Android 4.4: A 'tasty' refresh


Since the introduction of Android in 2009, Google has codenamed versions of Android after a desert in an alphabetical order. It started out with Cupcake (1.5) and grew into names such as Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, etc. The latest version of Android (4.4) was surprisingly named "KitKat" after numerous reports on it being called Key Lime Pie. Google's partnership with Nestle to use their product under Android lead to entertaining resultsWith there being 1 billion Android activations, how would Google enhance its mobile OS for the next billion? The answer was simple; Make a platform that's designed to run intuitively on a wide variety of devices than ever before. KitKat enables the user to be able to have responsive and power-friendly applications. 

Note: I'm currently working on a Nexus 5 review so stay tuned for that this upcoming Wednesday. 

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Intuitive meets Beauty 

Android 4.4 has a contrasting colour scheme of white and black that plays through certain parts of the OS such as the status and navigation bar - which now have a transparent layer that plays well with the home screen. This version of Android reveals a more consistent atmosphere between the OS and Google's services. The Iconography in the "Google Experience" a.k.a the home screen, is now a condensed Roboto typeface. The home-screen is really focused on the content Google brings you before it being your hub for apps. 

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Swiping left gives you opportunity to view information curated from Google's personal assistant. Swiping up to refresh the given content now has a animation of various colours expanding into one another; A subtle change I really like. When you listen to music on your device, or while projecting movies to Chromecast, you'll now see a full-screen album/movie art when your device is locked instead of it being in a box that deterred from the consistency of elements on the lock-screen. 

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Usefully Simple

Androids new phone app automatically sorts your contacts based on the people you talk to the most. When I search for a business on the dialer I'm prompted with contact information; another example of Google's services implementation into the core of Android. 

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When the Computer Shop I called earlier returned my call, Google automatically displayed a contact ID with a name and a picture since they're listed on Google Maps. 

Socialize With a Few Smilies

With the latest update to Hangouts, all of your SMS and MMS messages are linked together with your other Hangout conversations and video calls. In addition to that, you can share your location and send animated GIFs. Emoticons are now on the Google Keyboard with the addition to the Emojis in the Hangouts app.

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The only thing that bothers me with this update is the route Google is heading with Hangouts. The implementation of Hangouts being a SMS platform is beneficial to those who already use the app for instant messaging, but convincing others to use it instead of apps such as WhatsApp, Kik, BBM will be a challenging task for Google. 

App Face-lift

A few apps recieved a bit of botox after showing their age and are now unified with the look of KitKat. System colors are less 'robotic blue', and more black and white. The Email client is now similar to the current Gmail app with the absence of threading. Downloading files now look better with a lighter theme. The camera still lacks manual control and is slow to focus and capture an image - the Android Team has addressed this issue and states that it'll be resolved soon.

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"Sugar Rush"

In Android 4.4 Google introduces "Project Svelte", which focuses on performance optimization. This means that if your phone has at least 512MB, developers can make their app less 'memory hungry'. The experience on my HTC One (4.3) isn't the smoothest it can be, but on the Nexus 5 everything is silky-smooth. Switching between apps cause no lag and the touchscreen responses feel natural - I now don't feel like the phone is playing catch up with me, but instead I'm catching up with the phone.

Blast Away

On devices with an infrared blaster, Android now supports applications for remote control of TVs and other nearby devices. Due to the Nexus 5's Snapdragon 800 processor, you can listen to music for longer - up to 60 hours of audio playback. I only lost 5% battery with listening to music for 80 minutes without turning the screen on. Most likely we'll see this processor implemented in more Android devices.

Conclusion

Android 4.4 KitKat brings a consistent feel and look to Google's mobile platform that's noticeable from the initial boot-up. It's striking to see the launcher and a few other things only available to the Nexus 5, but time will tell when we see how manufacturers update their devices to 4.4 and vice versa with Google's current Nexus line-up. Although this is technically a point update, it doesn't feel like it. This a radical change to Android that we haven't seen since Android 4.2 Jellybean. The changes in Android 4.4 KitKat are welcoming to it's users and showcase growth and promise for the future of Android.