 4.4 KitKat will bring to your current smartphone
Google has launched Android 4.4 KitKat (not Key Lime Pie as we expected) so here's what it's going to bring to you current Android smartphone.
KitKat launched with the Nexus 5 smartphone and is rolling out to older Nexus devices like the Nexus 7, Nexus 10 and Nexus 4. Beyond this, the roll out is a little more complicated. The Nexus range comes with plain Android, aka stock or vanilla Android, the operating system as Google has made it.
However, Google's manufacturing partners are free to tweak and fiddle with Android as they please so that's why different interfaces, aka skins or overlays, like Samsung's TouchWiz and HTC's Sense exist. This makes rolling out new versions of Android take longer.
Although they can look completely different to the Android experience found on the Nexus devices, they will share the features. When the manufacturers do upgrade our device to 4.4 KitKat then here's what it will bring if it's available to you. See also: Android 4.4 KitKat release date, new features and device upgrades.
And it should because manufacturers have less of an excuse to leave out older phones. Google has developed KitKat to run smoothly on device with as little as 512MB.
Version 4.3 Jelly Bean of Android only brought minor changes but 4.4 KitKat is a much bigger upgrade. We don't know exactly what Google's partners will adopt from KitKat but here are the main ones which they would be stupid to leave out.
Android looks better than ever with visual interface enhancements such as transparent status and buttons bars. This means you can see your wallpaper cover the whole screen. The background to the app menu is also semi-transparent rather than solid black. If you're listening to music, the lockscreen shows full-screen album artwork which just looks great.
Google Now is just a swipe away from the main homescreen so you can get information easier, but phone makers might not think this fits in with their interface.
My favourite new feature of KitKat is the Immersive Mode which lets apps take over the entire screen. This has been a bit of an issue since Android started using on-screen buttons (although not all handset use this approach). Now, content like books and films can use the all you're device's real estate. The status bar and navigation button clear off the screen and can be brought back in with a swipe.
Those are the main things which you'll (hopefully) benefit from with an update to 4.4 KitKat, but there are some other smaller bits and pieces which you might be interested in.
If you fancy it, you can say "Ok Google" to activate a voice search. The new phone app displays your most used contacts at the top and aims to tell you what company is calling you if the number isn't in your contacts list.
Hangouts is now the default messaging app for KitKat, instant and SMS, but text messages can be handles in a different app if this isn't your thing. Wireless printing is now baked into the OS.
Low-power audio playback and touchscreen improvements are currently exclusive to the Nexus 5 but we hope these two features make it onto other devices.