Android 4.4 KitKat Review: Incremental but Crunchier

From IBNLive | Tech |

New Delhi: An operating system version named after a candy bar I grew up eating (and still occasionally do), Android 4.4 KitKat, is the biggest Android release since Android 4.1 appeared about a-year-and-a-half ago.

I had to wait a little before the OTA could make its way to my Nexus 4 but and appeared almost at the same time as the Nexus 5's review unit (you can read out first impressions of the Nexus 5 here). The upgrade process from Jelly Bean 4.3 to KitKat 4.4 didn't take too long.

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The first change while powering on the phone is that on KitKat it takes a little longer to boot than on Jelly Bean 4.2. As the phone turns on, four spinning circles in blue, red, green and yellow (the Google colours) displays on the screen while the OS loads.

While there is little to complain about the Android KitKat upgrade but it might drain your battery faster.

As you are on the home screen you will find that blue is out and white is in - the battery, mobile network, and WiFi indicators in the top right corner of the screen have turned from blue to white/a very light shade of grey. While I liked the new colour for the indicators, a few friends who have also upgraded their Nexus 4 to Android 4.4, said they preferred the blue. While there is no major change in the look and feel of the UI, but Google, in Android 4.4, has given some icons a completely new look such as the Camera, Settings and Dialler. The new icon for the "Settings" function is what I liked the most as it is now more prominent and easier to locate.

ALSO SEE Android KitKat: Top 10 new features in Android 4.4

With Android 4.4, Google has introduced a new feature to activate Google search without pushing any button. With this new feature, users can simply launch the voice search - when on home screen or in Google Now - simply by saying "OK Google". But this feature is currently available in only in the Nexus 5. The Nexus 4 (running Android 4.4) does not support this feature. I wish Google had tailored it in a way that the Nexus 5 users could use the "OK Google" voice command to even unlock the phone - the same way the Moto X users can.

After switching from Android 4.3 to Android 4.4, the biggest change you will notice is in the phone app which has got a complete overhaul. The app now organises your frequent callers and prioritise your contacts based on the the people you talk to the most. Also, if you don't want to keep anyone in the list of frequent callers, for whatever reason, you can easily clear the frequent callers list, with a single tap. Now you don't need to search for the contacts of the people you talk to, frequently. It is right there in front as open the app.

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One more thing I found in the phone app interesting was the ability to search for nearby places and contacts in my Google Apps domain. From my phone app, I searched for 'Kaffiiaa' near my office, it gave me results, and as I tapped on one of the results, it connected me to 'Kaffiiaa'. It was that simple. If you only want to see the search results based on what is saved in your contacts book, you can disable search results for nearby places. Google has also included its own caller ID to look for names for numbers not saved in your contacts, whenever you get a call. But with Truecaller installed on my phone, it wasn't of much use for me.

The camera icon has also got a new look and the new icon for 'Camera' looks refined. Besides the new icon, I could not see much changes in the camera app but there are a few additions that come to notice while editing photos. Google has added a few more options to facilitate the image editing process. I wish Google had also included the ability to annotate images in Android 4.4.

Also, setting an alarm on the Nexus 4 is more fun than ever before. Borrowing the feature from its Keep app, Google has introduced a new way of setting an alarm on an Android 4.4 device. The new alarm clock in Android 4.4 is similar to the one used to set a reminder in the Keep app.

I use the default email app on Android 4.4 for official emails. Before KitKat I had to go to the mail app every time to delete a mail, but with new updates in the email app I can easily delete a mail right from the notification drawer. Also, the email app in the latest Android OS has been given a facelift. Mails in the app now appear in the same style as they appear in the Gmail app.

While listening to music on the Nexus 4, I found the album cover taking over the entire screen when the device was locked. Earlier, the album cover would appear on approximately one-third area of the screen. The new style looks attractive.

Often emoticons can better express what words cannot. And to help you express in a better way, Android 4.4 brings a wide range of emoji icons on Google Keyboard.

One thing that I am still not able to clearly figure out is the battery usage. What I have observed is that after upgrading my phone to Android 4.4 KitKat, my phone's battery has started draining faster than before. Though a few other users have pointed out this issue, there are some who haven't noticed any difference in battery life. If you have upgraded to KitKat, do let us know of your battery experience.

Android 4.4 gives you the ability to print to any printer connected to Google Cloud Print, or HP ePrint printers, and other printers that have apps in the Google Play Store. While I have still not made use of this feature yet. Android 4.4 lets also users tap and pay with Google Wallet.

Overall, Android 4.4 offers a relatively better experience than what it was on Android 4.3. Being a Nexus user, I felt privileged to get the update before others. There are, of course, some additional features available on the Nexus 5 than on a Nexus 4 running KitKat. If you have also got your hands on the Android 4.4 KitKat OS and have more to add to what has been posted here, let us (and everyone) know in the comments.


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