Halloween was full of treats from Google, including the announcement and simultaneous release of Android 4.4 KitKat operating system alongside the Nexus 5 smartphone.
The “Immersive Mode” on Android 4.4 joins the system’s user interface seamlessly with the user’s experience. This feature allows most everything on the KitKat interface to display in full screen mode, with top and bottom navigation bars hidden when games, apps, browsers, etc., are open. Users can simply swipe their screen in order to bring back the status bar and navigation buttons, which are now transparent as well as customizable.
New Lock Screen Features
Android 4.4 can literally turn your lock screen into a work of art. When listening to music or using Chromecast to play a movie on your TV, the artwork for said media will display on the Android lock screen, as will play, pause and seek buttons for easy navigation.
“Always On” Hands-Free Navigation
A simple swipe of the home screen will prompt Google Now, from which you can access news, weather alerts, directions, etc. Saying “OK Google” prompts a Google search, and also prompts apps, browsers and music playback.
Also known as “Project Svelte,” Android 4.4 is optimized to allow compatibility with a host of devices, including those with as little as 512MB RAM. In order to maximize hardware potential, Android 4.4 features a mechanism called “hardware sensor batching,” which allows the operating system to sensor information in batches. This makes for higher efficiency and improves other mechanisms such as battery life.
Android 4.4 features an updated dialer, which is now essentially a full contact search. It pulls up not only numbers from your contacts, but also helps find contact information for nearby stores, restaurants and businesses as well as company emails and contact lists. Any contact search you need to perform can now be done in dialer.
The Android 4.4 Caller ID is also smarter; after a call from a number not listed in contacts, it will attempt to track that number with a business and save a listing within Google Maps.
Messages Hangout in Hangouts
Android 4.4 integrates the messenger app with Google Hangouts so users can find all their chatting contacts in one place. From tests to multimedia messages, to Google Chat to video calling; Hangouts is now the Android user’s one stop shop for mobile communication.
All Of The Emoji
Android 4.4 features a complete emoji keyboard, a feature, which has been considered long missing from the system.
The new NFC mechanism on Android 4.4 allows users to store important information, such as credit card details, on their devices in NFC powered apps like Google Wallet, without needing to access to the secure element on SIM cards. Now the secure element, which keeps important information safe from prying eyes, is controlled virtually by Google and not mobile carriers, which should now allow NFC powered applications to flourish on Android.
Cloud Printing and Storage
Equipped Google Cloud Print and a compatible ePrint printer, printing directly from smartphone is now easier than ever. In addition, other cloud services such as QuickOffice have also been updated, and can now be access from other services such as Google Drive or Drop Box.
TV and Bluetooth Compatibility
Now equipped with an IR Blaster, Android 4.4 allows smartphones and tablet to have software support in the event OEMs decide to implement such a feature on their devices. With built-in infrared support, Android 4.4 devices can serve as TV remote controls.
In addition, the Wi-Fi Tunneled Direct Link Setup (TDLS) feature allows devices connected to the same Wi-Fi network to quickly stream media between one another.
The still fairly new Bluetooth 4.0 LE has also been further updated on Android 4.4 in order to allow Android apps interact with more Bluetooth-enabled devices. Such Bluetooth profiles as Bluetooth HID over GATT allow apps to function with low-power peripheral devices such as mice, joysticks and keyboards, for example. Other mechanisms of command and communication are powered through various Bluetooth profiles.
Screen Recording is pretty self-explanatory; the mechanism allows users to take video screen captures of what is taking place on their display. Users should keep in mind that security measures have been put in place to combat piracy and attempting to record media purchased from the Google Play Store, streamed from Netflix or similar apps.
It appears Android 4.4 KitKat is a far more extensive system update than many expected, considering it remains in the 4 series on Android version numbers. Many concur that Android 4.4 is the major Android update, for which we have been waiting. These are just some of the many features, which can be found on the latest version of Android; rime will likely reveal a host more.
Android 4.4 KitKat is currently exclusive to the Nexus 5 and will soon roll out on other devices including the Nexus 4, Nexus 7, Nexus 10 and the Google Play Editions Samsung Galaxy S4 And HTC One.
What do you think of the new Android 4.4 KitKat? Let us know in the comments below.
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Fionna Agomuoh is a Technology Reporter for the International Business Times, a vegan foodie, and a lover of Electric Dance Music.