After briefly teasing the name this summer, Google has finally unveiled Android 4.4 KitKat, which it claims is a targeted at the “next 1 billion users.”
To that end, Google has “slimmed down Android’s memory footprint” by eliminating unnecessary background services and optimizing popular features, including Chrome and YouTube. As such, Android 4.4 will run well on handsets with as little as 512MB of RAM.
“Slimmed down” does not mean feature-free, and Google has added new features and tweaks, Some of which have already appeared in earlier devices, like the Moto X. New features include:
- Ability to rearrange home screens
- Contact info and web search built into the Hangouts app and Android smartphone dialer
- The status bar and navigation buttons disappear in full-screen apps
- Emoji icons built into the keyboard
- Wireless printing and third-party cloud services built into the Gallery app
- HDR+ photos
- SMS Google Hangouts integration
- Hands-free voice search (“OK Google”), like with the Moto X and new Verizon Droids
- New shopping and attraction-related Google Now cards
Enhancements include better speech recognition, unified search across the device and apps, improved battery life, and likely zippier performance. It seems Google is pitching KitKat as not only the operating system for developing economies, but also the new Android baseline, and hopes to push manufacturers to ship new handsets, and upgrade old ones, with/to KitKat instead of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean or even 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. This should help resolve the fragmentation issue that plagues the operating system.
The Google Nexus 5 will ship with Android 4.4 KitKat, while the Nexus 4, 7, 10, and stock Android editions of the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 will see it in the coming weeks.