Android 4.4 KitKat to Target Wearables, Ease Fragmentation, and Improve Support for NFC and Lower End Devices
The Google Nexus 5 is so close that we can almost taste its KitKat-laden goodness. But while the device itself has been leaked nine ways ’til Tuesday, relatively little has come to light about the device’s OS, Android 4.4 KitKat. We’ve seen a few leaked images here and there, but we’ve not heard much about the key changes differentiating KitKat from the incumbent Jelly Bean. Now, Amir Efranti, over at JessicaLessin.com has managed to geta closer look at the OS.
So what are the biggest changes this time around? For starters, Google is well aware of the fragmentation issue. In fact, one need only go so far as the Android Developers Dashboard to see the distribution of different OS versions and API levels.
Google first started lessening the importance of being on the latest Android version by decentralizing its core experience. By this, I mean that key first party apps such as Gmail and Maps were moved to the Play Store and updated accordingly. Next, Google added Google Play Services and provided devices running Gingerbread and up access to some of the latest libraries. Now, Google is tackling fragmentation by making the OS work better on entry-level devices with as little as half a gig of RAM.
Next up? Wearables! We recently heard that Google was nearing completion in its Smartwatch project. Thus, it should come as no surprise, that wearables will gain increased focus. Furthermore, it is expected that KitKat will support three new sensor types: geomagnetic rotation vector, step detection, and step counter. And it is also expected that some of the changes may make it easier for future smartwatches to be more useful and power efficient.
NFC support is also expected to see major change. By now, we’ve all seen Google Wallet in action. Heck, many of us may even be rocking a device with an NFC secure element. However, the overall support for the technology has been disappointing. Caught between carrier and hardware restrictions, not many people are actually able to use Google Wallet to pay for things at vending machines and other supported terminals.
KitKat is rumored to take another stab at the situation, by taking carriers out of the equation. According to documents referenced by Amir Efranti, developers will be able to emulate credit card functionality without storing credit card data in the NFC secure element. Obviously this raises the question as to where exactly this data will be stored. Further, we think it’s safe to assume that this is just a feature that will be opened up to NFC app developers, and not something that will necessarily make it into the next builds of Google Wallet.
IR Blaster and Bluetooth Additions
The Samsung Galaxy S 4 and the HTC One both prominently feature built-in IR blasters. This functionality is quite frankly awesome. But since Android lacks a standardized API for IR blaster support, the implementations so far have been very disjoint. KitKat will hopefully alleviate this by creating said API, and allowing future app developers to tap into the system’s native IR blaster hooks. Finally, Bluetooth will also see two new features: Bluetooth HID over GATT and Bluetooth Message Access Profile. These should allow Android to be able to interface more efficiently with more devices than before.
Now that we have a few more leaked details about Android 4.4 KitKat, we can’t wait to get our hands on Google’s latest tasty treat. What features in 4.4 are you most excited about? Or are you really just excited for the Nexus 5? Let us know in the comments section below!
Update: Amir is fielding some questions over on his Google+.