Android 4.4 'KitKat' is the latest version of Google's mobile operating system and Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 owners are getting the upgrade first. So here's everything you need to know about its release date, new features and which devices will be upgraded. Updated 13/11/13. Read our full Nexus 5 review.
For a long time we were expecting Google to announce Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie but it threw a spanner in the works and revealed 4.4 KitKat instead. It has now arrived on the Nexus 5 smartphone so here's what you need to know about the new Android version. See also: Nexus 5: Where to buy.
See Android Advisor.
Android 4.4 KitKat: Release date
Various rumoured release dates for KitKat, and the Nexus 5, came and went but Google announced both on 31 October. Surprisingly, it did so without a launch event; deciding that a blog post was sufficient.
The Nexus 5 is on sale now so Android 4.4 KitKat has been released. However, if you're not planning on splashing out on a Nexus 5 then you're probably asking the question 'when will I get Android 4.4 KitKat?'. Read on to find out more.
Android 4.4 KitKat: Devices and upgrades
Details are limited at the moment so we'll update this article as and when we find out more. However, Google has given some information for Nexus owners.
Starting on 13 November Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 owners can upgrade to Android 4.4 KitKat. Owners of Nexus 7 models with mobile data will get the update 'soon'. As will the Nexus 4 and Google Play editions of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One.
This does mean, sadly, that the Samsung Galaxy Nexus has been left out of the upgrade. We believe this is down to its Texas Instruments chipset.
Sony is the first of Google's partners to announce its KitKat upgrade plans with the Xperia Z, Xperia ZL, Xperia Tablet Z, Xperia Z Ultra and Xperia Z1 set to get it first. However, the firm has given no timing for when the update will arrive.
Android 4.4 KitKat: New features
The update from Android 4.2 Jelly Bean to 4.3 Jelly Bean was small only bringing a handful of improvements. Android 4.4 KitKat on the other hand is loaded with new features and tweaks.
Full-screen Immersive Mode
One of the biggest features to arrive with 4.4 KitKat is the immersive mode. Previously, the navigation buttons and status bar would take up real estate when browsing the web, reading a book or playing games.
Now, you can switch to full-screen to see more and simply swipe from the top or bottom edge of the screen to get the buttons back.
For those with NFC, Android 4.4 introduces a new, open architecture for NFC payments that works with any mobile operator. With host card emulation (HCE) means that any app on an Android device can emulate an NFC smart card. The system also lets apps manage your payment information in the cloud or on your device.
If you're familiar with Google Glass then you'll know saying 'Ok Glass' will activate voice control. Well the same is now true for your smartphone except you say 'Ok Google'. This will let you voice search, send a text, get directions or play a song - as long as you're on the homescreen on in Google Now.
Multi-tasking is pretty good in Android already but Google says it's even better in KatKat thanks to memory optimisation and "improving your touchscreen so that it responds faster and more accurately than ever before".
Low-power audio playback
Android 4.4 allows for more hours of audio playback, up to 60 hours on Nexus 5, according to Google. This is thanks to audio tunneling to a digital signal processor (DSP) in the device chipset. This means audio decoding and effects are off-loaded to the DSP, therefore waking the application processor less and using less battery.
Calls and messages
The new phone app orders your contacts based on the ones to interact with most and you can also search for contacts or nearby places in the search bar.
Caller ID has been tweaked so that if someone rings you and the number is not saved in your contacts, your phone will look for matches from businesses with a local listing on Google Maps so you know who it is.
The new Hangouts app combines all your text messages and MMS in one place with conversations and video calls.
Now you can print photos, documents, and web pages directly from your phone or tablet. You can print to any printer connected to Google Cloud Print, HP ePrint printers and others that have apps in the Google Play Store.
A handy new feature is the ability to save files, from apps like Quickoffice, to Google Drive (or other cloud storage providers). "And with quick access to recently used files, it's easier than ever to send the file you were just working on." said Google.
Bluetooth MAP support
Android 4.4 KitKat now supports the Message Access Profile (MAP) so cars with Bluetooth can exchange messages with your device.
Google's Chromecast HDMI dongle is supported in 4.4 KitKat for wireless streaming of content such as Netflix and YouTube.
Chrome web view
Applications that embed web content now use Chrome to render web components accurately and quickly.
Device management built-in
If should lose your precious smartphone or tablet, you can find or remote wipe it with Google's Android Device Manager.
Downloads app redesign
Google has given the Downloads app a redesigned, adding a new sorting options plus list and grid views for all the files you've, er, downloaded.
Easy home screen switching
If you love customising to the extent that you have installed one or more home screen replacements, you can switch between them easily in 'Home' section of the settings menu.
Email app refresh
The Email app has also had a makeover with a new look, nested folders, contact photos and better navigation.
Full-screen wallpapers with preview
Wallpapers now display through the status bar and navigation bar. When picking a new wallpaper, you can preview what it will look like.
If you're getting the Nexus 5, its HDR+ mode snaps a burst of photos and combines them to give you the best possible single shot.
Android now supports applications for remote control of TVs and other nearby devices if you have an infrared (IR) transmitter.
Location in Quick Settings
There is now a new tile for location settings in the Quick Settings drop down menu.
Location modes and monitoring
If you make your battery last longer by constantly switching GPS, Wi-Fi and mobile data on and off then there's an easier way in KitKat. You can choose between 'high accuracy' and 'battery-saving' location modes in the settings menu. You can also see which apps have recently requested your location.
Music and movie-seeking and artwork on the lock screen
From the lock screen you can jump to a specific part of a song or video with a long press on the play or pause buttons. Artwork is now fills the lockscreen, too.
Secure app sandboxes
Application sandboxes have been hardened with Security-Enhanced Linux.
Step counting built-in
If you don't want to spend money on a fitness gadget then the Nexus 5 can act as a pedometer to count your steps. Google says updated hardware and software make this a more battery-friendly way to measure your activity.
See the next page for our original Android 4.4 KitKat/5.0 Key Lime Pie rumour round up.
Android Police has noted in its server logs a group of IP addresses belonging to known Google employees. All are running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, not Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie (or KitKat), on either the Google Nexus 4 smartphone or Google Nexus 7 tablet.
Adding fuel to the rumours that Android 5.0 has been delayed, in July Gadgetronica cited "trusty internal sources" in its claim that Key Lime Pie would be another two- to four months in the oven, with Google hoping to give device manufacturers more time to roll out Jelly Bean. This would make sense, given that a major criticism of Android has always been that many devices ship with outdated operating systems and are never updated. Whether this means that Android 4.4 is a separate product to Android 5.0 remains to be seen, although because of Google's alphabetical naming system we'd expect that KitKat is what was once meant to be Key Lime Pie.
Of course, a big new software release deserves some great hardware on which to deliver it with a bang. With a Google Nexus 5 smartphone and a Google Nexus 11 tablet rumoured to be in development, it is increasingly likely that Google will use these new devices on which to peddle Android 4.4 KitKat. We suspect that these will arrive around the end of October or early November. So expect KitKat then.
Hot contenders are 14 and 31 October, when the Nexus 5 is rumoured to be announced.
Android 4.4 KitKat: Google Nexus 5
Google's Nexus 4 has been plagued with stock shortages, but this high-end smartphone with a mid-range price tag has proven incredibly popular with consumers. Rumours of a new Nexus smartphone, the Nexus 5, have been doing the rounds for a while now, with LG once again expected to manufacture the device.
Rumoured specifications include a 5- or 5.2in full-HD screen, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor clocked at 2.3GHz, and 3GB of RAM. Either 16-, 32- or 64GB of storage may be included, along with a 16Mp Nikon camera and - we reckon - Android 4.4 KitKat.
Should Google announce Android 4.4 KitKat on its forthcoming Nexus 5, the mobile operating system will also be rolled out to its Nexus 4 smartphone and other Nexus devices.
Android 4.4 KitKat: Google Nexus 11
Earlier this year SamMobile reported Samsung's tablet plans for 2013. As maker of the Google Nexus 10, the first tablet to outdo the iPad not only in performance but in its much admired Retina display, it's believable that the firm will also manufacture its successor, the Nexus 11.
The Nexus 11 is rumoured to be the world's first octa-core tablet, running an Exynos 5410 processor. It may also have an 11in Super PLS TFT touchscreen, 8Mp rear and 2Mp front cameras, and support microSDXC for additional storage (up to 64GB).
We also think the Nexus 11 will be the first tablet to ship with Android 4.4 KitKat, at which point Google will also roll out the update to its Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets, plus other Nexus devices.
With the Nexus 10 unveiled at the end of October 2012, it seems likely that Google will announce the Nexus 11 toward the latter part of 2013, along with the Nexus 5 smartphone and Android 4.4 KitKat.
Android 4.4 KitKat: Features & performance
In February Android Central reported that Google is working on the Linux 3.8 kernel for Android (it currently uses 3.4). Should that make its debut it will offer a lower memory footprint (yet the Nexus 5 is rumoured to come with 3GB of RAM), with better multitasking support.
NenaMark2 benchmarking results posted on the Nena website last November claim to show Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie running on a LT30i (a variation of the Sony Xperia T). The phone in question reportedly has a 1.6GHz processor and Adreno 220 graphics, whereas the Xperia T we reviewed is listed with Adreno 225 graphics and a 1.5GHz processor, running Android 4.1.2.
Although Google gave several manufacturers the opportunity to build its Nexus devices, and Sony could well become a future hardware partner, we're not buying into this one. On the slim chance that it is genuine, however, a notable difference in performance is apparent, and that's something that will likely increase with the improved hardware of the Nexus 5 and Nexus 11.
Although Google has announced the name of Android 4.4, it hasn't given any detail on what changes and features KitKat will bring.
Fortunately, the internet means that we don't always need official announcements to find out. Android 4.4 KitKat has been photographed running on a Nexus 4 (under the old name of Key Lime Pie). They come via Android Authority and are unconfirmed, so remember it's just rumours.
Small interface tweaks include smoother transitions and lot more use of white, in icons and text. Printing and Payments have been added to the settings menu and users can images as a PDF file.
However, it's the camera app which has had the biggest overhaul. The KitKat camera app has Instagram-style filters and borders which can be applied to photos after they're taken. They can also be cropped, rotated and colour corrected. See below.
Let us know in the comments section below what you'd like to see in Android 4.4 KitKat.