Update: Google has released a full list of what’s new in Android 4.4 KitKat. We’re digging in and we’ll bring you more details as we discover them.
Alongside the official release of its new flagship Nexus 5 on Google Play today, Google is also of course officially taking the wraps of 4.4 KitKat, the latest version of Android that will ship on the new Nexus 5. When will you be able to get your hands on the new OS? Google said KitKat 4.4 updates will arrive for the Nexus 4, Nexus 7, Nexus 10, and the Galaxy S4 and HTC One Google Play Editions in the coming weeks.
Google confirmed that the update will not be coming to the Galaxy Nexus. Since it’s two years old, it now “falls outside of the 18-month update window when Google and others traditionally update devices.”
In the YouTub playlist above, Google walks through some of the new features of KitKat for developers and also highlights a number of user-facing features such as a new “immersive mode” that allows users to automatically hide onscreen controls for a truly full-screen experience. In a blog post, Google took sometime to explain the performance improvements it’s made in KitKat, noting that Android can now “run comfortably on the 512MB of RAM devices”:
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The first thing you’ll notice about KitKat is we’ve made the experience much more engaging: the book you’re reading, the game you’re playing, or the movie you’re watching—now all of these take center stage with the new immersive mode, which automatically hides everything except what you really want to see.
Building a platform that makes mobile phones accessible for everyone has always been at the heart of Android. Until now, some lower-end Android phones couldn’t benefit from more recent Android releases due to memory constraints. With KitKat, we’ve slimmed down Android’s memory footprint by doing things like removing unnecessary background services and reducing the memory consumption of features that you use all the time. We did this not only within Android but across Google services like Chrome and YouTube. RAM (or memory) is one of the most expensive parts of a phone, and now Android can run comfortably on the 512MB of RAM devices that are popular in much of the world, bringing the latest goodies in Android 4.4 within reach for the next billion smartphone users.
We already knew that KitKat 4.4 would include the integration of SMS into the new Hangouts app that it launched during it’s Google+ event this week, but Google also noted that KitKat now allows users to “search across your contacts, nearby places, or even Google Apps accounts (like your company’s directory)” right from within the phone app. Google also highlighted some other improvements to navigating the Nexus 5 launcher in KitKat, launching voice search with the “OK, Google” command, and noted that new Google Now cards are on the way:
Swipe once from the home screen to get Google Now literally at your fingertips. Put Google to work for you by saying “OK, Google” to launch voice search, send a text, get directions or even play a song you want to hear. And in the coming weeks, we’re enhancing Now with important new card types that bring you information about contextual topics that interest you such as updates from a favorite website or blog.
Google has a website here with a breakdown of new features in KitKat 4.4, some of which include new full-screen album and movie art when streaming from Chromecast, faster multitasking, a redesigned phone app and caller ID, and the ability to open and save files on Google Drive from apps such as Quickoffice.
Google also walked through some of the improvements in KatKat developer tools in a blog post on its Android Developers Blog.