The latest and greatest version of Android has now been officially announced, and it’s named after a candy bar. Android 4.4 KitKat is the next version of Android, soon to grace Nexus smartphones all over the world, and eventually other brands whenever they get around to updating their phones.
KitKat sports an updated aesthetic, getting rid of the Tron blue accents for all white icons in the status bar. Also, the status bar and navigation bar are both transparent on the homescreen. The Roboto font has been tweaked, and the launcher has been redesigned. Icons look different as well. It isn’t a huge change, but it refreshes the look of the operating system and keeps things fresh and modern. And if you don’t like it, remember that it’s Android. Just theme it!
A few apps were redesigned as well. The dialer now has smart searching capabilities, allowing you to find people or businesses without leaving the dialer. Also, the Messaging app is simply gone, replaced by a new version of Hangouts with SMS support built in.
Google Now is no longer an app to be opened with a swipe up, but with a left-to-right swipe on the homescreen. And instead of sending you to websites, Google Now will send you to the proper app to find the information you need. This is definitely an improvement, as mobile sites are pretty terrible way too often.
Google also managed to do some heavy optimizing for all different types of hardware. Since Jelly Bean and Project Butter, Android has been very smooth on high end phones, but low end phones always lacked smoothness. Google’s goal is to provide a smooth and fast experience for everyone, so Android will now run better on older hardware. It even optimizes memory usage for devices with less RAM.This could even allow phones that have reached the end of their life cycle to be updated, if the manufacturer is willing and the chip maker provides the necessary drivers.
This optimization not only helps the OS run on older hardware, but alternative hardware. KitKat can run on some weak hardware pretty well, so having it run on a smartwatch or other wearable accessory is now much more plausible. Is this Google preparing for a wearable device release?
There are a bunch of smaller but still important features included. You can now say “OK Google” at the homescreen to turn on Google Now. There is a new immersive mode which hides the status and navigation bars for true full screen content. The lockscreen now shows full screen album art when listening to music. Receiving phone calls from unknown numbers will pull info from Google Maps to match it to a business. And you can now print from Android. There are a ton of new features to be excited about!
The KitKat 4.4 update should be rolling out to Nexus devices soon, and unfortunately, other devices will have to wait. We have no idea when Samsung, HTC, and LG plan to update their smartphones to the new version of Android, but it shouldn’t be too long considering how fast HTC and Samsung have been lately. Are you excited for KitKat, or is it too small of an update for you? Leave a comment!