1. New dialer and smart Caller ID
It's a phone, right? RIGHT? That's why we are starting it off with a completely new dialer system in the Peope app that automatically suggests the people you are most likely to call, which can come in very handy when you are in a hurry. Not only that, but the new Caller ID from Google matches phone numbers that dial you with businesses it pulls automagically from Google's vast database of addresses and contact numbers, even if you don't have the contact stored in the phonebook.
2. Running on low
There are millions of Android devices out there that don't even have 1 GB of RAM, which seems to be the bare minimum with Android smartphones these days. The streamlined Android 4.4 KitKat default apps and launcher address these 512 MB warriors, letting them take advantage of the new features, for which we are sure their owners will be eternally grateful, and hope their makers will take notice. We also have optimized multitasking and improved touch responsiveness, for the best performing Android version ever.
There's another hidden agenda here, too - optimizing Android further to run on lowly hardware is prepping it for the assault of wearable devices like smart watches we are expecting from everyone now, including Google.
3. New icons, lock screen, boot animation and color scheme
The cyan Holo industrial interface color scheme is now replaced with a white/gray setup that is less distinguishable, but simpler and more minimalistic, which has been Google's aim all along to bring down that resource usage. The default iconography is different now, too, with a flatter design, and we have a new boot animation as well, as well as an improved lock screen with a camera shortcut.
4. Say "OK, Google"
Google is introducing pseudo always-on voice search with KitKat, and a new way to get to Google Now. We say pseudo, because you can activate voice search from your homescreen with a key phrase without even touching the display, but it works only on the Nexus 5 for now. Otherwise you can swipe from your homescreen to get to Google Now, and speak the phrase "OK, Google" there.
These will evoke the personal assistant, which Google says is now 25% more accurate, and talks back. Moreover, new cards for local shopping and attractions, as well as buying movie tickets via Fandango on the spot are on their way.
5. Hangouts and messaging integration
Google's Hangouts IM service now lets you send text messaged and MMS as well, from within its interface, and threads all your conversations with a contact, regardless of the channel they went through. You can also post GIFs, and use the Autoawesome feature to brighten your video chat sessions with Hangouts.
6. Immersion mode
Navigation can get out of the way now in any app that is best used full screen, like when you are reading, for example. Swiping from the edge of the display will bring back the status bar and navigation buttons. We praised a similar feature in Huawei's Emotion UI, and obviously Google has come to the conclusion how useful it can be to pop and hide distractions anywhere you like in Android.
7. Stock keyboard gets Emoji
A picture is worth a thousand words, that's why the default Android keyboard now gets those colorful Japanese symbols dubbed Emoji, for when you are too bothered to type "cactus".
8. New built-in photo editor
The camera app features a photo editor that contains a number of filters that are built-in. And you can even turn your own favorite combination of settings into a preset that you can use to quickly have your pictures come out the way you want them. The editor won't ruin your original picture, so if you don't like the way it came out, you can try again.
9. Storage access framework
You can open and save files and images from/to your phone or tablet, Google Drive and a plethora of other storage services, whatever picks your fancy, utilising the new storage framework with staples like the Gallery or QuickOffice. There is a list of recent files everywhere to pick up where you left off quicker.
10. Wireless printing
You can print photos, documents, and web pages from your phone or tablet wirelessly now. Naturally, Google Cloud Print is supported, and from the other gear, HP ePrint machines will work with this out of the box. We'd wager to bet other printer makers will quickly add their wireless printing apps to the Google Play Store, too.
11. Easy launcher swap and full screen wallpapers
Finally we get a way to easily browse between the stock and installed launchers, or "homescreen replacements", as Google calls it. Just go to Settings>Home, and you'll switch from Apex to Nova to your stock KitKat homescreen in a jiffy.
12. Screen Recording
Android 4.4 adds support for screen recording and provides a screen recording utility that lets you capture video as you use the device and store it as an MP4 file. You can record at any device-supported resolution and bitrate you want, and the output retains the aspect ratio of the display. To prevent piracy, Google says devs can add a simple code flag which would likely black out the content area or halt recording. Check it out at the 5m10s break.
13. Closed captioning and device management built-in
14. Step detector, step counter and sensor batching
Android KitKat collects sensor logs and delivers them in batches for processing, thus dramatically reducing battery consumption even on devices without dedicated sensors for motion or speech processing. In addition, the Nexus 5 includes step detectors for pedometer and other fitness apps to take advantage of, and Google is working with chipset manufacturers to include those in their future gear as well.
15. Music and video seek from lock screen, low-power location mode
16. Tunneled audio for 50% longer playback
Android 4.4 adds platform support for audio tunneling to a digital signal processor (DSP) in the device chipset itself. Audio decoding and output effects are off-loaded to the DSP, conserving battery. With audio tunneling, Nexus 5 offers a total off-network audio playback time of up to 60 hours, an increase of over 50% over non-tunneled audio. Google is working with chipset partners to make it available on more devices soon.
17. New Bluetooth profiles support and IR blaster APIs
Android 4.4 support for two new Bluetooth profiles to let apps support a broader range of low-power and media interactions. Bluetooth HID gives apps a low-latency link with low-power peripheral devices such as mice, joysticks, and keyboards. Bluetooth MAP lets your apps exchange messages with a nearby device, for example an automotive terminal.
Android 4.4 also introduces platform support for built-in IR blasters, along with a new API and system service that let you create apps to take advantage them.Using the new API, you can build apps that let users remotely control nearby TVs, tuners, switches, and other electronic devices. The API lets your app check whether the phone or tablet has an infrared emitter, query it's carrier frequencies, and then send infrared signals.
Because the API is standard across Android devices running Android 4.4 or higher, your app can support the broadest possible range of vendors without writing custom integration code.
18. On-device app optimization profiles with Process Stats
One of the optimizations Android 4.4 KitKat includes to be able to run on devices with as little as 512 MB of RAM, is granting devs or users a way to take a closer look at a specific app's memory usage in isolation, by just tapping the app in the new on-device memory status service. For each app, they can now see a summary of the memory consumed and the percentage of the collection interval that the app has been running, as well as the average and maximum usage over the collection period, and below the app's services and the percentage of time they've been running.
Analyzing these in Process Stats allows for identifying the memory hogs easily, isolating gaps, and optimizing for the next generation of affordable low-RAM Android phones and tablets which should run KitKat without a hitch.
19. Translucent interface styling
Google has thought not only about the functionality, but the looks with Android 4.4 KitKat, too. Developers can now use new window styles and themes to request translucent system UI, including both the status bar and navigation bar. To ensure the legibility of navigation bar buttons or status bar information, subtle gradients are shown behind the system bars. "A typical use-case would be an app that needs to show through to a wallpaper," says Google.