Kit Kat’s grand plans: universal remotes, death of cards and Android 4.4 for all



With the upcoming release of Android 4.4 (Kit Kat), Google’s aiming for markets it has barely dipped its toes in. Namely TVs, budget smartphones and wearable PCs, said which gleaned this information from “a confidential file from Google.” We’ve reviewed the details, and if it’s true, Google’s plans are very much in line with Apple’s, and it’s nothing short of a global Android unification scheme.

A slice of Kit Kat for everyone

Inside the confidential documents is a plan to place Kit Kat on every Android device, not just the high-end ones from Samsung, Sony and HTC. The documents say that KitKat will run on devices with 512MB RAM as it “optimizes memory use in every major component” and offers “tools to help developers create memory-efficient applications for entry-level devices.” What we’re faced with now is major device fragmentation. According to the internal Google doc, half (and apparently even less than that) of all Android devices are running Android 4.2, Jelly Bean. Apple’s got it figured out: iOS 7 adoption rate is at 73% said Macrumors. According to the source, Google has made it clear that it wants lower-end devices to run Kit Kat. We’ve seen so many devices still running Gingerbread not even Jelly Bean, so if Google has a plan, it best get to it.

Pinpoint GPS accuracy and turbo-charged Bluetooth

The leaky Google doc mentions that Kit Kat will support three new sensors: a step counter, step detector and geomagnetic rotation vector. This may not sound like much, but here’s the plan: these sensors will combine for accurate distance measurement. More than likely, the plan is to include this into the upcoming Google Watch to accurately locate users on Google Maps. There’s also the hope that this will deliver more accurate walking routes on Maps.

Kit Kat also supports a newer version of Bluetooth, HID over GATT and Bluetooth Message Access Profile. Nutshell: Android wants to interact with every new Bluetooth device coming out, and by having access to the latest hardware and software profiles, Kit Kat will be the most Bluetooth-friendly Android yet. HID over GATT should produce interesting fruit, as it’s for connecting to low-power Bluetooth devices, such as heart rate monitors, smartwatches and pace makers.

Building a better remote

If you have the LG G2 or Galaxy S4 (to name only two devices), then you’re in possession of a phone that has an IR-Blaster, or a way of interacting with TVs, home theatres, media centres and so on. As the hardware feature gains further prevalence in both high to low-end devices, Kit Kat will provide a standardized way for developers to create apps that access the Blaster. Samsung has WatchOn, for instance so we could see a similar offering for all Android devices in the near future.

NFC, the death of cards

Kit Kat’s most ambitious offering yet is nothing short of a tech-revolution: the death of physical cards. And not just credit cards (thank you, Google Wallet) but security cards, public transport cards (like the UK’s Oyster) and in-store loyalty cards. This is all care of new NFC software inside Kit Kat that will “emulate cards without keeping people’s information stored in the secure element.” This was one of the barriers of entry for NFC card emulation apps, as businesses were hesitant to hand over the secure portion of their cards to NFC control. With no further security risk, developers can now concentrate on bringing NFC card emulation to the million of Android phones out there.

Steven Norris: grumpy curmudgeon


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