Google made notable improvements to its latest operating system by adding a more polished design and placing an emphasis on efficiency. But some of the more interesting additions aren’t so obvious—you’ll have to scrape a few layers below the surface to find them. Take a spin through the following features see what KitKat is capable of.
Step detector and counter
Internal motion sensors and accompanying fitness apps are becoming smartphone staples. KitKat adds support for hardware motion coprocessors (similar to the M7 co-processor found in the iPhone 5s), and counts steps in the background while using very little power. Supporting third-party apps like Moves and Runtastic Pedometer can hook into this OS-level support to track your steps without punishing your battery life.
Earlier versions of Android included an option for checking out each app’s storage data, but now you can also examine memory consumption, a feature found under Developer Options. (To enable Developer Options, to to Settings > About Phone > and find Build Number. Tap on it several times until the phone asks if you want to enable Devleoper Options.) The stats show an overarching summary of system memory, each app’s memory load, and an overall analysis. While it’s geared toward developers, the stats are beneficial for any user who’d like to see which apps eat up the most RAM.
Advanced photo editor
While you won’t see anything particularly groundbreaking in the standard Gallery editor, it’s worth noting the small updates. The new stock Gallery adds some more tools, like graduated filters and local adjustments, along with accurate adjustment levels for effects. As a non-destructive editor, changes can be made without affecting the original image.
If you intend on making highly detailed alterations to your images, you’ll want to stick to Photoshop. And of course, most smartphones ship with their own image editors full of brand-specific features.
Streamlined file management
Using a new storage access framework, grabbing files from cloud and local storage can be done from one location. Instead of opening up a single app to open documents or images, a browser-like menu provides access to apps like Dropbox, Drive, and internal storage all from one place.
Enable/disable lockscreen widgets
Lockscreen widgets aren’t enabled automatically as they are in Jellybean, but they can still be turned on. The option can be found under Settings > Security > Enable widgets. Once the box is checked, widgets can be added to the lockscreen as usual. The added security measure was put in place to avoid any personal information like Gmail accounts being readily available if you happen to lose your phone.
Lockscreen audio controls with full album art
Songs can also be played, paused, and skipped directly from the lockscreen. It may seem trivial, but it does save a step or two when you’re ready to scrub through a portion of a song. Full screen album art now appears with the audio player, which basically replaces your wallpaper and adds a nice design element.
Reading or watching movies while contending with a navigation bar and other panels can sometimes be distracting. Google resolves the issue with Immersive Mode, allowing for full-screen viewing. Apps that support Immersive Mode take over the whole screen, and you can take a peek at your status bar or navigation buttons by swiping in from the top or bottom edge of the screen. Unfortunately, some applications aren’t exactly friendly to the new immersive layout yet.
Mobile printing is still more troublesome than it has to be. Google seeks to alleviate some of the struggles by adding Wi-Fi and cloud options to its printing framework. Google Cloud Print comes pre-installed on most devices and Chrome, Drive, Gallery, and QuickOffice all support it. There’s a new printer framework that makes it easier for manufacturers to add their own print services, too. HP, for example, has used this to create its own Print Service Plugin for KitKat devices. Once your printer is set up via Wi-Fi or Google’s cloud service, it’s fairly easy to print documents from anywhere.