Android 4.4 KitKat to run "comfortably" on 512MB RAM devices, here's how

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Android 4.4 KitKat to run "comfortably" on 512MB RAM devices, here's how

The mere mention of Android 4.4 KitKat is getting dangerously close to inflicting a sense of deja vu, as day after day the new Google OS has been making headlines and going through the press like little else. And while there is a number of new features worth talking about, and even dissecting, the supposed memory optimizations that come with Android 4.4 are what's really buzzing. And it's no wonder, seeing as Google's head of Android, Sundar Pichai, promises that KitKat “can run comfortably on the 512MB of RAM devices that are popular in much of the world”. This is pretty important for the platform, as it means that Google may finally have the answer to what's referred to as 'fragmentation', or in other words: it may finally have the weapon to kill off the Gingerbread man.

All fine and dandy, but how?


Simple: with Project Svelte, the immediate successor of Project Butter that came with Jelly Bean with a similar aim, though far less concerned with the performance of truly low-end devices. 

But exactly what is Project Svelte? Well, for starters, Google has decoupled the Android core from the so-called Google Experience, and it's made both of these lighter. Android's memory footprint has been slimmed down by removing unessential background services and, simultaneously, the memory consumption of features that you can't really live without has been reduced. Moreover, the wide array of Google services, such as YouTube and Chrome, have also undergone a similar treatment, and should now prove just as powerful, but more slender. Further still, core system processes will now protect system memory from apps far more jealously, especially if those consume large amounts of RAM. And last, but not least, Android will now launch multiple services sequentially, instead of at once, with the aim of trimming peak memory demands, thus improving stability.

Still on the topic of optimizations, it's worth pointing out that Google won't be approaching this rather complex issue on its own, isntead, it's enlisting the help of manufacturers and developers both. To do so, Google has introduced a number of tools that will help the next gen of devices take advantage of optimizations such as zRAM swapping, kernel samepage merging and the ability to tune the cache of the Dalvik JIT code. Other tools include a new API that will allow developers to make their apps really flexible, by letting them tweak or completely disable high memory features, depending on the specific device, and it's relative memory. Additionally, devs will be able to take advantage of the new procstats and meminfo tools, along with a more widely supported RenderScript Compute (GPU accelaration), which has also seen some performance gains with Android 4.4 KitKat. According to the head Android engineer, Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google's OEM partners have already gotten a heads-up about the changes:


This means that...

KitKat may very well put an end to the Gingerbread menace


Android 4.4 KitKat to run "comfortably" on 512MB RAM devices, here's how
Having passed the 1 billion users milestone, Google is now obviously gearing for “the next 1 billion users”, or so a Google blogpost by Pichai would lead us to believe. Seeing as the high-end is becoming increasingly saturated, and Google is already accounting for giant piece of it, it's only natural that the company focuses its engineering efforts on solving a long-standing problem: most entry-level devices can't properly run anything past Android 2.3 Gingerbread, a 3-year old OS. That's a pretty significant problem for Google, developers and OEMs all, with the former two looking to extend the reach of their latest services, and the latter simply trying to build more compelling products. According to Google's latest numbers, a little over 26% of all Android devices are still stuck on Gingerbread. That's over a quarter of a billion. Yikes!

Of course, whether Google actually manages to put an end to the Ginger man still remains to be seen, but we suspect that low-end devices touting the latest and greatest Android are still months away. Moreover, it'll be a few more years for existing devices to completely die out, as these are quite unlikely to receive a leapfrog update to KitKat. And yet we don't particularly see this as any less of an achievement (provided it delivers), and at least one key industry player is already gunning for the increasingly important lower end market.

This, above all, is the alleged Google dream – Android everywhere. It's hard to say whether that isn't ultimately a bad thing, but one thing is for certain – we're getting ever closer to having adequate and full-fledged smartphone experience at a fraction of the cost from just two years ago. And that's awesome.

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