For fans of the Android, there has recently been a new release known as Kit Kat 4.4 which is the latest operating system for Android mobile devices.
Since the inception of the Android V1.0 in 2007, there has been numerous operating system releases. With each new release comes new upgrades and features as well as improved functionality.
Product Overview: What is Android? How Many Versions of Android Have Been Released?
Android is an operating system which is maintained by Google and is used for mobile phones and tablet PCs. Over the years, there have been multiple versions released each with its own name. Android’s standard layout involves a series of Home screens which contain shortcuts which are used to launch apps, in addition to widgets which serve a single function such as playing music, accessing productivity tasks, and other functions.
Since the initial release of the Android operating system, there have been more than 10 versions released up until the latest version which is Kit Kat 4.4. The following is a brief overview of past versions of Android:
Android 1.0 – Launched on the HTC Dream in 2008
The primary new feature launched with Android 1.0 was the notification toolbar which you could access by pulling down the menu to preview all of your notifications. Google Sync was also introduced in this version which synced Google account calendar and contact information from the user’s phone.
The multiple Home screen format was also introduced which has basically remained in every version of Android to follow this release. Widgets were also added which gave you easy access to information with a single tap of your finger. The operating system also contained Android Market which is now known as Google Play.
Android 1.1 – Launched in 2009
The second release was Android 1.1 which was primarily designed for refinements in Android 1.0. The main purpose of the release was to fix a number of bugs which were present in Android 1.0 with a few minor features and adjustments added. Aside from these updates, most of the other functions remained the same.
Android 1.5 – Launched in April of 2009
This operating system was known as Cupcake which initiated the following versions of Android each of which are named after a sweet confection. In this release, the camera was introduced with the capability to upload videos to Google Picasa and video sites such as YouTube. Additionally, this version of the Android operating system contained the first copy and paste function in the web browser.
Android 1.6 – Launched in September of 2009
This version of the Android was known as Donut and introduced new support for higher resolution screen displays. The design of the operating system was simplified and included an updated Google search function which allowed you to easily search your device for apps, contacts, and Internet data. It was in the Android 1.6 operating system that the Gesture Builder development application was also added.
Android 2.0/2.1 – Launched in October of 2009
The release of Android 2.0/2.1 was named the Éclair and introduced improved typing functionality on the Motorola Droid with auto-correction. This was accomplished by offering a significant improvement in the keyboard functionality. Support for HTML5 was also first introduced in Éclair along with additional camera functions, a new interface for the browser, and Bluetooth capability.
Android 2.2 – Launched in May of 2010
This version of the Android operating system was called FroYo and marked the inception of the Nexus smartphones. With the release of this version of the Android, additional features were added to the camera functionality. Other capabilities included tethering via USB, new mobile hotspot functionality, support for Adobe Flash, and the ability to use Android Market which is now Google Play, to automatically update apps. The User Interface was also upgraded to increase device performance.
Android 2.3 – Launched in December of 2010
The Android 2.3 operating system which was known as Gingerbread was launched on the second Nexus smartphone which was produced by Samsung. It was at this point that a few primary features were introduced such as support for Near Field Communications (NFC), improvements in the User Interface which enhanced device performance, Internet calling capability, and an enhanced keyboard for faster typing input. Gingerbread also provided for enhanced screen resolution, as well as support for a front facing camera.
Android 3.0 – Launched in February of 2011
This version of the Android operating system marked the first operating system designed for a tablet PC. The operating system was named Honeycomb and first introduced on-screen buttons for tap functionality. The apps were also redesigned for better viewing on a larger screen along with the first web browser with multiple tab capability.
Multitasking was also improved with the introduction of Honeycomb which made it no longer necessary to switch apps. Instead, you could simply bring apps you currently had open to the front of the screen with a single tap of a button.
In the final update of Honeycomb, support for Google Wallet was added in addition to a multi-core processor which increased performance and device efficiency.
Android 4.0 – Launched in October of 2011
Android 4.0 which is known as Ice Cream Sandwich was released with significant improvements in the interface, the main one being the removal of hardware buttons which were replaced with onscreen buttons to continue what Honeycomb started. The Android music player was also replaced with a new Google Music app.
Other new features which were introduced in this version of Android included management for apps running in the background, swipe to dismiss notifications, Android Beam which is a secure platform for sharing content, the new Roboto typeface, WiFi Direct, and the capability to rearrange folders.
Android 4.1 – Launched in June of 2012
This version of the Android operating system is known as Jelly Bean and offered a brand new interface which provided smoother and faster performance. Google Voice search was also improved in this version with enhanced Accessibility options and support for Braille input.
The Android Beam sharing feature underwent an upgrade to include the option to easily transfer videos and photos. Additionally, Google Now was introduced along with actionable notification improvements to the Notification Center. Jelly Bean also offered new security enhancements such as Smart App updates and App encryption.
It is also important to note that with each new version in the 1x, 2x, 3x, and 4x there were minor versions released with necessary updates and enhancements. Which brings us to the newest Android operating system, the Kit Kat 4.4.
Kit Kat Features: What’s New?
This is only a .1 update from Android 4.3 to Android 4.4 which suggests only minor updates. However, Android fans will be surprised when they discover some of the great new features.
This is one of the most important updates to Android 4.4 Kit Kat since it lowers system requirements as opposed to increasing them. Typically, when you go from an older version of an OS to a newer one, the system requirements usually increase as well as technology moves forward.
Instead, the newest version of Android runs smoother, faster, more efficient, and more responsively on devices with as little as one half GB of RAM. This means Kit Kat is much more memory efficient plus, they have streamlined major components which makes multi-tasking much faster and more efficient.
Also, with the new release of Kit Kat 4.4 is the introduction of new APIs in an effort to help developers make great apps that will run smoother and more responsively on more devices, especially the older devices with lower specs. This kind of makes specs even less important than they were before.
There is also a new built-in setting called Process Stats. In past versions of Android, you could see exactly how much storage each app was using on your device to enable you to tell when the internal storage was full. Process Stats is an app that functions in a similar fashion by allowing you to see how much RAM your individual applications are using which gives you an accurate read on whether or not you are going to need more RAM.
In terms of bringing streamlined performance to more devices, this is currently being launched on the Nexus 5 with updates coming to the Nexus 4, Nexus 7 (of which a fantastic review can be found on the Our IT Department technology blog), and the Nexus 10. The Google Play editions are expected to follow along with carriers and manufacturers that will announce when their updates are going to be made available on their devices.
The new design update is all about the appearance of the operating system. Kit Kat has changed a lot of the elements that Android fans have gotten used to since the inception of the Android 4.0. The look is much flatter and simplified such as the new transparency of the buttons along the bottom and the notification bar up on top. Also the new time and battery icon and all of the new indicators up on the top of the screen are now a gray color.
There is also a slightly adjusted system wide font. All the different apps are updated with a new clean design plus, the touch responsiveness on the bottom buttons is much more subtle. Overall, Kit Kat 4.4 it has a very nice cleaned up look. It keeps the beautiful hollow appearance while bringing full screen album art to your lock screen when you are listening to music.
Kit Kat is also designed with new full screen apps that will hide your system icon buttons to place you in full immersion mode. Then you can simply tap the screen and swipe down from the top to find your notifications while you are using a full screen app. In the past, this was not possible and instead, you had to close the app for incoming phone calls and other notifications.
So, overall there is a flatter and cleaner look to all of the apps inside of Kit Kat and the operating system itself. The new look is a definite improvement from Android 4.3 to Android 4.4.
The dialer feature has significantly improved in Android 4.4 in terms of both the functionality and the design. The design is different because it organizes your most frequently contacted people up at the top of the screen by default for optimal convenience plus, it also complements the new flat and simple design of Android 4.4.
The dialer functionality has also been upgraded and now acts as a convenient search box. Currently, there is a search box at the top of the Contacts app if you want to search for a friend you want to contact. If you want to search for a local business such as a coffee shop, you can simply type in “coffee” and it will find all of the coffee shops near you from Google Maps along with their phone number and their names. Then you can simply tap to dial the number.
Host Card Emulation
This feature allows any device running Kit Kat to emulate NFC-based transactions so you can read and write NFC, regardless if your device has an NFC chip or not. This is extremely beneficial to the ability to use NFC technologies such as mobile payments to as many devices as possible.
A lot of the new devices that are equipped with Android 4.4 Kit Kat will probably have an NFC chip preinstalled, but when it comes to older devices which do not have NFC chips, they will also be able to take advantage of this new feature.
Google Search and Google Now
On the Home screen in the launcher you are able to swipe all the way to the left and access Google Now in a similar way the global search works in iOS7. You can also swipe up from the bottom button to access Google Now. If you are using the Snap Dragon Nexus 5, you can simply start say “Google” and it will automatically open the Google search feature. There is also new cards and optimizations in the Google Now feature which tie many of the Google applications together.
Other New Features
- Google Hangouts: Google Hangouts is currently being updated alongside Kit Kat because it is being designed with both SMS and MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) support. In the newest version of Android 4.4, Google Hangouts is actually the default messaging app so it will be located in your dock. Additionally, you will see a lot more of Hangouts which is an improvement over the default messaging apps in past versions of Android.
- New SMS API: In the past when you wanted to set a new third party SMS app, you were required to disable the notifications in one app and then enable the notifications in the other to completely switch over to the new app. Now you can do it with just one click with the new API in Kit Kat. If you want to set another third party SMS app as your default app, it will be set to send all messages directly into the third party app. You no longer have to worry about switching notifications on and off. Instead, the messages will go directly into your app of choice.
- Google Cloud Print: When you enable Google Cloud Print you can print anything to virtually any type of printer.
There is also a new download app which is much more organized than the previous download app. Additionally, Kit Kat will now also support pedometers, IR blasters, and a variety of other low powered sensors which results in a lot of minor improvements behind the scenes.
Another minor improvement is whenever you receive a phone call from a business number which Google can see in the Map application, it will automatically find an image which is relevant to that business and display it in the Caller ID, even if the business is not in your Contacts list.
Is Kit Kat 4.4 As Good As IOS?
Whether or not Kit Kat is enough to persuade you to purchase an Android-based smartphone over the iPhone still remains to be seen. A decision such as this one all comes down to user preference. While iOS uses more tapping and swiping motions, Android 4.4 still has carried over some of the features from the earlier versions of the operating system, in addition to adding new touch responsive features. The best way to decide which operating system is right for you is to decide on what features are the most important to you and then take it from there.
The new Kit Kat 4.4 is all about enabling older devices as well as lower end and lower powered devices. This means for older devices it is going to be up to the carriers and manufacturers to roll out the updates since the older devices may have to jump over several versions to update to Kit Kat 4.4.
Overall Kit Kat 4.4 represents a very solid upgrade to Android. Although it is not a complete overhaul, the operating system is definitely smarter and more efficient with a lot more of Google included in its composition.
Official android website – http://www.android.com/
Kit Kat news – http://www.android.com/intl/en_uk/kitkat/
Android Wiki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Android_(operating_system)
David loves his HTC one and any other device that uses Android technology. A full-time IT technician, David likes to blog about anything technology related in his spare time.