Wednesday, 30 October 2013
Thursday, 17 October 2013
You may not know this, but Android 4.4 KitKat has been on our radar for a looong time. Of course, back then we referred to it as Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie and we were initially an audience to what turned out to be some wildly inaccurate speculation, claiming that it'll hit the industry as early as February/March. Surely enough, as the months went by, the (speculated) release date for the next iteration of the world's most popular mobile OS proved to be a moving target – it was no longer February or March, it was June next, then sometime during the summer, until, finally, we now have a much more likely October release. A release that coincides with the rumored unveiling of another Google product – the much anticipated Nexus 5.
Ah, the Nexus 5. We've been curating the web for every split and reasonable-sounding detail on the upcoming Google/LG device that we could get our hands on, and despite this particular piece being about the upcoming Android 4.4. KitKat update, the two are linked from conception, or so it appears. With that in mind, it shouldn't surprise you that most of our current preliminary intel on the next Android is seen posing out of the screen of the Nexus 5
Android 4.4 KitKat
1. Android 4.4 coming in a KitKat flavor
It's highly improbable that the regulars among you haven't heard of the Nestle/Google partnership when it comes to the new Android flavor, it is, however, worth mentioning. The mutual benefits of tying the knot on a venture like this are quite obvious, and we're happy to report that taking a break can potentially be sweeter than ever – a reported 50 million KitKat bars carrying the special KitKat/Android packaging have been released into the market, each giving you a shot at winning a 2013 edition Nexus 7, or a special KitKat shaped like a bugdroid. Don't trust us? Check out the one Larry Page got!
2. Forget October 14th/15th
Well, boys, rumors ain't perfect. Turns out the announcement did not, after all, take place on neither October 14th, nor the 15th, as we were led to believe. There are currently a number of alternative theories, of course, and while some sound more plausible than others, we can't really say any of them has a serious backing. Generally, we're still expecting a simultaneous release with the Nexus 5 at the end of the month.
3. Optimized for legacy devices?
Android 4.4. KitKat is said to be optimized for what smartphone fanatics may consider outdated hardware. Regardless, whether you like it or not, much of the rise of Android has had to do with this specific segment, so it actually makes loads of sense that the software is tweaked to do a better job -- even on devices with as little RAM as 512MB.
This particular rumor dates quite far back, though you could say that Google has hinted as much on its official Android 4.4 KitKat page, claiming: “It's our goal with Android KitKat to make an amazing Android experience available for everybody.”
4. New Linux 3.8-based kernel will lower RAM consumption among others
And if our theory of Google targeting legacy devices with its Android 4.4 KitKat update didn't have you convinced, then this might: a new Linux 3.8-based kernel that is rumored to help lower RAM consumption, among other things, has been spotted on Google's public kernel repository as early as February. It's worth noting, however, that the first unit we've seen Android 4.4 KitKat running on (to your left) was running the old kernel. Whether this changes anything remains to be seen.
5. Goodbye, Holo theme!
It's no secret that Google's Holo dark gray/cyan-blue theme has won the hearts of many. If you, like us, find yourself in that category, then you may be saddened by the news that Google will be letting go of the coloring scheme. Instead, a new white/gray will make an appearance with Android 4.4 KitKat, first seen in a video showcasing a Nexus 5 found in a bar (in a few slides), and then re-confirmed in the images that follow.
6. New dialer look
The dialer in Android 4.4 KitKat features a revamped design, that is bound to cause a divide in opinions. It's probably worth noting that the new look actually goes hand-in-hand with the People app. Also, as you can see for yourself, the aforementioned Holo theme is gone. The dialer app's icon has also received a slight refresh – in tune with Google's latest design that features flatter surfaces.
7. Messaging app slightly reworked
The Messaging app has also received a minor update – the app icon, for example, is entirely new and flatter. Inside the app itself, there has been a slight re-arrangement of the software buttons – those have been migrated to the top, whereas previously they occupied the bottom.
8. Homescreen icons redesigned
As we mentioned, the icons of the above-mentioned apps have been redesigned. As you can probably guess, redesigning just two icons would look out of place, which is why it appears that Android 4.4 KitKat will feature a new, flatter icons design.
9. New boot animation?
A new boot animation has also been spotted, albeit only a miniscule part of it. Obviously, a singular image can't really put the new animation into perspective, though it's enough to light up our enthusiasm.
10. First hands-on with Android 4.4 KitKat
As we mentioned earlier, a Nexus 5 was found left in a bar. Side-stepping this small gem, it's worth noting that a very short hands-on with Android 4.4 KitKat was showcased, though the user was stuck at the lock screen trying to figure out the unlock pattern. If you watch real closely at the very beginning of the video, you can also see the new boot animation for a split second.
11. A number of updated core Android apps
Some lucky folks over at Myce have somehow managed to get their hands on a Nexus 5 and have since been leaking snippets of information ever since. We say snippets, because the entire exercise is kind of time-consuming, seeing as they have to dig through millions of lines of code.
But it paid off several times, for example we now know that come Android 4.4 KitKat, some of the core Android apps, such as E-mail, Hangouts and others will be receiving an update. The full list of updated apps includes: Google Sound Search, Email, Clock, Currents, Cloud Print,Google Authenticator, Play Books, Gallery, Hangouts, QuickOffice, Play Store and the Gmail app.
12. Nexus 5 on KitKat
Another screenshot has been outed by Myce showing how KitKat looks on the Nexus 5. So far, we're kind of digging the new minimalist looks.
13. The KitKat name is apparently fairly new
A bunch of detailed screenshots have been released by Gadget Helpline of what appears to be a very early version of KeyLime Pie. In case you weren't aware, that's the particular dessert that the next Android was expected to appropriate, as is the tradition. That's until news of the KitKat deal became public, of course.
14. Google Wallet/mobile payments to become a cornerstone of Android?
A new Payments tab has been spotted in the aforementioned early build of the next iteration of Android. Is Google planning something major with Google Wallet and mobile payments as a whole?
15. Android is getting a built-in printing functionality
Support for printing appears to be a rather certain feature of the upcoming Android 4.4 KitKat.
16. Location settings (1)
The Location settings menu has been changed, arguably giving you better control of how location services work with your particular device. Namely, instead of having to go through these manually, you can now simply chose between three modes: High accuracy, which leverages your devices' GPS, and further uses Wi-Fi and mobile networks to better pin-point your location; Battery saving, which only uses Wi-Fi and mobile networks, and Device sensors only, meaning that apps will make use of your GPS only.
17. Location settings (2)
A more stream-lined process is not the only new thing with location settings, however. Google is also adding a history of apps that have recently requested to access your location, a functionality currently only available if you go down the custom Android ROM path. A most welcome addition nevertheless.
18. Download manager updated
The changes to the Download manager hardly qualify as ground-breaking, but they're there. Except the visual re-arrangement, there's a new button which appears to be responsible for controlling the grid/list view, a feature present in other parts of Android already.
Image courtesy of AndroidPolice
19. Android 4.4 hands-on
A 7-minutes hands-on HD footage with the Nexus 5 running on Android 4.4 has been outed on the web and has already garnered close to a million hits. As the uploader of the YouTube clip notes, do keep in mind that the Android version in the clip appears to be from an earlier build, when the KitKat name wasn't yet agreed upon, and the next iteration of the platform was internally known as KeyLime Pie.
20. Lockscreen changes
The lockscreen also got some attention as a part of the UI tweaks series that Google has initiated with Android 4.4. As you can see, not a whole lot has been changed -- the only real addition is that of a hint that you can get to the camera quickly by swiping right, an arguably obscure feature in the current build.
21. App Drawer tweak
The App Drawer has also been tweaked in Android 4.4. Currently, it features a stubbornly static pitch black background, whereas in Android 4.4 it seems like it will take after your homescreen wallpaper. About time, Google!
22. App Dock tweaked
Apart from introducing new, larger icons, Google has also introduced a slight redesign to the App Dock -- it is no longer separated from the rest with a line. Rather, the UI now seamlessly transitions from the two otherwise separate areas.
23. New stock launcher?
A new, updated version of the stock launcher will also be making an appearance with Android 4.4 -- this one hasn't changed since 2009. Called the Google Experience Launcher, it is currently unknown what exact benefits GEL brings to the table, though you won't hear us saying 'no' to some extra stability.
24. Android 4.4 Easter Egg
You should know by now that with each version of Android, Google is adding a rather obscured Easter egg. This time around, we have the Android moniker taking a shot at the KitKat logo, while a long-press of it apparently introduces a moving mosaic of Android versions pasts. Yummy!
25. QuickOffice to come preloaded
This one fails to surprise us really, since Google bought QuickOffice back in June and made it free to download on the Play Store subsequently. It appears that the next step will be to preload the productivity suite. Neat!
26. Design tweaks
Continuing the topic of design tweaks, a bunch of core apps (the clock here) have had their previously bold fonts tweaked, and now exhibit a much skinnier quality.
27. More design tweaks
The timer got a similar treatment -- gone are the days of bold fonts!
28. Yes, the Stopwatch, too
The stopwatch is no exception to the rule -- fatty fonts be gone.
29. More on mobile payments
If you look back to slide #14, you'll realize that the screenshot on your left right now is obviously from a different build of Android 4.4. Whereas the build from slide #14 lists a Payments tab, we have a Tap & Pay tab this time around. Confusing changes with builds aside, this likely means that we're getting integration for mobile payments!
Android tips and tricks
1. Monitor what's using your data
Chances are that your smartphone is almost always connected to the internet, be it over Wi-Fi or 3G/4G. Do you know what apps consume most of that data? If not, then try Android's built-in data usage monitor, available from the Settings menu, or just get an app for the job – Onavo Count or Traffic Monitor Plus. Keep an eye out for data-hogging apps.
2. Keep your storage space clean and tidy
It seems like the on-board storage space on smartphones is never enough. That's why moving your stuff – music, videos, apps – onto a microSD card is a good idea. Also, try to get rid of apps and games that you don't use since these occupy space as well. Just go to Settings > Apps and uninstall whatever software isn't needed. To get a better idea as to what files and folders really take up the most storage space, getDiskUsage from the Play Store. It represents visually each folder with a rectangle – the bigger the rectangle, the more space it occupies. Then just move or delete all the stuff you don't need using a file manager. ES File Explorer is one we'd recommend.
NOTE: Don't delete any files or folders unless you're absolutely sure they aren't in use by an app or the operating system!
NOTE: Don't delete any files or folders unless you're absolutely sure they aren't in use by an app or the operating system!
3. Monitor what apps are loaded and running
When a smartphone is turned on, it loads a whole bunch of apps and services that run in the background. Most (if not all) of these are harmless, but others just sit there, taking up memory and keeping the CPU busy. Autorun Manager is one of the apps that can show you what software is loaded on start-up and what's running on your device. Feel free to disable or uninstall apps that you don't need.
4. Avoid suspicious ad-supported apps
We have nothing against ad-supported software, but some apps take that concept to the extreme, with ads being displayed on the notification bar. Some even add links to shady search engines to your home screen and suspicious bookmarks to the browser. These apps should be avoided since their ads consume data and battery life, not to mention that they might put your private information at risk. To see what ad-supported apps you have installed on your Android device, give Lookout Ad Network Detector a try.
5. Monitor apps' battery usage
There is a built-in battery monitoring tool in the Android operating system, accessible by going to Settings > Battery. Keep an eye out for apps that consume excessive amounts of power without being used that often.
6. Make parts of Google Maps available offline
In case you use Google Maps on a regular basis, you might want to save frequently viewed areas for offline use. That will save you data whenever Wi-Fi isn't available. To do that, open the menu in Google Maps, tap on "Make Avaliable Offline" and select the area you want to cache onto your device. Note that saved areas may be up to 100MB in size.
7. Monitor the permissions of installed apps
Do you know what kind of information your apps have access to? If not, Clueful Privacy Advisor is the app you should consider downloading. It scans your Android device for suspicious apps, including apps that may leak your passwords, phone number, and other sensitive data.
8. Know how to track a lost or stolen phone
9. Automate your phone
Your phone is smart enough to mute itself while you're at work, to turn the Wi-Fi and 3G off at night, and to do all kinds of stuff automatically. you just need the right app for that – an app like AutomateIt, Tasker, orPhone Schedule, to name a few.
10. Try an alternative virtual keyboard
Not entirely happy with your smartphone's on-screen keyboard? Well, there's plenty of alternatives to try, including SwiftKey, TouchPal, Swype, and many more.
11. Get an SMS counter
Obviously, this tip is for people who don't have unlimited text messages included in their monthly plan. To them we recommend trying the SMS Counter app, which will keep count of both incoming and outgoing text messages.
12. Take over your notification light
13. Cut the wires
There's this neat application called AirDroid, allowing one to manage their Android smartphone from a computer over Wi-Fi or 3G/4G connection. In other words, with this app you can access your phone from a PC and then copy files from and onto your smartphone, send text messages, install or uninstall apps, view photos, music, video files, and much more.