Android KitKat is out, and there’s no way you’ve missed it. Whether you’re an Android fan, an Apple buff or a Windows Phone enthusiast, you must have heard something about Android 4.4. But should you care?
The simple answer is that you probably should. Android 4.4 is not only the latest and greatest from Google, it’s also made to run smoothly on lower-end devices. This means you may be using this version of Android before you know it, no matter which device you own (as long as it runs Android, of course).
So what’s new and exciting about Android 4.4? What’s worth waiting for, even for non-techies? Here’s a full list.
Phone Book In Your Phone
In Android KitKat, Google decided to bring its search powers all the way to your dialer and contact list. Aside from searching through your own contacts, you will also be able to search for phone numbers you don’t even have. Want to call the nearest pet store? Type in the name where you usually search for contacts, and Google will find the number for you. No browser needed.
This also works the other way around: when a business calls you, Google will try to identify it and present a name and picture in the caller ID. This way you know who is calling you, even if you don’t have that number in your contacts.
On the flip side, your phone app will no longer show you the number pad you know and love. Instead, you’ll see a list of contacts you talk to the most. From here you can search for contacts and local businesses to call. You can, of course, tap a button to get the normal dial pad if you still want to use it.
SMS In Hangouts
Do you use Google Hangouts often? Then you’ll be happy to know that in KitKat, Hangouts adds supports for SMS and MMS messages. These are still separate from your Hangouts chats — you won’t have a unified experience of SMS and Hangouts — but it’s still useful to not have to switch apps all the time, providing you actually use Hangouts a lot.
In addition to this, you’ll also find your default Google keyboard now contains emoji, so you don’t have to resort to third-part apps to use those.
Speak To Your Phone Anytime
Up until Android 4.2, you had to launch Google now and say “Google” if you wanted to ask your phone a question, conduct a verbal search, or give your phone a command. In Android 4.3, this change to “OK Google”, but you still had to launch Google Now first. This is not longer the case in Android 4.4.
In Android KitKat, Google Now is integrated into the launcher, so when you’re in your home screen, you can say “OK Google” to get the phone to listen. This only works when you’re in the home screen, though, and might not work with third-party launchers.
Search Within Apps
This is another Google Now update which will roll out in a few weeks, bringing the ability to search within apps, not just within Web pages. For example, if you search for a new laptop bag, you might also get results from the Etsy app, not just from Web pages. To begin with, this will only work with 10 apps, including Etsy, Expedia, Allrecipes and OpenTable.
Better Full-Screen Support
If you’ve used a device with on-screen controls, such as the Nexus 4, you know how annoying those buttons can get when you’re trying to read a book or listen to music. Android 4.4 feature a new “immersive mode”, which hides everything except what you want to see.
Whenever you want your buttons back, you can swipe up and the controls will appear again. Just like it should be.
This might not seem like the most exciting feature ever, but it can prove pretty useful if you use Google Drive, Dropbox or others cloud services to store your documents. KitKat’s wireless printing lets you print files, documents and Web pages straight from your device.
In order to use this feature, your printer needs to be connected to Google Cloud Print or HP ePrint. It also works with any other printer for which you can find an app in Google Play.
Wait, There’s More!
The list above highlights the most important KitKat features any Android user should know about. This doesn’t mean it’s a full list. Aside from the features listen above, many of the apps such as the Gallery, the email app and the Downloads app have been redesigned; Devices with an infrared blasters are now natively supported and can now be used to control TVs and other devices; multitasking is faster; and the list goes on.
Some new features, such as camera improvements, are currently limited to the Nexus 5, but should find their way to other phones in the future. If your phone is not set to get the update soon and you simply can’t wait, it might be time to learn how to root your device, and install a custom ROM!
What are your thoughts on Android 4.4? Do these new features excite you, or will they not make a huge difference for you? Tell us in the comments section below.