Top 25 New Features of Android 4.4 KitKat OS – What’s New

Android 4.4 KitKat is officially released and as expected, the first device to come with the latest Google android flavor is the new Nexus 5. Soon other OEM will upgrade their smartphones with Android 4.4 KitKat OS. Let’s see what’s new:android-kitkat-demo

  1. Low RAM requirement : Although Google has not explicitly specified any minimum requirement, but it has clearly indicated that Android 4.4. can run well on devices with RAM as low as 512MB. Taking this as hint, we can expect new android devices flooding the market with the latest iteration of Android. Low RAM requirement means more optimization even on high-end devices henceforth. Android devices manufactures (OEM) can use new configuration options while building devices with Android 4.4 to fine-tune out-of-memory levels for processes, set graphics cache sizes as per device specs, control memory reclaim, and more.
  2. Optimized RAM Usage: Not only can the latest version of android run on devices with low amounts of RAM, but Google has introduced new API (ActivityManager.isLowRamDevice()) and developer tools (meminfo, procstats tool) to allow developers to create RAM-memory optimized apps for more faster and smooth experience and to target more devices. This means that our phones with Android 4.4 will be more smooth and the apps could be less-demanding on RAM side if developed properly. Dalvik JIT code cache tuning, kernel samepage merging (KSM), swap to zRAM, and other optimizations help manage memory on system level properly. With the improved memory management in place, Android has now reduced memory footprint. Services are now started serially in groups to avoid huge memory demands at one-go.
  3. New platform support for secure NFC-based transactions through HCE (Host Card Emulation) eliminating the need for provisioned secure element in the devices. This means that any app that declares AID for payments will be able to use NFC through HCE to initiate and complete transaction. If there are several apps declaring the same AID, user will be able to choose the desired app and go ahead with tap and pay mechanism.
  4. Native printing support providing new print framework with new APIs and services allowing printer manufacturers to develop their own print services to support android devices. The new printer manager built into Android 4.4 will mediate between apps and print services to facilitate common, convenient printing mechanism. Most of the Google apps are already updated to include printing support, like Chrome, Drive, QuickOffice, Gallery, etc.
  5. New Storage Access Framework addressing hassles on import and export of documents, images, etc, among various apps as it implements a standard, easy-to-use UI that lets users browse files of common type, say documents or images, in single interface and open/import them easily in any of the app or document provider implementing the new storage access framework.
  6. Hardware Sensor Batching for power-saving : Android now collects and deliver sensor events in batches, in response to the apps requesting them. Delivery of sensor data reports in batches will allow application processor to remain in idle state unless the batches are received, allowing device to save power over long use-case scenario. This doesn’t mean that sensor events data are not available for immediate delivery. It depends on the apps requesting them to set the desired interval of delivery. This doesn’t hamper data efficiencies in any way as it lets the device track sensor events continuously even when the screen is off or the system is asleep, and deliver the batches when required.
  7. Support for two new composite sensors – Step Detector and Step Counter to track steps and keep a count of them. These new sensors are implement in hardware for low power consumption.
  8. Shared SMS Provider and new API allowing third-party sms/mms app to become default messaging app. App developers can utilize the new APIs to read sms’es or send SMS’es acting as the default sms/mms app on the user’s device.
  9. Full Screen Immersive Mode allowing any app to go to full-screen mode with no navigation or system or status bar. App developers can now build apps to go to this new mode. Swiping from top to down reveals System UI in such full screen immersive mode, in case the user wants to navigate away.
  10. A new transition framework for animating scenes to provide a more richer, meaningful, intuitive user experience. App developers can use the new framework to create high-quality animated transition of scenes, view hierarchies from a set of pre-defined transition types or by designing their own custom type.
  11. Translucent System UI Styling
  12. Chromium WebView which supports HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript(with updated version JavaScript Engine V8) broadly. This will increase, enhance speed and power of HTML5-based apps.
  13. Native Screen Recording – Android has screenshot option built-in from long time, but screen recording was not present. Android 4.4 brings support for screen recording in mp4 format corresponding to the device screen resolution and orientation. A screen recording utility to reocrd screen and share the recording or save it for use later.
  14. Resolution switching supported through adaptive playback on the fly without significant gap. This means that resolution of streaming video might change during playback without affecting playback.
  15. Audio Tunneling to DSP (Digital Signal Processor) : Those devices with dedicated chip DSP audio chip can benefit from this tunneling as Android will tunnel all audio streams directly to DSP saving battery power if the device is used with screen off as this cause less usage of application processor.
  16. Audio monitoring, Loudness enhancer
  17. Performance improvement & GPU Acceleration with apps using RenderScript.
  18. OpenGL ES 2.0 upgrade to SufaceFlinger in Android 4.4
  19. HWComposer 1.3
  20. New Bluetooth Profiles – Bluetooth HID over GATT (HOGP) to provide low latency link with devices like keyboard, mouse, joystick, etc. Bluetooth MAP to allow apps to exchange messages via Bluetooth.
  21. Native support for IR Blasters.
  22. WiFi TDLS (Tunneled Direct Link Setup) Supported to stream media and other data to devices on the same WiFi network.
  23. More accessibility features – Closed captioning, Subtitles support.
  24. SELinux Enforcing mode from Permissive (This is already implemented in Android 4.3 firmware of Galaxy S4).
  25. VPN profiles per user on multi-user devices.

Several other under the hood tweaks, additions, enhancements. In a nutshell, most of these changes and additions don’t mean much for end users directly, but indirectly these determine user experience with android as these changes affect how the apps are designed and developed, how devices hardware is assembed, and how powerful and efficient those hardware could be. If the above list has been overwhelming for you, just know that Android 4.4 KitKat brings a number of optimizations under the hood for improved RAM usage, power-saving and performance benefits. Apps compatibility will be improved and more efficient apps will be developed for the new Android version. UI will be more richer as well.

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