Google announced the launch of Android 4.4 on its new flagship smartphone, the Nexus 5, in a blog post and began selling it in the Google Play Store today. While the Nexus 5 will ship with Android 4.4 on the device, older Nexus devices will be getting the update “in the coming weeks.” Google has unveiled all the main features of the operating system and here’s a list of the most important updates.
There isn’t a comprehensive list of first party app updates this time, but those should be expected in the near future. With Android 4.4 supporting devices with a minimum of 512 MB of RAM, there could be a lot more devices getting the update in some form. We already hypothesized what Android 4.4 could contain, but now we have the official release information.
Android 4.4 is another set of improvements rather than a drastic rethinking of the operating system. Here are the most important changes:
Google Search firmly integrated
Google Now (via Google Search) is one of the best aggregated information tools available. Over time it pulls relevant data from your Google services and shows a nice slice of important data that you need every day.
In Android 4.4, Google Search can be accessed by speaking “Ok Google.” This can be done on the home screen or in Google Now.
Hangouts replaces Messaging
It will first launch on the Nexus 5 and will roll out to other devices later.
With the optimization of KitKat, multitasking is improved. Lagginess when closing apps in the multitasking menu should be eliminated.
Phone app is smarter
The stock phone app hasn’t seen much improvement, but now it will prioritize contacts based on who you call the most. This feature is very similar to how Hangouts will first show the contacts you communicate with the most.
Built-in caller ID will use Google Maps to look up unknown numbers.
Better file management
Android 4.4 will let you access files from apps, Google Drive, or other cloud services.
Printing was another expected feature, but we now have confirmation that you can “print to any printer connected to Google Cloud Print, to HP ePrint printers, and to other printers that have apps in the Google Play Store.”
This is a list of smaller improvements that are behind-the-scenes.
- Bluetooth MAP support – Message Access Profiles (MAP) so cars with Bluetooth can communicate with your device
- Chromecast support
- Chrome web view – apps that embed web content use Chrome to display
- Closed captions
- Device management (Android Device Manager) built-in
- Downloads app redesign
- Home screen replacement apps can be changed through settings
- Email app redesigned
- Full screen wallpapers – bleed into notifications tray and system buttons (only on Nexus 5)
- HDR+ photography
- Location settings in Quick Settings
- Location power options – select between high accuracy or battery-saving modes.
- Step counting built-in – more battery friendly to get data
An update with potential
The launch of Android 4.4 is showing how Google is improving functionality of its operating system while keeping its core secure with Google Play Services. While the Nexus 5 is the first device to receive Android 4.4, older Nexus devices (except for the Galaxy Nexus) will be getting the update in the near future. It will be interesting to hear what older devices may get the Android 4.4 update since KitKat can run on only 512MB of memory. With the lower hardware requirements, a lot of older devices could support the operating system.
These are just the main features that Google decided to announce. When we get our hands on with Android 4.4, there will be more features to discover. With what’s been displayed so far, it looks like Android is becoming much more refined and while it might not look that different on the surface, the number of features available are growing.
Google may have not announced anything regarding wearables yet, but it’s expected in the future to work with Android 4.4.