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.

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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By William J. Francis

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...