5 Things We Know About Android 4.4 KitKat

The next version of Android has been in the works and “coming soon” for a long long time, and if all the predictions and rumors of late are accurate, we’re just a few hours or days away from the official release. Originally referred to as Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie, expected to debut in May at Google I/O, the Android 4.4 KitKat release is near.

Latest word on the street is tomorrow, October 31st, and Halloween for many, where we’ll see the next version of Android covered in Nestle Chocolate and Google’s new Nexus 5 smartphone. While we sit and slowly lose patience below is 5 things for you all to look forward to, that we know will be coming with 4.4 KitKat.

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UI Changes

First and foremost the entire Android look and feel will be received a slight facelift. Nothing earth shattering (or crazy like iOS 7) but refining on the already impressive and fluid Android Jelly Bean. If multiple leaked details and screenshots are to be believed Google has changed most the font to white. Gone is the Holo cyan blue colors of old, and in with the white. The clock, battery meter, signal bars, and all the icons up top in the notification tray will get a sleek and simple white color. I personally enjoy the blue, but white is more than welcome too.

While we don’t know anything until Google makes it official, the official press renders and previous reports all suggest a slew of stock apps getting tweaked and overhauled as well. The Phone, dialer, Hangouts, and many other apps have been tweaked. The icons look different, and the colors in each app will blend up into the now transparent (and changeable) notification bar to match that apps color. The notification bar and navigation on-screen menu buttons below will be transparent now, and change with wallpapers, backgrounds, and applications.

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There’s plenty of small visual changes, but nothing major. So while we won’t waste too much time talking about the little nuances, expect a few small but important visual changes that will improve the overall look and feel. KitKat isn’t a major redesign, it’s about polishing an already near-perfect product into something even better.

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Google Experience Launcher

Another aspect of the UI, but important enough for its own category is the rumored “Google Experience Launcher.” We’ve even seen an app called the GEL in the app tray on leaked Nexus 5 images. There’s been talk that Android 4.4 KitKat, and future releases, will have Google taking the reins of Android from 3rd party manufacturers. A huge part of this initiative will be this experience launcher.

Samsung’s devices have TouchWiz, HTC has Sense UI that changes the look and feel, and companies like LG have similar options. Google’s slowly but surely been opening up every aspect that makes Android, well, Android, and giving it to anyone and everyone from the Play Store. Things like Google Search with Google Now, Gmail, Google Music, Google Calendar, and even the stock Google Keyboard have all been branched out of stock releases, and made available on the Google Play Store.

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If you’d like your smartphone to feel and operate like stock Android, the Google Experience Launcher (home replacement like NOVA, ADW, and many others) can do that for you. Replace that Samsung keyboard with Google’s stock keyboard, add back in the Google Calendar, you name it. KitKat will be about taking Android back, and much of that starts with the Experience Launcher. Without seeing it yet, we can’t go into too much detail, but expect the GEL to hit the Play Store later this year.

Hangouts

Google Hangouts will soon be the universal tool we’ve been waiting for since it was announced at Google IO earlier this year. Recent leaks all show the stock text and “Messenger” application is missing in action on Android 4.4 KitKat. This is because Hangouts will be taking over, and will be a universal chat, messenger, and video calling application. We’re also expecting Google Voice and calling to soon be integrated. Meaning we’ll be able to simply use a data connection from carriers or WiFi to send texts, make calls (and video calls) and everything else to communicate all with Google Hangouts.

There has been a few leaked screenshots showing this new version, and just this week Google announced SMS support for Hangouts, and we’re expecting the rest of the important details to arrive with KitKat. Whenever that may be.

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Google’s announcements earlier this week about Hangouts mentioned SMS, but there was nothing about MMS, which you can clearly see in the image above. Most likely some of the advanced features like Google Voice integration, calling, and MMS support will all be announced along with Android 4.4 KitKat, which were expecting to arrive tomorrow.

Device Updates

Android updates is always a touchy subject and hot debate, and surely we’re about to start all over once Android 4.4 gets released. This week Samsung announced and initiated updates to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean for many of its key devices like the Note 2 and Galaxy S4, and HTC’s been busy all of October doing the same to the HTC One. So what about KitKat?

Read: Nexus 7 Review (2013)

Of course the Nexus 4, Nexus 7, Nexus 10, and even the aging Samsung Galaxy Nexus (at least the international model) will all start getting updated to Android 4.4 KitKat as soon as possibly. Google will likely push out the updates tomorrow when KitKat and the Nexus 5 is announced, or will wait to start the global rollout as soon as the Nexus 5 starts arriving at consumers houses early next week. We can’t be for sure. What we do know though, is all those devices mentioned above will see the update first, and probably in that exact order.

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As far as other smartphones that aren’t in the Nexus program, that’s a tossup. The Google Play edition HTC One and Galaxy S4 will probably be first as far as non-Nexus devices go, followed by ASUS and its tablet range, as they’re usually one of the first to any update. When it comes to smartphones Samsung’s always been great, HTC has seriously improved and surprised many with 4.3 this month, and we’re expecting both to rush to be first to Android 4.4 KitKat.

We’ve already heard talks of Sony updating its devices to KitKat, which obviously makes sense, but stateside the important ones will be the Samsung Galaxy Range, the HTC One, and LG’s new G2, which we’re hearing won’t see an update to 4.4 until 2014, considering LG still isn’t even near a release of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean at this point.

Android 4.4 KitKat will arrive within the next few days for most Nexus users, but to actually see it on your daily device that isn’t a Nexus will probably take at least 2 months. We’re looking at a holiday-filled with KitKat.

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Release Date

At this point it’s really anyone’s guess. Original leaks of the 15th of October were false. Then the bandwagon of leaksters claimed the 21st followed by the 28th, and so far no one has got it right. However, the most reliable leak we’ve heard time and time again is an announcement on the 31st, which is tomorrow, and a rollout starting November 1st.

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Google could start pushing out Android 4.4 KitKat tomorrow, but most likely users will start to see it arrive on Nexus devices Friday, or over the weekend, and continue all of next week. That’s if Google even reveals the new OS tomorrow as predicted. We’ll update the moment we know more.

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