Thursday, October 31, 2013

Android 4.4 'Kit-Kat' operating system released today

At its event in San Francisco, in the midst of flashing some new hardware, Google also unveiled version 4.4 of Android, the long-awaited KitKat. It's much more than a marketing gimmick, or an excuse to make limited-edition candy bars in Paris — it brings some real change to Android, and some much-awaited integration among Google services.

Most immediately obvious are a handful of design tweaks to the OS, which make Android cleaner and simpler than ever before. The status and notification bar are now translucent, and they disappear completely when you're in a fullscreen app; there's less chrome across the entire OS, and more space on the Nexus 5's five-inch display for whatever you're doing. There's a new launcher, a new condensed version of Google's Roboto font, and a generally lighter and cleaner look to Android. It's not nearly as stark a change as iOS 7 was, and generally speaking KitKat still looks a lot like Jelly Bean, but the design directions feel very similar.


The dialer looks different, and it's been totally re-thought as well: Google's essentially built the Yellow Pages into its dialer app, allowing you to search for a business or person and dial their number without ever having to figure it out. That kind of integrated search is pervasive across KitKat, which uses both search and Google Now to bring you more information than ever. Voice Search is faster, and offers a lot more feedback to guide you through the process of looking for something or sending you a text message.

Google Now, which now lives a left-to-right swipe away from your homescreen, is now able to send you information you might want based on your location, or on sites you visit frequently, or even TV shows you particularly like. And when you search, Google can now direct you straight to not only the appropriate website, but the right app; searching for recipes can lead you to that recipe in an app, or restaurants can send you right into OpenTable's app, reservation page open. "Our mission," says Sundar Pichai, Google's head of Android and Chrome OS, "is every time you pick up your phone, the information you want, in context, is right there." That's not complete yet, but Google's removing steps left and right.


Hangouts is one of the key features of Android 4.4, far more integrated into the operating system than ever before. Where there was once a Messages icon, there is now only Hangouts — the app was just updated to integrate SMS, and work better for voice calling, and it's now part of the way you'll talk to other people on Android. Texting, instant messaging, even voice and video calling, are all now done through Hangouts – it's like a combination of FaceTime and iMessage into a single application. If you don't want to use Hangouts, of course, you can select your own default texting app in KitKat.

No comments:

Post a Comment