Android, which provides the operating system for more than one billion smartphones and mobile devices, surprised the world by naming its latest 4.4 version upgrade KitKat in honour of the Hershey’s candy bar that is a favourite snack of coders. Pundits had expected that Google would use key lime pie as the next name in the alphabetic series of upgrades that are named after desserts and confections. The release, scheduled for October of 2013, will coincide with special candy-bar promotions in 19 countries including Australia. Specially branded Kit Kat bars will give consumers chances to win prizes such as Google Nexus 7 tablets and credits to spend in Google Play.

Key features of the KitKat upgrade

Android Phone Evolution

Android Phone Evolution

Key features have not been officially released as of 8 September, but industry expectations include improved battery performance, optional 4k resolution, support for tri-core CPUs and improved security features. The Android 4.4 will be lighter than any other operating system, and the devices that use it will provide edge-to-edge displays. Other likely features include:

  • New user interfaces that allow navigation from the sides of devices
  • Utilisation of multitouch features
  • Gesture control
  • Eye-appealing interface that “tastes as good as it looks”
  • Adjustable orientation for portrait or landscape viewing
  • An easier, more comprehensive backup option

History of Android upgrades

Google has closely guarded concrete information, but analysts expect that Android 4.4 will run on devices that aren’t slaved to large processors. The company has stated its intention to make the upgrade available to everyone, so customers can reasonably expect the following:

  1. Upgrade will work with devices other than phones such as gaming systems.
  2. Most people will want to upgrade older devices so that everyone uses the same version of Android.
  3. People won’t need top-of-the-line devices to use Android KitKat.

Google is focusing on improving the devices that people already own instead of introducing complex new features and hardware. Device fragmentation has been a problem over the years for Android, but the new upgrade should get everyone operating on the same page. In the past, Google has released new software shortly before offering new Nexus hardware. Release of Nexus 5 is expected in October.

The Android mobile operating platform was developed to challenge Apple’s iPhone, and the first version was released in September of 2008. Updates have been named for desserts or snacks and include the following releases:

  • Version 1.5—Cupcake—API level 3
  • Version 1.6—Donut—API level 4
  • Version 2.0—Eclair—API level 5
  • Version 2.0.1—Eclair—API level 6
  • Version 2.1—Eclair—API level 7
  • Version 2.2–2.2.3—Froyo—API level 8
  • Version 2.3–2.3.2 —Gingerbread—API level 9
  • Version 2.3.3–2.3.7—Gingerbread—API level 10
  • Version 3.0—Gingerbread—API level 11
  • Version 3.1—Gingerbread—API level 12
  • Version 3.2—Honeycomb—API level 13
  • Version 4.0–4.0.2—Ice Cream Sandwich—API level 14
  • Version 4.0.3–4.0.4—Ice Cream Sandwich—API level 15
  • Version 4.1—Jelly Bean—API level 16
  • Version 4.2—Jelly Bean—API level 17
  • Version 4.3—Jelly Bean—API level 18

Nexus devices usually get software upgrade first, and older devices will get the upgrades in the following months. The KitKat upgrade may well be the last update for the Galaxy Nexus, but people with older devices should keep them in good working order because they might get the benefit of receiving an astonishing Android experience with their older equipment.

Phone repair facilitates OS system upgrades

Thrifty Aussies can realise some major technology benefits by keeping their older devices in good repair and upgrading to the new KitKat OS. Android rooting is the process of overcoming limitations within Android’s subsystems that facilitates replacing a device’s operating system. The process of rooting usually voids a device’s warranty, but Google has made its intention to allow the upgrades on all its Android devices known throughout the industry.

Android Rooting - Galaxy S4 Samsung

Surprising people with whimsy

Google has consistently followed a policy of naming initiatives and upgrades after whimsical animals and products, but the KitKat upgrade marks the first time that a commercial product has been used. People commonly expected Google to use key lime pie, but many people have never tasted the confection, so a decision was made to go in a different direction. Supporters generally like the decision, but critics suggest that the system, like the candy bar, easily fragments.

In Australia, Android-powered phones hold about 60 percent of the smartphone market, and similar numbers apply to European countries. Festivities to commemorate the upgrade will include special candy bars that are shaped like Android robots, which will hopefully create a real-life “Willie Wonka” type of media excitement. Google has commented about the partnership and change of plans by explaining that many senior coders enjoy eating Kit Kat bars while working. The licensing agreement does not involve any monetary compensation.

New devices should begin featuring the new operating system by the second quarter of 2014. However, Australians with older smartphones can see about breaking off a piece of that Kit Kat bar starting in October of 2013.

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