Google announced the name for its next Android update over a month ago, but strangely didn’t reveal any actual details surrounding the version bump. The company has now laid bare all the new features and tweaks.
Everyone is more familiar with Android on flagship devices, where it tends to run fine. But it’s a resource intensive OS - it can be exceptionally laggy on low-end devices. Google is going to try and change that with KitKat.
The latest version of Android allows developers to push different versions of their app to devices with varying amounts of RAM. Facebook could ship a lightweight version of its app to anyone on a phone with 512MB of RAM, for example, and reserve the more intensive features for top tier handsets.
Google made some more obvious tweaks too, with KitKat optimised for entry-level handsets in general. Google’s apps have been tweaked with that in mind, and even UI elements will be scaled back depending on the speed of the device.
Speaking of the UI, Google has made some small changes. Fullscreen album art now plays on the lockscreen, and there’s a dedicated camera shortcut too. Apps will also be able to go completely fullscreen if the developer has flagged that option, so navigation bars will no longer get in the way.
Naturally, the search company has paid attention to how search is now handled on Android. Saying “OK Google” will now pull up a search bar on any Android device running 4.4 - that’s a nice feature cribbed from the Moto X. Speech recognition has been improved too. Google says that accuracy has increased by around 25% over the past couple of years, and error rates are continuing to fall.
Google Now has some potentially creepy improvement as well. Any content that a user is interested in - film or television, for instance - will cue Now to go and hunt for interesting articles relating to the media, and Google has even extended that to websites and blogs. Soon you’ll be seeing posts for your favourite websites before you even think to pull them up.
KitKat is available on the Nexus 5 right now, but it won’t be available on other Nexus devices for another few weeks. It’ll be up to manufacturers, meanwhile, to push out their own 4.4 update.