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Android 4.4 brings support for low-power audio playback

Posted: , by Nick T.

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Android 4.4 brings support for low-power audio playback
Battery life – there's no smartphone owner who would mind having more of it. Even the best smartphones out there would have a hard time getting a hardcore user through more than two days of usage. And that sucks, doesn't it? Thankfully, Android 4.4 KitKat brings a tweak that will give battery life a slight boost. With the new version of the operating system, Google allows audio to be tunneled straight to the digital signal processor on the smartphone's chipset. This means that the DSP takes care of audio decoding and output effects, which reduces CPU usage and increases battery life as a result.

How much is battery life increased with this new technique? Well, real-life results will vary depending on how often you listen to music on your device, of course. The Google Nexus 5, for example, can last for 60 hours when playing music through a headset with its screen off. That's a 50% increase compared to a case when no DSP tunneling is applied. 

Google notes that music playback isn't the only usage scenario that will benefit. Basically, any app that plays sound in one way or another, including the video player and video games, can take advantage of DSP tunneling. Best of all, no code modifications are needed as the system handles the process automatically.

Unfortunately, for the trick to work, support is required by the smartphone or tablet's hardware. Currently, The Android 4.4 powered Google Nexus 5 is compatible with DSP tunneling, but it isn't clear if any existing devices can take advantage of it once they are updated.

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posted on 31 Oct 2013, 15:03 4

1. ocilfa (Posts: 334; Member since: 03 Aug 2012)


Crossing fingers for my Nexus 10 with Wolfson DAC.

posted on 31 Oct 2013, 15:06 5

3. Pedro0x (Posts: 271; Member since: 19 Oct 2012)


That would be awesome, I still have SGS 1 with the WM8994 and it is still unbeaten (with voodoo sound ofcourse). Wolfson makes the best DACs in phones.

posted on 31 Oct 2013, 22:31 1

8. JC557 (Posts: 1165; Member since: 07 Dec 2011)


It's also the reason why I still buy Cowon audio players and still hold onto the older iPods.

Cirrus is getting to be quite good but definitely nowhere near a Wolfson.

posted on 31 Oct 2013, 15:04 3

2. Pedro0x (Posts: 271; Member since: 19 Oct 2012)


This is a good feature. I certainly do not mind a better battery life :). But I hope that Google fixed that bloody mediaserver that kicks in when I am either watching films or listening to music because it takes a a big toll on my battery.

posted on 31 Oct 2013, 16:45

6. kozza3 (Posts: 575; Member since: 17 Oct 2012)


didn't that have to do with your sd cache?

posted on 31 Oct 2013, 15:14

4. avasponge (Posts: 40; Member since: 03 May 2012)


now the question is, how are the speakers on the nexus 5?

posted on 31 Oct 2013, 22:34

9. JC557 (Posts: 1165; Member since: 07 Dec 2011)


Even though it may add some weight and take space, I'm wondering why nobody made their own version of HTC's BoomSound speakers. If my phone is to serve as a mini media center and a smallish tablet then I'd want good speakers to go with it. Plus my ringtones need to be heard when my phone is under all my work gear.

I'd like a Motorola Droid MAXX with dual speakers and a Wolfson DAC to go with it.

posted on 31 Oct 2013, 16:24 2

5. Tsepz_GP (Posts: 852; Member since: 12 Apr 2012)


I hope my Galaxy S4 Octa with Wolfson DAC can do this :D

posted on 31 Oct 2013, 20:34

7. pyradark (Posts: 784; Member since: 10 Jun 2012)


Yeah!! My z ultra is getting 100hrs of audio playback!!
Love the features screen recorder!! Hope sony will bring it to 4.5!!!

posted on 02 Nov 2013, 12:13

10. 14545 (Posts: 1154; Member since: 22 Nov 2011)


Wonder if the S4 has compatible hardware. (the 600 version.)

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