Android 4.4 KitKat: The seven things we know so far

Android 4.4 KitKat: The seven things we know so far

Summary: With Google's Android 4.4 release thought to be just around the corner, ZDNet takes a look at what's known so far about the new OS.

Android KitKat packaging
The most credible KitKat leak? Image: Nestle

Unlike Google's upcoming Nexus 5 smartphone, there's a relative vacuum of information about what to expect from the next Android OS, named KitKat, beside a global cross-promotion campaign with Nestle.

1. The Nestle tie-up

Since Nestle's KitKat has the honour of giving its name to Android's next OS, expect free-flowing puns from the company, which is planning to give away a bunch of Google's Nexus 7 tablets — which were among the first devices to ship with Jelly Bean Android 4.3. It's not clear whether the Nestle giveaway devices will ship with KitKat onboard, though presumably they will, given the marketing tie-up. Despite Google having notched up one billion Android activations to date, the partnership with Google on Android is meant to make it more mainstream than it already is. (Although we'd argue an OS that powers four in five of the world's smartphones is pretty mainstream to begin with.)

2. It's not Key Lime Pie

Given the Nestle partnership is all about making the Android brand more mainstream, it's perhaps no surprise Google didn't go with Key Lime Pie — its original choice for the name of the next Android OS — as the dessert isn't widely known outside the US.

Google's Android chief Sundar Pichai earlier this month announced the forthcoming release of Android 4.4 illustrated by an image of giant Android KitKat, signalling it would be KitKat, not Key Lime Pie, that would be the successor to Jelly Bean. These OS codenames followed Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, and Honeycomb. It is the first time a brand besides an OEM has partnered on a Google OS launch.  

3. An October release date

No one but Google (and possibly Nestle's marketing team) knows exactly when KitKat will be released, but current bets are on October. To that end, punters recently got a plausible confirmation via Nestle Germany's KitKat Facebook wall, in which the company indicated the OS will be released later this month.

4. The Nexus 5 

It's thought the Nexus 5 will be the first device to come bearing KitKat — a logical pattern given the Nexus 4 was the first smartphone to hit the market with Jelly Bean. The heavily-leaked Nexus 5 from LG is thought to be due for release before the end of the month. Rumours also have the Nexus 5 coming with 32GB on board storage, and offering LTE support. Hopefully this time Google and LG have ironed out supply chain constraints that fans had to deal with in 2012 with the launch of the Nexus 4.

5. KitKat: an evolution not a revolution

Though there haven't been too many leaks about the new OS, but a recent one has shed light on a few features that may arrive in KitKat.

Gadget Helpline last week published details and pics of what it believed was an unfinished version of KitKat that still had the markings of its original name, Key Lime Pie. According to its review, Kit Kat is not a complete overhaul of Jelly Bean, but it was more polished, smoother and faster.

Jelly Bean brought features like dial pad autocomplete for phone numbers and names, improved tap-typing recognition, battery-saving wi-fi location options, Bluetooth Smart support, improved graphics, and restricted profiles for different apps.

Google's latest distribution figures show around half of Android device owners are on Jelly Bean, with relatively few on just 1.5 percent of the world's Android devices run Jelly Bean 4.3, while around 47 percent use 4.1 or 4.2.

6. New inbuilt features for payments and printing 

Two new features that could be on the way in 4.4, according to Gadget Helpline's leaks, include a native printing option for Android devices and a payment feature that hints at built-in NFC payments (rather than via third-party apps).

KitKat could also include a Miracast-based feature for wireless video output to TVs and may bring a few minor changes to the dialler pad, such as a white notifications instead of blue ones.

Also, users could expect inbuilt photo editing options, such as Tilt-Shift and Center Focus, plus Negative and Posterize effects. There could also be formatting and colour controls for printing to networked printers.

7. Bundled productivity apps

Notably, beyond Google's core apps, the leaks suggest Google's productivity apps, such as Keep, Drive and QuickOffice (a Microsoft Office compatible product which it recently made free on Android and iOS) will all have a prominent place in the OS.

More on Android

Topics: Android, Google, Mobile OS, Mobility

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • Give me a break.

    Give me a break. Break me offa piece of that (break me offa piece of that) Break me offa piece of that KIT KAT BAR!
    • Would that then be considered

      • LOL

        "fragmentation" Good one, William.Farrel.
    • A better candy choice...

      Twix would have been a better choice. Android Twix, the other one, a completely different process, up the vacuum tube it goes. You wouldn't have to make many changes to their commercial. They could have had a lot of fun with that.
      • But Twix doesn't begin with K

        Further to pemnet's suggestion, the releases have names whose initial letters are in alphabetical order, so the next release has to begin with K, the next letter after J (Jelly bean) which followed I (Ice cream sandwich). Incidentally, whats a Froyo???

        At this point, I must mention that Kit-kat originated with the British chocolate manufacturer, Rowntree, which was subsequently bought out by Nestle. Kit-kat was such a successful product that Nestle continued its production without changing its name. I remember a 4 finger Kit-kat cost tuppence ha'penny (= 0.01 GBPounds in today's decimal currency) in 1954!
  • Just more of the same

    Yes! Lets add another candy bar to that list of over fragmented candy we already have!
  • nexus 5 hype application

    Great news!!! thank to Nexus 5 Hype, the app installed in my smartphone, I am up to date regarding nexus. I wont miss the launch!!!
  • What?

    "Google's latest distribution figures show around half of Android device owners are on Jelly Bean, with relatively few on just 1.5 percent of the world's Android devices run Jelly Bean 4.3, while around 47 percent use 4.1 or 4.2."

    Now what the devil was that supposed to say?
    • Hardware

      I think one can assume that just about all of that 1.5% are using Google branded hardware which provides the OS updates direct from Google.
      • Or install their own updates

        Galaxy S2 owner here, running JB 4.3 (courtesy of CM 10.2).
        Was dubious to even bother updating as not many new features in 4.3 that interested me personally, but the performance improvements (again) make it well worth while.
        If KK 4.4 has even more performance upgrades, with evolutionary tweaks I'll he a happy camper again.
        The steady improvement, coupled with the solid enhancements in Google's core services, are just fine for progress.
        • CM 10.2

          Boothy_p Galaxy S2 owner here, running JB 4.3 (courtesy of CM 10.2).

          I own a Galaxy S2. I'm just curious what features will I lose if I root the device to run the CM 10.2??
    • This:

      Android versions 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3 are all versions of Jelly Bean, so what they are saying that if you only look at the Jelly Bean users it is almost half of all Android users. But if you look at the three iterations of Jelly Bean, most are still at 4.1 and 4.2 and only 1.5% are on the latest version 4.3.

      And if by now you'd think that Google is a bit arbitrary with their release of new code names vs. Android versions, you'd be right.
  • Not Kreplach!

    A columnist on this blog brought up his Jewish (Ashkenazi, I presume) heritage when Jelly Bean came out, and said he hoped they would go with Kreplach, the Yiddish word for a dumpling somewhat resembling a won ton or "potsticker" but with a slightly sweet pudding flavor. Looks like he lost. Well maybe he will get his wish with Macaroon, possibly released in a couple of years around Passover?
    • both sound good to me

      I suggest the name: Lucky Latke
  • ICS?

    No Ice Cream Sandwich in the list of Android OS's.
    Gam3r 4 Life
  • Most likely it will be "evolution"

    Because Android has evolved so rapidly in the past that there isn't much else to change. At least not that I can think of.
  • Miracast..

    "KitKat could also include a Miracast-based feature for wireless video output to TVs"

    Well you'd assume because this functionality id already on the Nexus 4.
    • Unless, of course...

      Google randomly and arbitrarily decides to remove the feature.
  • I want to get excited...

    But I'm already feeling the same lassitude I felt with Windows Mobile where Microsoft would announce a new version of the OS - which I could only get by buying a new device.

    My Note 10.1 is still stuck on 4.1.2. I suppose it's possible my Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 7 (2013) will get it. But the Transformer Prime I recently gave to a friend is probably never going to see 4.3, let alone 4.4.

    This is a problem Google really has to solve sooner than later.
    • Your Nexus devices will get kitkat

      But you will have to talk to Samsung and Asus about the other devices, since Google has no control over what other companies do about updates. Of course, you can always take matters into your own hands, root the devices, and update them.