Android 4.4 KitKat rumored to include optimizations for low-end devices, new NFC tools and more

Alex Wagner
Editorial Director of News and Content from  Omaha, NE
| October 30, 2013

Android 4.4 KitKat official

It's now been nearly two months since Google officially introduced Android 4.4 KitKat as the next major version of its mobile operating system, but so far the only new Android 4.4 feature that's been announced is the option to change the default SMS app. Google will likely unwrap more KitKat goodies whenever it gets around to making the Nexus 5 official, but thanks to a report that's surfaced this evening, we may not have to wait for El Goog to get a better idea of what the major ingredients of its "K" dessert are.

Former Wall Street Journal reporter Amir Efrati tonight shared several major changes in Android 4.4 KitKat that she claims to have learned from a confidential Google document given to device manufacturers. One of Google's major focuses with KitKat is to try and fight fragmentation by working to make the OS play nicely with low-end hardware. According to the document, Android 4.4 "optimizes memory use in every major component" and offers developer tools to help make memory-efficient apps for entry-level hardware with as little as 512MB RAM.

Another big focus of KitKat is said to be wearable technology. In addition to the aforementioned optimizations for low-spec devices, KitKat will reportedly add support for new geomagnetic rotation vector, step detector and step counter sensors. Efrati suggests that these features could be used in Google's upcoming Android smartwatch as well as fitness apps.

Speaking of sensors, KitKat will include a new feature to help make another run at popularizing near field communication sensors. Android 4.4 will reportedly allow developers to "emulate" physical cards used for making payments and more without storing a user's information on their device's secure NFC element, but it's not yet known how that info will be secured. KitKat will also purportedly add support for Bluetooth HID over GATT and Bluetooth Message Access so that Android devices can interact with a wider range of Bluetooth hardware.

Finally, Android 4.4 is expected to make it easy for developers to create apps that can turn a device with an infrared blaster into a remote for TVs and other devices. The OS will allegedly feature one standard method for all Android devices to turn on their infrared blasters.

While all of these features are still unconfirmed at this point, one feature that may have been hinted at by Google itself is the focus on low-end hardware support. As part of its Android 4.4 KitKat landing page, Google included the tagline "It's our goal with Android KitKat to make an amazing Android experience available for everybody." That could very well be a reference to an effort to make Android 4.4 work well with entry-level hardware in an effort to reduce the number of devices that get stuck with outdated versions of Android due to their low-end specs. Of course, it's up to device makers to actually load KitKat onto their products, but it's good to hear that Google may be doing its part to help spread the KitKat goodness to the low-end.

Via Jessica Lessin