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Review: Android 4.4 KitKat

Intro UI Basics Apps Wrap-Up Comments  1  

Android 4.4 KitKat is a capable operating system that doesn't offer a lot of new user-facing features, but will eventually lead to a broader range of high-quality apps.

Google did little to change the design and appearance of the operating system. The changes it did bother with leaned toward trimming down clutter and reducing noise. The app menu, for example, has fewer graphical elements and is simpler in appearance. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of several useful features. Android has used the same basic design since it debuted Android 3.0. When Google gets around to Android 5.0, that's when we might see a major shift in Android's design. For now, it's still fresh enough.

Google significantly altered two important apps: the phone and Hangouts. The changes brought to those apps will take time for users to adjust to, that is if they're not overridden by hardware makers. The bulk of Google Apps show few changes in KitKat, specifically.

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When weighed against iOS and Windows Phone, Android has some significant advantages. It offers far more customization opportunities, not only for users but for hardware makers. Users and makers alike are free to tweak the appearance of the home screens and other facets to make each device their own. More than ever, Android and iOS go toe-to-toe and feature-for-feature. Where iOS is simpler to use, it is more rigid. Where Android is more flexible, it's a bit more complex. iOS has the edge when it comes to apps and content, but Android has the edge when it comes to hardware selection and variety.

Since only a handful of devices will ever run the stock version of Android, what matters more is how device makers and developers customize it for their devices and apps. The new SDK and APIs offer developers more freedom to tap into the operating system and hardware features. This is what will, in the long run, push Android and KitKat ahead of other platforms.


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