Google engineer tells why KitKat hides connectivity

Google engineer tells why KitKat hides connectivity
One of the more odd changes to that came in Android 4.4 KitKat was the choice to make all of the status icons in the notification bar pure white. Ever since way back in Android 2.3 Gingerbread, the behavior with those icons was to show as a certain color (green in 2.3, and blue in later versions of Android) when the device had a usable Internet connection and grey or white when you were connected to Wi-Fi or mobile networks, but had no usable Internet connection on those services. 

With KitKat, Google changed that behavior so all of the icons were white, all of the time. And, the only way to check on your connection in case of an error is to go into the Quick Settings menu where the icons will be white when you have a connection and orange when you don't. Additionally, the up and down arrows indicating when data was flowing have been moved out of the notification bar to the Quick Settings as well. Why has this happened? Googler Dan Sandler has the answer.

According to Dan, there are three reasons for the changes. The main issue was Google's decision to move to a transparent notification bar, because the previous blue color wouldn't show well on certain backgrounds. White shows up the best, regardless of the background, especially when paired with background protection. 

The other big reason was because the majority of users didn't know what those color changes meant, and were confused by them, so rather than confuse the majority of users, Google chose to possibly annoy a vocal minority of power users who liked those color changes. The last issue was simply one of system resources. It actually took quite a few CPU cycles to have the constantly animated data arrows in the notification bar, and added a lot of work, so they were bumped to the Quick Settings to make everything easier and less resource intensive.

source: +Dan Sandler (explanation in the comments) via Android Police

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39 Comments

1. Dastrix unregistered

White = looks like iOS 7

6. Doppiadi

Posts: 15; Member since: Feb 18, 2013

Come ooooon there are lots of OSs that used white icons. One for all, even my Nokia n73 had them in 2006, and that's even before any(non-Apple--designer)one had seen a iPhone in his life :)

15. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Calm down dude that's an Apple fan, learn to ignore it. They think apple invented white and possibly the apple fruit as well.

27. squallz506

Posts: 1075; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

Great article Michael. I especially enjoy the inclusion of sources. Keep it up kid.

2. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

The white icons are killing my battery on my S3. Time to put a black and blue theme!

10. Haridenberg

Posts: 27; Member since: Sep 03, 2013

Hahaha! Epic, man! xD

16. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Lol good one, its a conspiracy to lower the battery life of Samsung phones.

3. _Bone_

Posts: 2155; Member since: Oct 29, 2012

So if it's for power saving, why the hell the Nexus 5 sucks in battery life? Look at all these batteries out there, the G2 and Butterfly S around 3000mAh, the Lumia 1520 and Oppo N1 around 3500mAh(!), and the Nexus 5 on the demanding HW gets 2300mAh... it's not those animations you should've taken care of Google, but battery life at the core.

8. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Clarified that. Didn't mean "power" as in battery, meant "power" as in CPU cycles.

17. TerryCrowley

Posts: 194; Member since: Jul 31, 2011

Your post meant no sense at all. If the color changes meant for better battery, along with other battery life tweaks in the software, that would allow for the Nexus 5 to have a smaller battery and still be on par with the other flagships. Which...it is. You're either a retard or a child.

34. jeff1434325

Posts: 97; Member since: Aug 07, 2012

I beg to disagree. Take a look at this...even my GS3 w/c has a smaller 2,100mAh battery has higher score. http://blog.gsmarena.com/nexus-5-grinds-through-our-battery-test-routine/

4. marbovo

Posts: 658; Member since: May 16, 2013

Please google donĀ“t turn android into iOS!!!!

5. imMature

Posts: 87; Member since: Sep 04, 2013

Talking about Android changing to iOS.. Did you guys realized that the new Google Experience Launcher is quite similar to the iOS springboard? A search/Google Now page at the right, automatically adding new pages..

9. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

The layout may be similar, but the functionality isn't.

26. blingblingthing

Posts: 974; Member since: Oct 23, 2012

Thank you mike. Simple put. Instead of having to gesture start Google now. You just swipe to the right to up the Google now live widget.

36. imMature

Posts: 87; Member since: Sep 04, 2013

Yeah, I was just stating how similar it is. Anyway this is way out of topic.

11. mattkl

Posts: 255; Member since: Feb 01, 2010

I don't like this. At least I found out before I get the OTA. And where did Google get the data for this vocal minority stat? I never got surveyed about this, did anyone else?

19. buccob

Posts: 2974; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

I agree... for once I hope the manufacturer of my future phone will override this "feature" with its own theme keeping colors and arrows... I know Sony did away with the colors, but kept the flowing arrows... I do not want to do a gesture or tap or even unlock anything just to know if my phone has internet connection Vocal minority my a$$

30. downphoenix

Posts: 3165; Member since: Jun 19, 2010

they get this data from their ass. That's how they do it with any changes they do on Youtube at least.

12. starandmountain

Posts: 53; Member since: Apr 01, 2012

Google let people decide which colours they want. If you think that it confuses the customer then just hide it somewhere. The people who really want to change it are then able to do it

24. buccob

Posts: 2974; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

Exactly... maybe under "Developers options"

35. 14545

Posts: 1835; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

That was actually my thought when reading this. I'm am really surprised light theming isn't built in.

13. tomn1ce

Posts: 247; Member since: Mar 12, 2012

It would be nice if they would just make it customizable and let it up to the users to change the colors if so desire. Many if not all custom roms allow the user to change the colors.

25. andynaija

Posts: 1261; Member since: Sep 08, 2012

Well even though I'd like to see color changes so I can know if something is up, I can get used to it being one colors. But at least they really should have kept the flowing arrows upfront like buccob said, because it is kind of a little hassle to do gestures, tap, or unlock the phone just to know if it has an internet connection.

28. jjjsong

Posts: 76; Member since: Dec 27, 2011

Should have made it an option... I find the up/down arrows with the signal icons very helpful as I know when I'm uploading and/or downloading data. It is also a very easy way to tell if my connection's having issues since if I'm constantly uploading things but not getting any downloading that means I'm not getting any responses back.

29. mike2959

Posts: 696; Member since: Oct 08, 2011

There is no denying that Android is becoming more like IOS. The "integration" of once optional Google products, Quick office, Google Earth, just to name a few. The once "vanilla" Android isn't so vanilla anymore.

31. GeekMovement unregistered

While many claim that android is becoming more like iOS, iOS itself is also becoming more like android with all the notification settings, gesture swipes, multitasking features, bigger screens (yes, I did say bigger screens since apple apparently created rectangles and the color white), it's own google maps/google earth app, dynamic wallpapers, etc. etc. etc. Seriously it's a give and take now in competition. These features make it more convenient for users on both platforms.

32. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

It was never really "vanilla". It's always been Google.

37. laheelahee

Posts: 213; Member since: Apr 09, 2012

wait, so if i have a white bg/wallpaper...?

38. MyJobSux

Posts: 106; Member since: Apr 01, 2012

Why not default to white but allow the option to change the color. Then allow the option to add the SSID, network and data arrows if you want them. If you want the colors to change based on connectivity type (such as with on wifi with or without data) you can select the color type. This will allow basic users to recover those lossed precious cpu cycles while more savvy users will have a more customizable experience.

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