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


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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57 Comments

1. MrJerry

Posts: 403; Member since: Oct 05, 2012

Can anyone sum up with a few sentences?

3. sss_ddk

Posts: 76; Member since: Mar 05, 2013

1-Android uses less memory because developers reduced its core memory footprint 2-Android uses less memory because services have been decoupled from the Core thus allowing for lighter "Android" 3-Services are no longer launched in parallel but sequentially thus allowing for less PEAK memory usage 4-Low level tools for developers allowing better handling of cache, RAM memory pages, etc.

52. dilharo

Posts: 1; Member since: Nov 09, 2013

KItKaT 4.4 Specs 1.Screen Recording 2.Tap to Pay {Google Wallet for everyone} 3.NFC emulation for non nfc devices 4.14% less memory usage 5.Minimum Ram required is 512mb 6.chrome, youtube takes 12%less memory 7.cloud printing from Gallery {Print your photos directly to ur home Printer} 8.Webview is Now Chromium 9.Google Home is the new Launcher 10.New 'Google Home' works only with Google Search app installed 11.Core System Processes Trimmed 12.Apps are efficient and responsive on all devices 13.The all new 'procstats tool details' memory use 14.Payments without needing Secure Elements 15.Printer manufacturers can use new APIs to develop their own print services 16.A new storage access framework allows browse all document storage providers. 17.ART runtime compile support along with dalvik VM {faster runtime} 18.Dalvik JIT code cache tuning, kernel samepage merging (KSM), swap to zRAM 19.Use less heap,Aggressively protect system memory from apps 20.When multiple services start at once —Android now launches the services serially 21.hardware sensor batching 22.Step Detector and Step Counter 23.shared SMS provider and new APIs 24.Full-screen Immersive mode 25.Transitions framework for animating scenes {animate changes to your UI on the fly} 26.Translucent system UI styling 27.Enhanced notification access 28.seamless change in resolution during media playback 29.Common Encryption for protected content 30.HTTP Live Streaming 31.Audio Tunneling to DSP dramatically improve battery life 32.Nexus 5 offers a total off-network audio playback time of up to 60 hours 33.Audio monitoring peak and RMS levels of any currently playing audio 34.Loudness enhancer increase the loudness of spoken content 35.Audio timestamps for improved AV sync 36.Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Miracast 37.RenderScript Compute improves Ongoing performance 38.RenderScript in the Android NDK 39.GPU acceleration for any apps using render script 40.GLES2.0 SurfaceFlinger 41.New HWComposer 1.3 support for virtual displays 42.Bluetooth HID over GATT (HOGP) support 43.Bluetooth MAP support 44.built-in IR blasters, along with a new API and system service 46.Wi-Fi TDLS support seamless way to stream media in same wifi network 47.System-wide settings for closed captioning { appscan show captions} 48.SELinux (enforcing mode) 49.Improved cryptographic algorithms ECDSA 50.Designed to run fast, smooth, and responsively on a much broader range of devices than ever before 51.Phone dialer got local business detection 52.Smart caller ID 53.SMS support for Hangout 54.Emoji support on Google keyboard 55.Redigned Quickoffice 56.100gb Google drive Storage Coming soon 57.Updated Google Apps 58.Faster smoother,brilliant google voice search 59.swipe left for Google now on Google Home 60.Full Screen AlbumArt on lockscreen 61.Best Android YET......Any Doubts?

9. noler

Posts: 326; Member since: Aug 19, 2013

Android trying to be more like WP8.

12. taz89

Posts: 2014; Member since: May 03, 2011

So optimisation is copying too lol come on, it's common sense to optimise software over time, no software stays the same forever, it's the natural progress of going forward. Is Android suppose to stay heavy and not try and make things more efficient?

13. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

Yes because they want it to work well on bad phones its copying...

18. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Lol no, they're trying to DE-bloat the OS, you must have confused the point of the article.

20. protozeloz

Posts: 5396; Member since: Sep 16, 2010

And yet newer windows phone models look more and more like android in terms of hardware numbers

26. pixel8or

Posts: 83; Member since: Jun 10, 2010

Yep, which has always seemed so back'ards... Windows running more efficiently than linux? I know it's not an apples to apples comparison, but just sayin.

28. androiphone20

Posts: 1654; Member since: Jul 10, 2013

omg, this got me laughing to tears

31. cripton805

Posts: 1485; Member since: Mar 18, 2012

False. The WP8 doesn't even do a quarter of what Android can do. Good luck with your live wallpapers, toggle switches, multitasking, multiple open windows, smart actions, oh wait. You don't any of that and more... You have live tiles? Which is basically just a fancy menu that does the same thing as your app list. With a couple pictures or the weather. The point is the OS has nothing amazing to do. Even though the $40 android phones are sometimes a little laggy, they are still doing more than the future 929. No brainer they are going to be slower with low end specs. At least the OS has focused on its high end phones always. Instead of the low end WP8 phones and leaving the high end WP8 phones with the same experience as its $100 phone. You decide. Its either crappy features on the low end phones and high end phones with WP8 in order to run "smoothly". Or have high end features that run "ok" on low end phones that are intended for high end phones with Android. Although, thats why Google is trying to fix this problem after going after IOS all these years.

36. kashyap07

Posts: 15; Member since: Sep 10, 2013

Super +1 :)

45. bon24x7

Posts: 211; Member since: Aug 30, 2012

Android is just running on top of a Java VM. As long as its not capable to run on its own, it wont be as optimized as a pure Linux based OSes like Meego or Tizen or even Jolla..Windows is way more optimized already than Android will ever be. Android went fast and built everything and now its working on fixing the foundations whereas Windows Phone built a better foundation first and now its working on its way up.

55. Tushar111

Posts: 2; Member since: Jan 30, 2014

what does a wallpaper do for you anyway..for your kind information windows phone is multitasking and more optimised.. And you are getting it wrong..Low end WP8 gives the same user experience as High end WP8..It doesn't mean WP8 is bad..u need to hav a good sense of humor.. What the hell do you mean by crappy features..You are jst jealous bcz WP8 has some great features..

43. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

I think I have heard it all now.... A company trying to make its software more efficient, run better on lower end hardware...is copying...? If thats the case....MS needs to copy itself more for its desktop OS's. And especially for Surface.... Does that still take up about 20GB of space?

30. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Goal: Optimization and elimination of fragmentation.

2. sss_ddk

Posts: 76; Member since: Mar 05, 2013

Maybe the new replacement of Dalvik, ART, will show up in 4.5 Lemonade or something!

8. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

Still we can't decide it will really smooth, let's wait for 512ram device run by android kitkat 4.4.

14. LoveHater

Posts: 234; Member since: Oct 09, 2013

no way if it would be skinned

34. cripton805

Posts: 1485; Member since: Mar 18, 2012

My old first gen Stratosphere was really smooth and it ran the most recent form of Gingerbread and it was paired with touchwiz. I think they are aiming for the really low end stuff that will come out to battle out the Lumia 520 and 525.

5. Boybawang

Posts: 205; Member since: Jun 02, 2013

512MB RAM maybe enough at first but after installing fifty or so apps, a dozen of it will pile needlessly at autostart during bootup. Worse it that some will persist to load even after using a software to dissable them.

7. PBXtech

Posts: 1032; Member since: Oct 21, 2013

Android has auto-killed apps not running in order to free up RAM for years now. While I doubt you'd be able to play high end games with 512MB of RAM, your phone will still work for a multitude of applications so this is a win for many.

15. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

If it has 512mb of ram odds are it doesn't have a good enough gpucpu for those games anyway.

40. rabidhunter

Posts: 90; Member since: Jul 05, 2013

You have to figure that a lot of people running devices with 512 MB devices are not power users. They are typically consumers that maybe playing Angry Birds and have a couple of productivity apps, and that's about it. My in-laws have a couple of low end devices, they don't do a whole lot with them other than text and make calls.

11. ilia1986 unregistered

Android 4.4 kitkat: optimizes system performance, improves stability and makes sure that low end devices can run smoothly. iOS 7: A buggy version, causing larger battery drain, massively degrading the performance of low-end devices. Nuff said.

23. NexusPhan

Posts: 632; Member since: Jul 11, 2013

Users need choice. That's how industries innovate. That's how industries stay competitive. You need Apple to exist and you need people to use it. Even if you don't see it or like it. There is no reason to bash an OS in the way that you have.

25. ilia1986 unregistered

Android IS choice. There is more than enough competition within Android as it is between different OEM software customization options. There is no actual need for an arrogant, close minded company like apple to have an enslaving ecosystem for innovation to exist. I don't need apple to exist. I need apple to stop doing so.

47. bon24x7

Posts: 211; Member since: Aug 30, 2012

"Android is choice.." what's there to choose if Android is the only OS.? without competition it'll be a monopoly and that means Google does what they like, when they feel like doing instead of providing frequent updates like now. Don't be so closed minded and arrogant bro..

48. ilia1986 unregistered

One word: Samsung. It has it's own mini-ecosystem which competes with moat google apps.

49. bon24x7

Posts: 211; Member since: Aug 30, 2012

Oh so now Samsung is better than Google and the rest..? smh fanboys these days..!

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