Thursday, 17 October 2013

Android 4.4 KitKat update: release date, features and rumors

Android 4.4 KitKat update: release date, features and rumors

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!

Android 4.4 coming in a KitKat flavor

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.

Forget October 14th/15th

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.”

Optimized for legacy devices?

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.

New Linux 3.8-based kernel will lower RAM consumption among others

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.

Goodbye, Holo theme!

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.
New dialer look

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.
Messaging app slightly reworked

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.
Homescreen icons redesigned

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.

New boot animation?

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.

Read more

A number of updated core Android apps

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.

Nexus 5 on KitKat

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. 

The KitKat name is apparently fairly new

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?

Google Wallet/mobile payments to become a cornerstone of Android?

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.

Android is getting a built-in printing functionality

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.

Location settings (1)

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.

Location settings (2)

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
Download manager updated

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.

Lockscreen changes

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!

App Drawer tweak

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.

App Dock tweaked

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.

New stock launcher?

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!

Android 4.4 Easter Egg

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!

QuickOffice to come preloaded

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.

Design tweaks

27. More design tweaks

The timer got a similar treatment -- gone are the days of bold fonts!

More design tweaks

28. Yes, the Stopwatch, too

The stopwatch is no exception to the rule -- fatty fonts be gone.
Yes, the Stopwatch, too

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!
More on mobile payments


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