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Android 4.4 KitKat review

The latest version of its mobile OS proves Google certainly isn't taking a break

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Android 4.4 KitKat doesn't dramatically change the Android experience, it adds a handful of specific features to enable people to get more from their Android devices, and it represents a subtle refinement that's both aesthetic and performance-related.

Many older devices are yet to benefit from Google's commitment to optimizing the platform for low-end hardware, but new budget devices are coming on leaps and bounds as a result.

We liked

The Google Now Launcher looks and feels better, which is great if you have a Nexus device or you're willing to go to the trouble of sideloading it.

Smooth performance and support for lower-end hardware via Project Svelte is a very smart move. It hasn't solved the fragmentation problem in the short term because updates are down to manufacturers and carriers, but it will certainly ensure that the budget Android experience is vastly improved in the future.

The productivity tweaks are a real boost for anyone using their Android device for work, especially the long overdue update to the Email app. Immersive mode is a subtle thing, but it's a truly welcome tweak.

We disliked

It's odd to have a Photos app and a Gallery app with a lot of duplicated options and a handful of exclusives. The user experience would undoubtedly be better if there was just one app to handle your photos and videos.

The ability to have more than one app on screen at a time is something I would have liked to have seen - especially on the fleet on Android tablets - perhaps Google is content at leaving this to the likes of Samsung, but there are signs that we might see something along those lines in Android Lollipop.

Verdict

There's absolutely no question that anyone in a position to install Android 4.4 should go ahead and do it. Even without the Google Now Launcher there are enough improvements, refinements, and new features to make it well worth your while. It builds on what is already a very solid platform with a huge range of apps and games.

Android 4.4 KitKat is every bit as stylish and refined as iOS 8, and it still beats the pants off Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10.

We suspect the real strength of KitKat will show itself at the budget end of the Android market. Anyone with limited funds to snag a smartphone will benefit from Project Svelte. The popularity of the Moto G shows there's a real appetite out there for a solid phone that doesn't tie you into a costly monthly contract for two years.

If you're in the market for a new smartphone, whether you want something cutting edge, or you have a tight budget, Android is a seriously strong contender for your business.

When will you get it?

Android 4.4 KitKat has already rolled out to the Nexus 4 smartphone, and the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets.

The new platform has also gone out to the Moto X and Moto G, and the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One and has slowly filtered down to most popular handsets, as well as shipping on most new phones such as the HTC One M8 and the LG G3.

For the full run down of when your device check out our regularly-updated Android 4.4 release date article discussing all the recent news and rumours about which phones will be updated. And don't forget to check when you'll get Android Lollipop too.

Whether many older devices will get Android 4.4, in an official capacity, is debatable. We'll keep you posted.