Software Development

The skinny on Android 4.4 KitKat

Android 4.4 KitKat was just unwrapped, and a number of its development features are already generating buzz. These are seven things developers should know about KitKat.

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It looks like Google decided to provide a Halloween treat for their developers this year in the form of KitKat, Android 4.4. Here's a rundown of the new development features that have Android developers talking. (You can get the official list of changes straight from the API.)

1. The slogan I'm seeing thrown around for KitKat is "Making Android for Everyone." This is in regards to Google's push for an entire subcategory of mobile phones that previously did not meet the minimum hardware requirements to run Android. According to the documentation, recent optimizations and reduction in memory footprint now means devices with as little as 512K can run Android. To assist developers in providing a good user experience on these low-end devices, Google has tuned the ActivityManager class, as well as added some new memory analysis tools.

2. For those of you who have been working with NFC and mobile payments, KitKat brings some new near field communications payment options to the table via Host Card Emulation (HCE).

3. A new print framework and the APIs required to support it have come to the Android SDK. This means Android developers won't have to stare dumbly at their feet when clients ask for an Apple AirPrint alternative in their apps.

4. Two of the more interesting changes to me come in the form of sensor enhancements. There is now an actual step detector / counter (essentially a digital pedometer), all wired through the new low-power / batching framework, which will hopefully increase battery life and give developers more options than ever on sensor input.

5. Two long overdue features now found in KitKat are the themes to produce translucent styling and the capability to hide all system UI elements (finally), providing a complete full screen experience.

6. Another feature that has me excited is the transitions framework (a storyboarding API for animating scene changes). These have been common in most game development environments for years, and I'm glad to see Google putting such an emphasis of late on making a beautiful user experience.

7. While there are plenty of other features in KitKat I want to explore, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the new screen recording capability. Developers and users will be able to record apps running on their device into a common video format for upload and subsequent sharing and playback. You can look forward to full motion video instead of screen shots on future blog posts when a video will better illustrate a technique or tutorial.

How about it Android developers: What new KitKat API are you most looking forward to diving into?  Sound off in the thread below.

More about KitKat

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About

William J Francis began programming computers at age eleven. Specializing in embedded and mobile platforms, he has more than 20 years of professional software engineering under his belt, including a four year stint in the US Army's Military Intellige...

15 comments
matt
matt

I'm tired of all the false advertising over the years Google! Give me an Android (device) I can eat!

Gisabun
Gisabun

My friggen phone company hasn't release 4.3 and 4.4 just came out....

Lumian
Lumian

I wish they could support 512k ram...

dwipe
dwipe

I have the Samsung Admire phone, model #SCH-R720 and I would like to upgrade to OS to Kit Kat 4.4? Is this possible to do this yourself, or would I have to have someone do this for me? Thank you. Please e-mail me at jesuschrysler1@live.com.

T Clinton Cole
T Clinton Cole

I already ordered my Nexus 5! I'm so fking excited I could do a barrel roll!

Rostislav Liber
Rostislav Liber

Every company produce new their OS with "must have" features but I have only one wish: STABLE OS.

dwipe
dwipe

@T Clinton Cole actually you are "VERY, VERY EXCITED"

Remmik
Remmik

@Rostislav Liber

I think a major part of instability is that the later incarnations of Android should not run on certain devices. This is even true with IOS. Now that there is news of Android reducing it's memory footprint and more control to its sensor input on a low level, then this should greatly improve stability on handsets that tend to be buggy. This is huge and something that IOS should follow suit. I bet 80% of issues are more hardware related then OS but Android should be releasing different OS for different levels of handsets. These releases should be kept fresh and up to date and have all the fanfare for the most current devices. This would increase the buzz for Android devices and be more attractive over other OS then even now.

authorwjf
authorwjf

@Rostislav Liber Do you not find Android to be stable?  I'm just curious.  I've worked with a lot of operating systems over the past fifteen years and feel like the big two in the mobile space, Android and iOS, not only tend to be remarkably stable but they are pushing desktop operating systems to new levels of stability as well.  Not that I don't have an occasional crash on my Android device.  But I can certainly count the number of times it happened over the last year on one hand.  I haven't been able to say the same about my desktop since the days of MS-DOS.

halfelven
halfelven

@authorwjf ,  wow i've never had a desktop OS crash since Vista,  I have been running Windows 7 since release and never once had a system level crash that required a hard reset.  I regularly get software crashes from stuff like VMWare workstation that are abysmal at memory handling,  but an OS level blue screen of death is a thing of the distant past to me..... i don't even know if the BSOD is still blue in Win7 or Win8 ?

I do totally agree that in terms of stability Android is downright solid when installed on stable and compatible hardware,  the only crashes I get are always to do with the launcher software such as nova launcher or touchwiz, never the OS itself.  You can't really blame android for buggy apps.  I guess Google could be somewhat more selective in in the quality of Apps that they allow onto the play store,  but then I wouldn't like being forced into an 'Apple like' walled garden.