Along with the LG Nexus 5 announcement, Google finally spilled the beans on the latest version of its mobile OS, Android 4.4 KitKat. The search giant is calling KitKat beautiful, immersive, polished and improved. New features include: Moto X-like “Ok Google” voice commands, immersive mode, faster multitasking, improved phone app with smarter caller ID, new Hangouts app with unified messaging, Emoji characters on the keyboard, better Google Drive integration, wireless printing, Bluetooth MAP support, Chromecast support, redesigned Email app, full-screen wallpapers, redesigned QuickOffice, HDR+ photography, built-in step-counting, Infrared blasting, touchscreen improvements and more. Check out a video on the new features and a detailed changelog for the update below.
KitKat will come pre-loaded on the Nexus 5 when it ships on November 8th. It will also be available as an OTA update for past Nexus and Google Edition devices, including the Nexus 4, Nexus 7, Nexus 10, Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One, in the “coming weeks.” Unfortunately, the Galaxy Nexus will not receive an update to KitKat.
UPDATE: get the Android 4.4 KitKat launcher on your smartphone [download]!
Just say “Ok Google”
You don’t need to touch the screen to get things done. When on your home screen* or in Google Now, just say “Ok Google” to launch voice search, send a text, get directions or even play a song.
A work of art
While listening to music on your device, or while projecting movies to Chromecast, you’ll see beautiful full-screen album and movie art when your device is locked. You can play, pause, or seek to a specific moment.
The book you’re reading, the game you’re playing, or the movie you’re watching — now all of these take center stage with the new immersive mode, which automatically hides everything except what you really want to see. Just swipe the edge of the screen to bring back your status bar and navigation buttons.
Android 4.4 takes system performance to an all-time high by optimizing memory and improving your touchscreen so that it responds faster and more accurately than ever before. This means that you can listen to music while browsing the web, or race down the highway with the latest hit game, all without a hitch.
The future is calling
The new phone app automatically prioritizes your contacts based on the people you talk to the most. You can also search for nearby places and businesses, your contacts, or people in your Google Apps domain.
A smarter caller ID
Whenever you get a call from a phone number not in your contacts, your phone will look for matches from businesses with a local listing on Google Maps.
All your messages in the same place
Never miss a message, no matter how your friend sends it. With the new Hangouts app, all of your SMS and MMS messages are together in the same app, alongside your other conversations and video calls. And with the new Hangouts, you can even share your location and send animated GIFs.
Sometimes words can’t express how you feel. For that, there’s Emoji, the colorful Japanese characters, now available on Google Keyboard.
Print wherever, whenever
Now you can print photos, documents, and web pages from your phone or tablet. You can print to any printer connected to Google Cloud Print, to HP ePrint printers, and to other printers that have apps in the Google Play Store.
Pick a file, any file
From apps like Quickoffice, you can open and save files on Google Drive, other cloud storage services, or your device. And with quick access to recently used files, it’s easier than ever to send the file you were just working on.
Your office, anywhere
Create and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations from your phone or tablet with the newly redesigned Quickoffice
Bluetooth MAP support
Android now supports the Message Access Profile (MAP) so Bluetooth-enabled cars can exchange messages with your devices.
With your Android device and a Chromecast, you can enjoy your favorite online entertainment, from Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, and Google Play on your HDTV.
Chrome web view
Applications that embed web content now use Chrome to render web components accurately and quickly.
Android now supports closed captioning and subtitles. To turn on closed captioning, go to Settings > Accessibility and turn on Captions.
Device management built-in
If you ever lose your device, you can find or wipe it with the Android Device Manager
Downloads app redesign
The Downloads app has been redesigned, giving you new sorting options and list and grid views for all the files you’ve downloaded.
Easy home screen switching
If you love to customize your device and have installed one or more home screen replacements, you can switch between them easily in Settings > Home.
Email app refresh
The redesigned Email app has a fresh new look with nested folders, contact photos and better navigation.
Full-screen wallpapers with preview
Your wallpaper now extends through the notification tray and system buttons. And when you change your wallpaper, you can preview just how it will look before you set it.*
HDR+ mode on Nexus 5 automatically snaps a rapid burst of photos and combines them to give you the best possible single shot. Daytime pictures are vivid with clean shadows, and nighttime photos are sharp with less noise.*
On devices with an infrared (IR) blaster, Android now supports applications for remote control of TVs and other nearby devices.
Location in Quick Settings
Access your location settings from anywhere with a new tile in Quick Settings.
Location modes and monitoring
If you want to conserve battery, go to Settings > Location to switch between high accuracy and battery-saving location modes. There’s no need to toggle GPS, Wi-Fi, and mobile network settings. And to see which apps have recently requested your location, go to Settings > Location.
Low-power audio playback
Android 4.4 on Nexus 5 lets you listen to music for longer – up to 60 hours of audio playback.*
Music and movie-seeking from lock screen
Jump to a specific part of a song or video from your lock screen. Just long press on the play or pause button and then select the point you want.
Secure app sandboxes
Application sandboxes have been hardened with Security-Enhanced Linux.
Step counting built-in
When you use fitness apps like Moves on Nexus 5, the phone acts as a pedometer to count steps. Android 4.4 and updated hardware make this a more battery-friendly way to measure your activity.
Tap to pay, built a new way
Android 4.4 introduces a new, open architecture for NFC payments that works with any mobile carrier, and lets apps manage your payment information in the cloud or on your device. Now you can tap to pay with Google Wallet or other apps at more than a million stores.
Improved software and Nexus 5’s new hardware mean Android responds to your touch faster and more accurately than ever before.*
Note: *currently only available on Nexus 5.