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Android 4.4.1 KitKat Update: What Nexus Users Need to Know

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As it turns out, the rumors of an imminent Android 4.4.1 KitKat update were accurate. Earlier today, Google announced that it would be rolling out an Android 4.4.1 KitKat update to the Nexus 5. A short time later, the company confirmed that the update would start rolling out to the Nexus 5, starting today. With the roll out set to begin, we take a look at the most important things to know about Google’s latest update.

In October, Google announced Android 4.4 KitKat, an update that replaced Android 4.3 Jelly Bean as the company’s flagship Android operating system. The update, an incremental upgrade for Nexus users, brings several new features to the table including a new immersion mode, improvements to Google Now, and more. In other words, it builds on the foundation that Android Jelly Bean left behind.

The software emerged on the Nexus 5 first, moving to the Nexus 4, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 in late November after a bit of a stumble out of the gate. Once the smoke cleared, we started hearing about a number of issues on board the software, issues that were and still are affecting Nexus owners. Nexus owners have been hoping for a bug fix update and fortunately, some of those prayers were answered today.

After a series of rumors, Google announced Android 4.4.1 KitKat for the Nexus 5. The update is centered around improvements to the device’s camera, a feature that is arguably the worst feature on board the Nexus 5. Google says that the update “improves the camera with faster focusing, especially in low light, faster white balancing, for truer colors, the ability to pinch-zoom the viewfinder in HDR+ mode and less shutter lag.”

Just a short time ago, Google chimed in about the Android 4.4.1 release date, saying that the update would start rolling out today to Nexus 5 owners. With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at the most important things Nexus users, of all shapes and sizes, need to know about the first major upgrade to Google’s current Android operating system.

Android 4.4.1 Rolling Out to All Nexus Devices

Many Nexus users were hopeful that the Android 4.4.1 update would roll out across Nexus devices on day one, it appears that Google didn’t let anyone down. The Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 are both getting upgrades to Android 4.4.1 today though their updates remain a bit of a mystery.

Nexus 5

The updates were not announced by Google but have shown up on Google’s servers which means that the OTA roll out isn’t going to be very far behind. We still haven’t seen the Nexus 10 update pop up yet but we imagine that it’s going to be getting the upgrade as well. The HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Editions should follow.

Google OTA Upgrades Roll Out Slowly

Know this. Google rolls out its Android updates slowly, incrementally, in order to catch any issues that might be on board the software. We saw this method catch an issue with the original Android 4.4 KitKat build, an issue that was quickly correctly. While this is a smaller update, we expect Google to deploy the update in a similar fashion.

Recently, a Google engineer cleared the process up for Nexus users, giving them a detailed look at how Google rolls out its Android software to Nexus devices. Here is what he had to say:

Rollouts are conducted in phases. Typically they start at 1% of devices for around 24 – 48 hours; we watch the return rates and resulting device checkins and error reports (if any), and make sure nothing looks wrong before sending it to more. Then typically it goes to 25%, 50%, 100% over the course of a week or two.

What the percentages mean is that when your device checks in, it has a 1% chance (for example) of being offered the OTA. If it doesn’t (randomly) get an offer, it will never get an offer until the next batch.

OW, once your device checks in and gets turned down, that’s it until the next batch. Mashing on the “check for updates” button just causes your device to check in again, and get automatically turned down again. Think about how that makes your device feel! WON’T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE PHONES?!

That said, once the new batch does start, hitting that button does give you a new roll of the dice — but once. Since devices usually only check in for system updates every 24 hours (I think? Certainly on a many-hours basis) this can get you your shot sooner than it would happen on its own.

So, mash away. :) Just be patient, and mashing on it more often than once or twice a day isn’t going to gain you anything.

Something that Nexus 5 owners should keep in mind today and over the next week or so. Typically, roll outs take about a week or so to finish up so those waiting for the upgrade Over-the-Air could be in for a bit of a wait.

Android 4.4.1 KitKat Update Manual Install Available

Those that want to install the Nexus 5 Android 4.4.1 update early are able to. Within minutes, the file was discovered on Google’s servers, which means that those who know how to sideload software are able to do so right now.

This method is only going to be useful for those who are familiar with adb sideload and the Android SDK. Novice users who aren’t familiar with those terms will simply want to wait for the update to arrive Over-the-Air.

Those with a Nexus 7 and Nexus 4 can find the files on Google’s server as well though only the Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 LTE files have been found thus far.

Do Not Force Update With Google Framework Services

We cannot stress this enough. Nexus 5 users who are growing impatient should not, we repeat, should not try and force the Android 4.4.1 update by using the Google Framework Services trick that has been advertised as a workaround in the past. The process is known to cause major issues on Nexus devices and should be avoided at all costs.

If we can’t convince you to refrain, here are a Google engineer’s two cents:

Doing this changes the primary ID by which Google knows your device. As far as the servers are concerned, the device was basically factory reset. There are many downstream effects of this, but a big one is that this invalidates the tokens used by any app that uses GCM (which is nearly all the Google apps, and a ton of third-party apps.)

How apps react to GCM IDs changing varies by app. With Play Store you have to log out and log back in, I think Gmail usually handles it transparently eventually but won’t get new mail notifications for a while, etc. Some apps you may have to clear data on to recover. All apps will simply stop getting GCM push-messages, until they get a new GCM ID; some do this frequently, others rarely, and some apps use the GCM ID as an ID on their own servers (as it is opaque and basically random), so other things besides push messages may not work.

Nothing bursts into flames, but it makes a ton of nuisances on the device, including some that can look pretty mysterious. Your mileage will vary depending on what apps you use.

All of this can be avoided by just doing an ‘adb sideload’ if you are impatient.

Other Android 4.4.1 Fixes Possible, But Issues Will Linger

Finally, the only thing that Google has advertised about the Android 4.4.1 update are the fixes for the Nexus 5 camera. That doesn’t mean that they will be the only fixes on board though. Often times, a brand new update will tackle issues without mentioning them in the change log. At the moment, we can’t confirm that this is the case, but it’s certainly possible that Android 4.4.1 will help to stabilize things on Nexus devices.

nexus5-2

That said, Nexus users should expect issues to linger. It likely won’t fix everything and there is always the potential for it to introduce brand new bugs to the device. These issues typically reveal themselves in the days and weeks after the release. Point being, users would be wise to wait a few days to make sure that the coast is clear before updating to Android 4.4.1, bug fixes or not.

2 Comments

  1. J

    12/05/2013 at 3:56 pm

    This article is bad, it’s like each paragraph has been written by a different person, so much repetition.

  2. rajneesh rayal

    12/05/2013 at 11:08 pm

    Haven’t tried it yet but the features it is offering it is surely wirth a try. Hope to get tye update soon on my phone.

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