Sunday, 15 December 2013

Android 4.4 KitKat Hands On Review

Android KitKat was one of the most anticipated versions for 2013 due to the marketing strategy and other expected features.
Finally it was released in 1st week of November along with Nexus 5 release.

All Nexus 4 users, including me were waiting for the update since we heard about the new Google Now integrated launcher and ‘Okay Google’ stuff. But compared to other OTA updates, we had to wait for few weeks to get the Android 4.4 update. As usual, Indian users need to wait longer period and hence updated my device using Factory Image from Google Developer Site



Experience

What did I see after upgrade? UI was more or less the same with 4.2 launcher. But, the size of the apps are reduced significantly and also the RAM usage.

My battery was draining faster and it became better after rooting and installing Greenify. I have seen many complaints from user about the opaque notification bar and big icons are missing in Nexus 4.



There are links available to download ‘Google Experience Launcher’ or GEL which will give the Nexus 5 experience –
Swipe left to get Google Now
Google Search bar with ‘Okay Google’ option
Transparent status bar
Big icons

I also tried GEL and felt it was consuming lot of battery may be microphone will be listening all the time to hear ‘Okay Google’. Apart from that, no customization was possible including the desktop margins or changing the icons.



Then I heard about KitKat launcher, which gives similar UI with more customization –Icons can be changed (with same Nova/Apex icon packs), remove the search bar in the home screen, disable left swipe for Google Now and reduce the icon size.




What’s new in KitKat?

As far as I know, Google has made architectural changes in 4.4 to target devices with less RAM (even 512 MB). This will reduce the fragmentation issues since Android runs in both low end and high end devices. Ironically Google released few many versions of KitKat for various reasons

4.4 - 1st Factory Image - krt16o – 2nd week of November
4.4 - 2nd Factory Image - krt16s – November 3rd week – OTA version
4.4.1 – Patch – KOT49E - December
4.4.2 – Patch - KOT49E - December

Too many versions so far and it becomes difficult for other partners to start the rollout.

Now, let me move on to the features

1) Dialer – This is a significant improvement – UI looks clean, search and favorite contacts in 1 page. Also search is integrated with Google database to list the local yellow page (I don’t need to view the number in Chrome and copy paste, instead directly type ‘Taxi’ and view local vendors)



2) Hangout SMS – Hangout app will become the default SMS application and we can replace it with another SMS app. This is a nice feature since I don’t need to switch between 2 apps to send MMS and SMS



3) Setting default Home screen – minor change in the Settings screen to change the default launcher



4) ART – this is experimental stuff and may be running in beta or something; an option to switch the runtime between Dalvik and new Android Run Time. I did not find major difference in the performance since no graphic intensive apps are not installed in my phone.

ART Compatibility – All of my apps were compatible with ART except WhatsApp and it was resolved after updating 4.4.2

List of apps and status of compatibility - http://www.androidruntime.com/list

5) RAM – I was amazed to see the RAM usage after the upgrade; Nexus 4 has 2 GB RAM and only 400-450 MB was used by the background process. I have seen my friend’s Galaxy S3 that uses approx 1GB RAM and un-used Samsung process running in the background. I love Stock Android!!



6) Location preference – We can see the apps that use Google location data and can switch based on need – Device only / Battery Saving / High Accuracy (Navigation works with this option alone)



7) Lock Screen

Music widgets (Google Play Music, Tune-In Radio etc) in the lock screen looks great in the full screen view



8) Immersive mode

A new immersive mode is added in the library to view apps in the full screen without status bar and navigation bars. Only few apps like Google Play books have utilized the feature as of now.

Issues

I was lucky that I did not face the issues like – Google Dialer crashing / hanging and drastic battery drain (may be since I did not update via OTA)

Some of the minor issues faced are listed below

1) Media Server process – this process was running and battery was draining fast;

Followed below steps mentioned in Google Product Support Forums and I did not see the process again
A) Remove unwanted sync options – Currents, Google Play Music, Play Books, and TV etc

B) Stop the Google Currents process

C) Remove the dial and touchpad sound

2) Wi-Fi process – This process was running though I did not switch on Wi-Fi; switch off the “Scanning always available” option in the advanced Wi-Fi settings



3) Rooting

I was aware that after each update, root access of the phone will be lost due to the firmware changes. But, after updating 2nd factory image, I was getting error while opening superuser. Tried flashing zip file multiple times using Clockwordmod recovery and result was same. Finally found solution from Google+ to try TWRP recovery to flash the zip and issue was solved

Below is the superuser versions used in various KitKat versions

Version 1.65 - Sup...erSU-v1.65.zip –4.4 - Factory Image - krt16o
Version 1.75 - UPDATE-SuperSU-v1.75.zip – 4.4 - Factory Image - krt16s
Version 1.80 - UPDATE-SuperSU-v1.80.zip – 4.4.1 and 4.4.2

Conclusion

Overall it is a great experience to use KitKat; Nexus 4 became smoother and faster; Battery life got improved. I did not feel any change in the Camera app or quality of the pictures though I read it happened in Nexus 5.

So that was my hands on review about Android 4.4. Hope you enjoyed it. Please leave valuable comments and share with your friends. Happy New Year!!

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