Last Friday, Google announced version 4.4 of the mobile operating system (OS) Android. This version’s code name is of course, like all prior versions a sweet. This time, Google did a cooperation with Nestlé and came up with the name KitKat. Because it is only a minor release, the number of new features in this update is relatively small. KitKat is focusing on nifty little details and improvements. Let’s have a closer look at them.
Besides revised graphics, the storage efficiency has been enhanced. So even older phones with less storage could be supported. Also app developers can now easily determine if their software is running on low powered devices by using ActivityManager.isLowRamDevice(). But for most devices it is still up to the vendor to prepare the latest updates and drivers.
KitKat also brings a new version of the office suite Quickoffice. It might not be perfect for every day business needs, but for sure it can be used to type some basic notes or rough concepts, for example, while waiting for the train or bus or even view Microsoft Office documents from your mail inbox.
Android users can now print files directly from the phone or tablet by using Google’s and HP’s cloud based print services. The request is sent to a printer via ethernet or wifi. So there is no more need to e-mail files to yourself to just print them from your computer. Now you can download a file while in the subway, have a quick look on it in the elevator and have it printed before you even step into the office.
Already a few months ago, Google announced services that allow to track, lock or wipe your phone if lost. These features are common among Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions for a long time now. But a full size MDM system addresses many other needs of businesses that are not supported by Googles solution. These vary from configuration of e-mail clients, over app- and content management to policy enforcement. Of course, Google’s Device Manager is not a MDM as used among many business users, but it might be enough for most private users.
In Android 4.4, Google improved Google Now. This app integrates into your calendar, your phone book, keeps track of your location, your search requests and much more. The benefit for the user is that a single easy to use app can provide all the information you need in diverse situations. It can help you find the shortest way to a place you googled earlier by considering the current traffic situation or schedule meetings by spoken commands without opening the calendar app. The new version comes with more cards and features that aim to help organize your life.
Some readers might be familiar with the interaction concept of Google Glass. The new version of Now also responds to the user saying “OK Google (Now)”. From scheduling meetings to context sensitive answers to diverse questions, Google Now wants to be the personal concierge in your pocket. However, business users might be glad to read that this is just an optional app and you do NOT need to share all your personal and business data with Google.
Android’s connectivity was updated on many levels. Bluetooth HID over GATT and Bluetooth Message Access should help smart devices to establish connections to diverse devices like car infotainment systems. Bluetooth 4.0 promises to be very power efficient here. Also mobile payment via NFC is improved in Android 4.4. Now the OS supports Host Card Emulation whereby NFC hardware can emulate ISO/IEC 7816 smart cards for communication over the ISO/IEC 14443-4 (ISO-DEP) protocol.
SELinux, was introduced in Android 4.3, and has been updated. It helps the OS give rights and permissions to apps and control the access on resources. It used to run in a passive permissive mode, it now becomes active as it is running in an enforcing mode. This access control system is built into the Linux kernel, in order to help enforce the existing access control rights and to attempt to prevent privilege escalation attacks.
Also from a security perspective, the new certificate management has some enhancements. Android will now warn the user if a new SSL Certificate Authority (CA) gets installed on the device. And the Android key store has been updated too. It now supports Eliptic Curve signing keys. With that, developers have now a new option for storing data for a long time by using symmetric encryption.
One last change seems to be Google’s change in the update system of Android. Many features and improvements come in apps that can also run on older Android versions. For example the new launcher can be installed on devices like the HTC One, currently running Android 4.2.2.
When you measure Android 4.4 – KitKat by its new features, it is clearly not a milestone in smart phone history but it comes with many little details that can help you make your business a little more secure and efficient. The cloud based print service seems interesting and Quickoffice as a free portable office suite can never be wrong but the biggest changes in KitKat hide under the hood. Performance boosts and security improvements sweeten the waiting time for Google’s next big thing.
It will be interesting to see, if companies will change their update politics and provide current versions of Android also for older devices.