Android KitKat : What do we know so far about Google's operating system ?
It wasn’t that long ago that we were expecting a tasty Key Lime Pie to follow up Android Jelly Bean, but in a surprise move Google partnered with Nestle and is now calling it Android 4.4 KitKat. Branded naming aside you might be wondering what you can expect from the new version of Android and well, to be honest, not all that much has been confirmed yet, but that hasn’t stopped the rumours from flying. So here’s what we know so far.
KitKat for everyone
All that Google has said about Android KitKat so far is that “it’s our goal with Android KitKat to make an amazing Android experience available for everyone”. While Google hasn’t specified what it means by that it seems reasonable to assume that it means they want to get Android KitKat on more phones, which in turn would mean designing it so that it runs smoothly on low end hardware.
One of the problems with Android is that it’s so fragmented, with so many different hardware configurations and different versions of Android being used, which can make it hard to ensure apps work across the board and means that different devices provide wildly differing performance and features. If Google can get Android KitKat onto the majority of devices then that should help matters considerably.
Not all Android releases get their own name, for example Android 4.1 and 4.2 were fairly minor updates which continued the Jelly Bean name. The fact that Android 4.4 has actually been given a new name suggests that it will be a little more substantial, though as it’s still version 4 rather than version 5 it probably won’t be a complete overhaul of the operating system.
While Google has stayed fairly tight lipped about what Android KitKat will bring to the table, we reported on 3G earlier this month that an image of some upcoming Android features was captured at an Intel developer conference.
The image didn’t specify that they’d be added with Android 4.4, but since that’s the next version it seems likely. The most exciting thing to take away from that image is that support for 64 bit architecture is apparently being added.
This makes sense since Apple has already launched a 64 bit phone with the iPhone 5S, so Android won’t want to fall behind, particularly as a 64 bit chip is necessary for more than 4GB of RAM.
The other key thing shown on the image is that there will be further optimisations to Android’s firmware and drivers, which should hopefully lead to faster, slicker performance, which is something that Google has been working on ever since Project Butter was released with Android 4.1.
While we’re not expecting a drastic change to the look and feel of Android with this latest version it does seem as though there might be a new colour scheme. A new image for the official Korean Android keyboard briefly appeared on Google Play before being removed. The image showed different colour icons in the status bar, suggesting that it was taken from a new version of Android (which would explain why it was promptly removed).
Rather than the blue icons for Wi-Fi, battery level and the like that stock Android currently uses, the colour is now a light grey. That’s a lot more neutral but also a little bland, so we’re not sure it’s a change for the better.
There have also been a few recent updates to Google apps, presumably to tie in with the launch of KitKat. The most significant of these is a change to Gmail, which gives it a simplistic card based interface more in line with Google Now. Whether other apps and UI elements will follow suit remains to be seen though.
Current rumours point to an October release date for Android KitKat. It’s likely that it will be announced at the same time as the Nexus 5, since that will probably be the first device to launch with the new version of Android. The latest rumours suggest that this will all happen on the 14th of October, so we shouldn’t have long to wait.
While Android KitKat is likely to arrive soon, initially it will probably only be available for recent Nexus devices. We’d wager that everything from the Nexus 4 onwards will get it, while the Google Editions of the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 will probably either get it day one or soon after.
Everything else will have to wait a little longer. So far most Android handsets don’t even have Android 4.3, so it’s likely to be at least a couple of months before Android 4.4 starts trickling down. When it does you can expect recent and high profile handsets such as the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and LG G2 to get it first, though if Google really is aiming to level the playing field it may well be that a lot of phones receive the update in the coming months.
By Simon Thomas on 30th September, 2013