Shortly after Google announced Android 4.4 “Kit Kat,” we posted up the new goodies from a developer perspective. In this post, we’re taking a look at all of the user-friendly additions that you’ll notice during daily usage. If you were at one time wondering whether or not this update was big enough to justify a name change, this should help you understand why Google went Kit Kat. This is a massive update – one of the biggest we have seen in some time.
In 4.4, you can now activate Google Search by saying “OK, Google.” Keep in mind that this is not like the Moto X, even though we have seen some reports suggesting that it is. Your phone cannot be locked – it has to be awake and on a home screen or in Google Now. It’s still cool, but not as powerful as it is on the Moto X. From there, you can search to your heart’s desire.
If you are Chromecasting items or listening to music, you’ll see beautiful new art when your phone is on the lockscreen. There are also some new ways to seek to specific moments while on the lock screen with a long press.
Yes, Emoji are now everywhere. You can even use them in a Gmail message since they are embedded into the new Google Keyboard.
With the new Hangouts, you can combine your SMS, MMS, and instant message conversations. We don’t know when the MMS part is coming, but a new update should enable SMS at least. At last, an all-in-one messaging solution on Android! Still no word on Google Voice integration, though.
Quickoffice is apparently now baked into Android. It’s odd, since Google has Drive, but hey, options are options.
Multi-tasking has been improved once again, so that it is now faster than ever. Google optimized memory and improved the touchscreen performance to make everything respond quicker. No hiccups to be seen here.
The new phone app prioritizes your contacts for you, based on who you talk to the most. You can also search more powerfully in the phone app by business, contact, or people in Google Apps domains. Yay, for Google Apps folks!
If you are reading, playing a game, or watching a movie, you’ll now experience a full-screen mode that hides everything from view. This is greatly welcomed, and also a reason why on-screen buttons are the best. A simple swipe from the edge of your screen will bring it all back.
If you get a call from someone not in your contacts, the new caller ID will automatically look it up and try to find business and local listings on Google Maps. So no more secret or random callers. Pretty sweet, and a super underrated new feature.
Cloud printing from anywhere at any time! You can now print at any time with a printer connect to Google Cloud Print, HP ePrint printers, and to other printers that have apps in the Google Play store.
The other stuff:
- Easy home screen switching: If you have multiple 3rd party launchers installed, you can switch between them easily through Settings>Home.
- Email app refresh: The stock Email app (not Gmail) received an entire makeover.
- Tap-to-pay, built a new way: With a new open architecture for NFC payments, you should be able to make NFC payments with most phones, no matter who the carrier is.
- Full-screen wallpapers with preview: Wallpapers now extend through the notification and navigation areas. You can also preview it to see how it looks.
- HDR+ photography: With the Nexus 5, you can snap bursts of photos and combine then to get a single HDR shot.
- Infrared blasting: If you own a phone with an IR blaster, 4.4 supports the controlling of TVs.
- Location in quick settings: Quick access to location settings is now in the quick settings pulldown.
- Location modes and monitoring: Users will have better control over location settings. In Settings>location, you can switch between high accuracy and battery-saving location modes. You shouldn’t need to toggle GPS, WiFi and other network settings any longer.
- Low-power audio playback: On the Nexus 5, 4.4 lets you listen to music for up to 60 hours.
- Music and movie-seeking from lock screen: From your lock screen, you can now jump to specific parts of songs or movies. A long press of the play or pause button will let you select.
- Step-counting: Fitness freaks, Nexus 5 and an app called “Moves” will act as a pedometer and count your steps.
- Chromecast support: Nothing really new here.
- Bluetooth MAP support: Bluetooth-enabled cars can exchange messages with your devices.
- Chrome web view: Applications that embed web content now use Chrome to render web components accurately and quickly.
- Close captioning: Android 4.4 supports closed captioning and subtitles. Head into Settings>Accessibility to access this setting.
- Device management: Android Device Manager is built-in, but that’s not necessarily new.
- Downloads app redesign: The Downloads app no longer looks terrible and matches up to current Android design language.
- Secure app sandboxes: Application sandboxes have been hardened with Security-Enhanced Linux.
- Touchscreen improvements: Response on the Nexus 5 and 4.4 should be faster than any Android device before it.
Woof. I’m out of breath. How cool is Android 4.4?