Google has unveiled the latest version of its Android operating system, Android 4.4 KitKat along with its new Nexus 5 smartphone, with key new features including Ok Google and an “immersive” swipe user interface.
As SmartCompany previously reported, one of the big changes in the newest version of Android is the replacement of the old Android messaging app with Google Hangouts, which serves as a BlackBerry Hub-style unified messaging centre including SMS and MMS.
Google confirmed the Hangouts upgrade yesterday, when it also unveiled a series of new photo and video features in its Google+ social networking app.
Also on the chopping block is the Android phone app, which is replaced with a Google phone app that allows users to search for nearby businesses and automatically searches Google’s directories to provide called ID to numbers not in a user’s contact list.
Another major new feature is the move towards a more swipe-based interface with Immersive mode, which hides status bars and navigation buttons while an app is running, which can be pulled up by swiping the edge of the screen.
The new release also includes a Siri-style feature called Ok Google, a voice-operated search feature available from the home screen or Google Now.
Google is also positioning KitKat to go head-to-head with Mozilla’s Firefox OS in the low-end smartphone market, with the company claiming a reduced memory footprint for KitKat.
The company also says that key apps, including YouTube and its Chrome web browser, have also been slimmed down for the latest release.
“Until now, some lower-end Android phones couldn’t benefit from more recent Android releases due to memory constraints,” Google says in a statement.
“With KitKat, we’ve slimmed down Android’s memory footprint by doing things like removing unnecessary background services and reducing the memory consumption of features that you use all the time.”
Google is also bundling a new version of its Quickoffice mobile productivity app with the operating system, which allows users to print to selected printers directly from their smartphone or tablet.
Despite Korean press reports that television would be a major new focus of KitKat, prompting a showdown with Samsung and its Tizen-based smart TV platform, TV wasn’t a key focus of Google’s announcement.
The first device to use the new operating system is the Google Nexus 5 smartphone which, like its predecessor, is being manufactured in partnership with LG.
As widely anticipated, aside from a lower resolution camera, the Nexus 5 is very similar to LG’s current flagship smartphone, the G2.
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The front-facing camera is 1.3-mexapixel while the rear camera is 8-megapixels.
Available with either 16 or 32-gigabytes of internal storage, the device is built around a quad-core 2.26GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, and features a 4.95-inch 1920×1080 pixel full-HD IPS display (with a resolution of 445 pixels per inch).
It measures 69.17×137.84 mm, is 8.59 mm thick, and weighs 130g.
The new device is being released in Australia today, unlocked and outright through the Google Play store, for $US349 for 16-gigabytes or $US399 for 32-gigabytes, with the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan and Korea also receiving the initial release.
Google has also announced Android 4.4 KitKat will also be available soon on Nexus 4, 7, 10, Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One Google Play edition devices.