According to Google, the focus is on efficiency and it’s designed to run smartphones that will be used by the “next billion people” who will trade in feature phones for smartphones. This means it was on a low-carb diet, so Google apps no longer need as much memory, while the OS itself can run on devices with just 512MB of memory. This is pretty impressive, as 512MB was standard back in 2010, but it doesn’t mean owners of old devices will get the update – they won’t.
“RAM is one of the most expensive parts of a phone, and now Android can run comfortably on the 512MB of RAM devices that are popular in much of the world, bringing the latest goodies in Android 4.4 within reach for the next billion smartphone users,” said Google.
Of course, it’s not all about efficiency and performance on underpowered devices. The phone app has been updated, along with the Hangouts app which integrates all SMS and MMS messages in one place. Google Now has been improved and it can be accessed simply by saying “OK Google” as the phone appears to feature an always-on microphone.
The Gallery app now has support for third-party cloud storage, although most users already had it thanks to Dropbox and similar services. The UI also underwent a bit of cosmetic surgery. The system font is white and appears to use a new version of the Roboto font. Overall the UI looks a bit cleaner and flatter.
To sum up, KitKat is cleaner, leaner and meaner. The big question is when it will land on non-Nexus devices, but Google insists it should go a bit smoother than with past versions of Android.
In case you want to check out all the new features, including developer oriented stuff, you should definitely check out Google’s Android blog. It has more info on new NFC capabilities, the integrated printing framework, storage access framework, full-screen immersive mode and sensor batching.