Google has finally released Android 4.4 KitKat, the newest iteration of its mobile OS, after days of speculation surrounding its launch.

The KitKat update to the Android OS brings some visual changes, including more imperative graphics, as well as deeper integration with Google’s intelligent assistant, Google Now, among other changes and improvements.


User interface tweaks


Android 4.4 KitKat offers a translucent menu bar located at the bottom of the screen, and new transition effects when you open the app launcher. The OS offers full-screen wallpapers with preview and the wallpapers now extend through the notification tray as well, in addition to the navigation buttons.

The new OS brings a more immersive experience by hiding the status bar and navigation buttons when the user is reading a book, or playing a game or watching a movie. They can just swipe the edge of the screen to bring back the status bar and navigation buttons on KitKat.

The lock-screen widgets for music and movies apps now also offer the option to seek and jump to a specific part. The Quick Settings notifications menu toggles also add a ‘location settings’ toggle. A new Emoji keyboard for emoticons has also been included in the native Google Keyboard.

Android 4.4 KitKat will also show full-screen album and movie art if content is being streamed to another device such as a Chromecast.

Better Visuals


Applications and games can now use the entirety of the display with 4.4, meaning no more notifications bar and no more battery icon. Just full screen applications and games. Android’s UI now stays hidden whenever you’re interacting with content.

To make sure that users always have easy, consistent access to system UI from full-screen immersive mode, Android 4.4 supports a new gesture — in immersive mode, an edge swipe from the top or bottom of the screen now reveals the system UI,” said Google.


Ok Google


A feature first showcased in the Motorola’s Moto X finds its way into native Android. Just say, “Ok Google” to activate the phone without touching it. Users can launch a voice search, send a text, get driving directions or play a song with the voice command.

New dialler, caller ID


The new phone app now automatically priorities the users’ contacts based on the people they talk to the most. Users can also search for nearby places and businesses, contacts, or people in their Google Apps domain directly from the Phone app. If they get a call from a phone number that is not saved in their contacts, the phone will look for matches from businesses with a local listing on Google Maps.



Like Apple’s M7 coprocessor, Android KitKat now wants to know more about what you do and where you are. To enable this Google has enabled hardware sensor batching inside 4.4, a feature that makes sensors far less power hungry.

“Android works with the device hardware to collect and deliver sensor events efficiently in batches, rather than individually as they are detected. This lets the device’s application processor remain in a low-power idle state until batches are delivered. You can request batched events from any sensor using a standard event listener, and you can control the interval at which you receive batches.”

Full-screen album art


On Android KitKat album art will display in a full-screen format on the lock screen while listening to music or streaming via Chromecast.

Unified Hangouts messaging app

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As we reported a few days back, Android 4.4 brings a new unified messaging app, with Hangouts getting SMS and MMS integration, in addition to offering instant messaging through Google accounts (erstwhile Google Talk). Hangouts now also allows users to share their location and send animated GIFs.



This is the big one –– Android 4.4 will run on handsets with just 512MB of RAM. That’s right, people: KitKat will theoretically run on the HTC Hero, a handset that came out almost three years ago!

KitKat streamlines every major component to reduce memory use and introduces new APIs and tools to help developers create more memory-efficient applications.

“OEMs building the next generation of Android devices can take advantage of targeted recommendations and options to run Android 4.4 efficiently, even on low-memory devices. Dalvik JIT code cache tuning, kernel samepage merging (KSM), swap to zRAM, and other optimizations help manage memory.”

Immersive mode


The new immersive mode gives a full screen experience hiding all controls while reading a book, watching a movie or playing a game. Swiping on the edges brings back the status bar and navigation button.

Smarter Google Now integration

While the voice-activated always-on search assistant was first seen in the Moto X, Android 4.4 extends it to the Nexus 5, allowing users to just say “OK Google” when in the home screen to launch the Google Now assistant and do a voice search, send a text, get directions or even play a song. Google Now can be launched by simply swiping to the left instead of swiping from the bottom, at least on the Nexus 5.

It’s not clear if the feature would reach other Android 4.4 devices. Google also says, that in the coming weeks, it’s enhancing Google Now with new card types that bring information about contextual topics that interest users such as updates from a favourite website or blog.

Cloud printing

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It’s not a deal breaker by any means but you can now print using Google Cloud Print via your Android 4.4-powered handset and/or tablet. Google has opened up the APIs to developers, so expect support inside most of the big name apps inside Google Play very soon.

“Android 4.4 introduces native platform support for printing, along with APIs for managing printing and adding new types of printer support. The platform provides a print manager that mediates between apps requesting printing and installed print services that handle print requests.”

“The print manager provides shared services and a system UI for printing, giving users consistent control over printing from any app. The print manager also ensures the security of content as it’s passed across processes, from an app to a print service.”

Step detector, counter


Android 4.4 brings platform support for two new composite sensors, step detector and step counter allowing users to track steps when they’re walking, running, or climbing stairs, via apps and hardware that offer the feature. The Nexus 5 offers the two sensors and Google says it’s working with its chipset partners to bring them to new devices as soon as possible.

Screen recording


Screen-grabs are one thing but having the ability to capture real-time video of what’s happening on your droid’s display is another thing entirely. With Android KitKat this is now a reality, and all saved content is stored on your device as an MP4 file.

“By default, the utility selects a resolution equal or close to the device’s display resolution in the current orientation. When you are done recording, you can share the video directly from your device or pull the MP4 file to your host computer for post-production.”

Improved multitasking


Google says Android 4.4 betters system performance by optimizing memory and improving the touchscreen so that it responds faster and more accurately.

Enhanced support for connectivity options


Android 4.4 also brings support for the Message Access Profile (MAP) enabling Bluetooth-enabled cars to exchange messages with Android devices. It also supports Bluetooth HID over GATT (HOGP) offering apps a low-latency link with low-power peripheral devices such as mice, joysticks, and keyboards.

Android 4.4 also introduces platform support for built-in IR blasters, and a new API and system service for developers to build apps that can leverage them. This means the IR Blaster, present in the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One will now be usable.

Android 4.4 also supports Wi-Fi Tunneled Direct Link Setup (TDLS), a way to stream media and other data faster between devices already on the same Wi-Fi network.

Priority contacts


The new phone app in Android KitKat automatically prioritises contacts based on the people users talk to the most.

Built-in device manager

The Android device manager to locate and remotely wipe the device now comes built-in with Android 4.4.

Emoji on Google Keyboard


Android KitKat brings in the popular Emoji characters to the default Android keyboard.


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