Just in time for Halloween, Google took the wraps off its first candy-coated operating system: Android 4.4 KitKat.
KitKat is designed to bring a top end Android experience to every Android smartphone in the world. It uses less memory, in part so that manufacturers can bring the latest version of the operating system to devices with lower end components.
Google has focused on backwards compatibility with KitKat so that it can bring the top end features of the operating system to any Android device. The mobile OS is designed to bring “Android to the next billion people” by making it leaner, faster and more efficient. For instance, it will supposedly work on devices with a little as 512 MB of RAM.
“Our goal was to build one version of the operating system that runs across all Android smartphones in 2014,” said Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android, Chrome and Apps at Google at an event in San Francisco.
Google’s stated goal with KitKat is to bring “Google smarts to the entire experience.” To do that, Google has made its Google Now semantic search product a heavy part of the Android experience. In addition to Hangouts as the de facto messaging apps and the new smart Caller ID, Google is bringing its ability to index the world’s information to Android.
KitKat has a variety of new features, including a new smart dialer, translucent navigation and status bar. For instance, Google’s Hangout messaging app now incorporates traditional text messages (i.e., those sent across cellular networks via old SMS and MMS protocols) as well as Internet-based chat.
Android 4.4 improves performance and multitasking for the operating system by optimizing how apps use system memory and hardware components. KitKat also gives app developers the ability to integrate with cloud-based storage via a new access framework. For instance, if you’re in an app and would like to upload a video or a picture, KitKat gives the user the ability to import files from third party cloud providers (like Box or DropBox), the Google Drive Cloud or files stored locally on the device.
KitKat introduces a new feature called “Google Cloud Print” that allows you to easily print a document on any printer that allows for wireless connections and has an app in the Android Google Play app store. Google Cloud Print is immediately available with HP ePrint printers.
Google has also re-imagined the telephone app to prioritize your contacts based on who you talk to most. The Caller ID function is now tied to Google search so you if you do not recognize a number that is calling you, Google can show you who it is by accessing the information in its database.