It’s that time again. The web is buzzing with news of the latest Android version and the latest mobile device in the Nexus family – the LG Nexus 5. Sporting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU and 2GB of RAM, coupled with a 1080p display, one can safely say that the Nexus 5 will bring out the best that Android has to offer. But what about the latest version of Android? We have not heard a great deal of what to expect with Android KitKat, everything seems to be kept under wraps. The following is a small list of features of what we hope to get from the next version of Android:
- Optimizations for lower end devices - Android fragmentation is a well known problem, and Google is doing its best to keep it at a minimum. When Ice Cream Sandwich was announced, the Android community was hoping that several flagship phones of large companies would be making the jump to the latest and greatest. Looking back now, this was not the case, even when it came to Verizon’s Galaxy Nexus. Carriers play a large role when it comes to updates, which leaves most devices running older versions of Android, despite being able to run the latest version efficiently. We can look to HTC’s Desire HD (also known as the Inspire 4G) as an example. HTC said that this device will eventually be running ICS, but later went back and left their year-old flagship phone running Gingerbread. Hopefully, Android KitKat will be the solution to Android’s fragmentation problem – a version of Android that is able to run on single core processors with limited RAM without a hitch, bringing old devices in line with more recent ones. Don’t get your hopes up too much though, carriers are still in control of updates, and supporting two year old devices is not likely to happen.
- A cloud-based backup solution - Wouldn’t it be great if our application data was saved somewhere secure on the web without fear of losing it after performing a factory reset, or even changing phones? This is something that the Android community has been yearning for, for quite a while. Android users look to applications such as Titanium Backup, which is able to create a backup copy of your application data, as long as your device is rooted. Not an ideal solution for those who are not willing to root their devices.
- Skin customization - Many Android users decide to buy a phone based on a balance between price and hardware, but what about those who look to a device’s software as well? The open source nature of Android is both a blessing and a curse. Features are introduced much more rapidly than they would be if Android were closed. However, you also get a number of variations of the same operating system running different skins. It is often mentioned that Samsung’s Touchwiz is much closer to Gingerbread than it is to the Holo colourscheme, the latter of which is present across all devices running ICS or above. It is one reason why some may choose to purchase a different device rather than a Samsung. The same could be said for LG devices, HTC devices, Motorola, pretty much most major OEMs. In order to completely reskin their devices, Android users end up rooting their devices and flashing new ROMs which come with their own set of problems. One can understand why some may choose to endure a not-so-pretty skin in favour of reliability and security. A rumour describing Google’s own launcher has surfaced, titled the “Google Experience”. Hopefully Android KitKat will allow users to download different OEM skins and apply them to their device without fear of losing their data in the flashing process. It would be great to have, say, a Samsung device running on stock Android. This is partly the reason why Google Editions of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One were introduced, but it’s not enough.
- Lock screen notifications - The Moto X has a very nifty feature – Active Notifications. It allows users to access applications for which there are notifications immediately from the lock screen. There are applications which do this already but having it baked into the core operating system would be a welcome addition. Perhaps this can then be extended to offer an API for developers to let them run wild with how they display notifications.
- Multiwindow - One core feature that has been introduced in a number of OEM roms and even custom ones is to have multiple applications open at the same time in multiple windows. So many ROMs have this feature that it seems only natural to introduce into the core operating system.
Reliable rumors are hinting that Android KitKat will be announced on the 31st of October, along with the Nexus 5.
It’s an exciting time to be both an Android user and a developer. Google seems to be listening to what the community wants, so some of the above features might actually make it into the next Android iteration. Let us know what you think should be introduced in KitKat or in the following versions of Android.