Google has always had a sweet tooth when naming their Android operating systems. Names such as Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, HoneyComb, Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, and now Kitkat only prove their love of sweets. Google likes to pair new Android versions with a new phone; this phone is the Nexus 5. Kitkat is visually stunning and integrated with Google more so than ever before. Google has improved on the design, performance, productivity, hangouts, and phone dialing within the operating system.
The design of Android Kitkat is much brighter, cleaner, and crisper than before. The status bar up at the top and the navigation buttons are transparent which allows some applications and wallpaper to show through. Some applications will also give a gradient from a grey/black to the transparency. Applications that encompass the screen have become smoother, but Google has used this feature sparingly. Buttons and pop-ups are more subtle and feel less robotic to the user. The overall look of Android hasn’t changed, but it flows better, has more of an intuitive interface, and fonts have been improved. It’s a softer, cleaner, sweeter Android.
Google has made Android 4.4 all about, who-else but, Google! The Launch screen can be accessed with a swipe from the home screen to the leftmost screen. “Okay Google” is the hot phrase to use if you want to ask Google to do various tasks: save a note, set an alarm, search for a restaurant, etc. The voice commander only works in the Launcher and unfortunately you cannot train it to respond only to your own voice. Google has improved on voice recognition algorithms by 25 percent — voice to text has become more accurate and if it gets it wrong, the user can tap the word to replace it. Searching has also become much better and will bring up websites that might interest the user based on location. The application drawer is just a scrollable list of applications you have on your phone, simple as that. To make it a widget you have to do a long press and you can drag-drop onto the screen of your choice. It’s intuitive! Wallpapers work like this as well. The Nexus 5, best sports these upgrades, and sadly they are only available for this model. The Nexus 5, is the the best representation of Kitkat.
Google integrated MMS and SMS with Hangouts, totally replacing the core text messaging application from Android. Upon set up the user must “tie” their SMS / MMS messaging to a Google account. If you have multiple accounts, you must remember which you have threaded it to. Although, this integration isn’t flawless — SMS/MMS and Google Hangout conversations are not in the same tab. They have segregated these types of messages, unlike what iMessage and webOS have done (by keeping it in the same tab/window.) Google does promise that they are working on integrating these two communications together into one. Hangouts does have icons for phone messaging and hangout messaging notifications.
Dialing with Kitkat has become quick and intelligent. Google has developed an algorithm to list your top calls, and your top recieved calls — these are listed when when the user accesses the dial pad. They also have made it so that users can use T9 to dial or search through contacts. Users can also search for local businesses using Map databases. This is especially neat because it also shows the picture associated with the business in your call log. This is great because when a business calls you, you don’t ignore the logged number. These features that have been added really jazz up the core phone application.
Kitkat has brought file organization and office productivity to a new and cleaner level. Kitkat has QuickOffice pre-installed; QuickOffice is cleaner and looks more integrated with the rest of the operating system. Along with Notes and Downloads, they both look cleaner and they are much easier to navigate. Attaching files with File Picker has also become quicker and easier to understand. File Picker is also integrated with Dropbox, Google Drive, and other office applications. Printing from Kitkat is more functional. The user can print to Google Print services, an HP printer, or even to a PDF. Even the littlest features here show that Google is striving to make Kitkat a “real” operating system. The core email application has been made up to look more like Gmail — meaning they have sliding panels, swipe to delete, and other Gmail features. Overall things have become cleaner and more intuitive.
“Project Svelte” is what Google is calling the Android 4.4’s capability of running on lower-end hardware. This definitely is a big change… and a very sweet change. Kitkat can run on 512MB of RAM, Google shrunk the size of the operating system. Google has also made Android’s memory management a priority by letting developers enable a “low memory” mode when they are working on applications on lower specification phones. In other performance developments, the keyboard has been improved to be much more accurate with touch, along with the overall touch input. The future of confectionery has arrived. Go ahead, take a bite!