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.