Oct 31 AT 11:21 AM Nick Gray 20 Comments

KitKat update to feature new NFC protocol, step detector, low-end hardware optimization and more


New Android 4.4 details have been revealed today, giving us another look at the changes Google will be making under the hood with its upcoming KitKat update. Amir Efrati, a former Wall Street Journal reporter claims to have reviewed a confidential document intended for Android device manufacturers which details many of the new features Google will soon be unveiling.

The first item on the list is KitKat’s system optimization which “optimizes memory use in every major component” with “tools to help developers create memory-efficient applications” on “entry-level devices.” These changes would improve memory consumption for third-party apps and allow phone manufacturers to build lower cost devices with less memory (current high-end phones come with at least 2GB of RAM). In theory, KitKat will allow OEMs to update their older devices to the latest version of Android with minimal performance degradation, but there’s always the issue of a phone’s chip life cycle which is typically cut short by chip manufacturers.

KitKat will also include geomagnetic rotation vector, step detector and step counter sensor support. While these sensors could easily be used by third-party fitness app developers to track your steps while walking or running, Google could theoretically use the information to improve its location tracking as the company continues to push in-door mapping with Google Maps.

According to the document, Google will be making a few changes to its NFC protocol with KitKat, allowing users to emulate” physical cards for making mobile payments without needing direct access to the phone’s “secure element” which is typically locked down by service providers. It’s unclear where the emulated card information will be stored and how secure the information will be, but this change would make NFC enabled devices much more useful for consumers.

Google may also bake in infrared blaster support, Bluetooth HID over GATT and Bluetooth Message Access Profile, allowing devices running on KitKat to communicate better with televisions, controllers, watches, heart rate monitors and cars.

New sensor support, low memory requirements and improvements to pairing and communications capabilities will make Android 4.4 perfectly suited to run on devices like Google Glass and a smartwatch. We speculate on Google’s upcoming plans, but we have a feeling Google will speaking for itself sooner than we think.

Source: Jessica Lessin

Nick is a tech enthusiast who has a soft spot for HTC and its devices. Nick joined the Android and Me family in the summer of 2010.

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  • Fulaman

    I wonder if the update will make my Nexus 10 stop doing the daily freezing/reboots (which seem to only happen when apps are being updated, the tablet would freeze and I would have to perform a hard reboot by holding down power and volume down).

    • Addy A. Alago

      am i the only one thats a bit outraged by the fact that verizon stifled an effective security measure by using it as a vague reason to block a competing app therefore forcing google to not use it ? I’m sure there are ways to make mobile payments secure without the element, but being forced not to use it because of verizon is shitty especially if its more secure.

      • Gavin Ayling

        Oops sorry, -1 was an error – quite agree :-)

      • Brandon

        I’m pretty outraged too. I CANNOT bbelieve that Google isn’tdefending its wallet sservice and suing Verizon. Verizon needs to be punished for limiting consumer choice. I don’t want to use Verizon’s “ISIS” crappy app. I want Google wallet because it better, faster, and probably more secure. But for some reason Googlethinks it sshouldn’t sue. Google is a nice company. Way to nice to Verizon

  • killerk559 psn

    Wow I’m actually excited for the nexus 5 I want it!!!

  • J3R3MY_H

    NCF = NFC

    Just another hour or so and the flood gates will open

  • SGB101

    Memory refinement is a must, 2gb in my note2 and especially the nexus 4 just wasn’t enough, for the short time I used my n4 I was clearing it out 3 or 4 times a day.

    To be cable to clone my bank card to my phone will be nice, shame nowhere uses nfc payment near me. A bigger worry is, could any one simple clone anyone else’s card?

    • Ryan Fraser

      I don’t think so, but we won’t be able to know until they announce to understand what it’s limitations are.

      You’ll still need to manually setup a debit/credit card on Google Play, and if you’re setting it up for the first time on our device you’ll be prompted for your google login information as well as creating a pin. I’m almost certain that this workaround for the big secure element issue will be stored as a salted hash or something similar. I don’t think people will be able to inconspicuously “bump” your information off of you without at least you inputting your pin number on your device.

      • SGB101

        I know that, but as thing are made more ‘convenient’ this also means, historically, we sacrifice security a little.

        It’s always The case security vs convenience.

      • TruFactz

        But the thing with that is, Google has a known history of making it really hard for first time users to add that kind of information, requiring u answer those security questions (u know, “which one of these three addresses are you most associated with”). Even sending in PROOF i.e. social security card, ID or drivers license. That IMO is the reason Wallet hasn’t left the runway.

  • anthony

    Hmmm….. Can htc one x plus have that update…?

  • theviper21

    Tell me more about this “NCF” protocol…

  • Reddick

    never used NFC never will

  • Addpl
  • aranea

    When is it coming to Nexus 4 and 10?

    • donger

      We just have to wait and see.

  • http://aboyandhistv.blogspot.com mvndaai

    Take that carriers. That NFC update seems like they will be able to use Google Wallet on any NFC device, not just ones with enabled secure elements. Which could actually open up the market for more competition, you can have other wallets than just GWallet or ISIS. That is so cool.

  • callie

    I have a samsung galaxy ace adv how do i upgrade my android pleas

  • alexanderharri3

    I’d surely love baked in IR blaster support to be able to use an app other than peel/watchon from samsung to control the TV…

  • suryakant

    sony should update its android fast to4.4