Android 4.4 KitKat Hands On Review

Android KitKat was one of the most anticipated versions for 2013 due to the marketing strategy and other expected features.

Finally it was released in 1st week of November along with Nexus 5 release.

All Nexus 4 users, including me were waiting for the update since we heard about the new Google Now integrated launcher and ‘Okay Google’ stuff. But compared to other OTA updates, we had to wait for few weeks to get the Android 4.4 update. As usual, Indian users need to wait longer period and hence updated my device using Factory Image from Google Developer Site

Factory Images from Google – https://developers.google.com/android/nexus/images?hl=en

Experience

What did I see after upgrade? UI was more or less the same with 4.2 launcher. But, the size of the apps are reduced significantly and also the RAM usage.

My battery was draining faster and it became better after rooting and installing Greenify. I have seen many complaints from user about the opaque notification bar and big icons are missing in Nexus 4.

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There are links available to download ‘Google Experience Launcher’ or GEL which will give the Nexus 5 experience –

  • Swipe left to get Google Now
  • Google Search bar with ‘Okay Google’ option
  • Transparent status bar
  • Big icons

I also tried GEL and felt it was consuming lot of battery may be microphone will be listening all the time to hear ‘Okay Google’. Apart from that, no customization was possible including the desktop margins or changing the icons.

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Then I heard about KitKat launcher, which gives similar UI with more customization –Icons can be changed (with same Nova/Apex icon packs), remove the search bar in the home screen, disable left swipe for Google Now and reduce the icon size.

KitKat Launcher in play store – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.kk.launcher

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What’s new in KitKat?

As far as I know, Google has made architectural changes in 4.4 to target devices with less RAM (even 512 MB). This will reduce the fragmentation issues since Android runs in both low end and high end devices. Ironically Google released few many versions of KitKat for various reasons

4.4 – 1st Factory Image – krt16o – 2nd week of November
4.4 – 2nd Factory Image – krt16s – November 3rd week – OTA version
4.4.1 – Patch – KOT49E – December
4.4.2 – Patch – KOT49E – December

Too many versions so far and it becomes difficult for other partners to start the roll-out.

Now, let me move on to the features

1) Dialer – This is a significant improvement – UI looks clean, search and favorite contacts in 1 page. Also search is integrated with Google database to list the local yellow page (I don’t need to view the number in Chrome and copy paste, instead directly type ‘Taxi’ and view local vendors)

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2) Hangout SMS – Hangout app will become the default SMS application and we can replace it with another SMS app. This is a nice feature since I don’t need to switch between 2 apps to send MMS and SMS

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3) Setting default Home screen – minor change in the Settings screen to change the default launcher

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4) ART – this is experimental stuff and may be running in beta or something; an option to switch the runtime between Dalvik and new Android Run Time. I did not find major difference in the performance since no graphic intensive apps are not installed in my phone.

ART Compatibility – All of my apps were compatible with ART except WhatsApp and it was resolved after updating 4.4.2

List of apps and status of compatibility – http://www.androidruntime.com/list

5) RAM – I was amazed to see the RAM usage after the upgrade; Nexus 4 has 2 GB RAM and only 400-450 MB was used by the background process. I have seen my friend’s Galaxy S3 that uses approx 1GB RAM and un-used Samsung process running in the background. I love Stock Android!!

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6) Location preference – We can see the apps that use Google location data and can switch based on need – Device only / Battery Saving / High Accuracy (Navigation works with this option alone)

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7) Lock Screen

 Music widgets (Google Play Music, Tune-In Radio etc) in the lock screen looks great in the full screen view

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8) Immersive mode

A new immersive mode is added in the library to view apps in the full screen without status bar and navigation bars. Only few apps like Google Play books have utilized the feature as of now.

Issues

I was lucky that I did not face the issues like – Google Dialer crashing / hanging and drastic battery drain (may be since I did not update via OTA)

Some of the minor issues faced are listed below

1) Media Server process – this process was running and battery was draining fast;

Followed below steps mentioned in Google Product Support Forums and I did not see the process again

A) Remove unwanted sync options – Currents, Google Play Music, Play Books, and TV etc
B) Stop the Google Currents process
C) Remove the dial and touchpad sound

2) Wi-Fi process – This process was running though I did not switch on Wi-Fi; switch off the “Scanning always available” option in the advanced Wi-Fi settings

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3) Rooting

I was aware that after each update, root access of the phone will be lost due to the firmware changes. But, after updating 2nd factory image, I was getting error while opening superuser. Tried flashing zip file multiple times using Clockwordmod recovery and result was same. Finally found solution from Google+ to try TWRP recovery to flash the zip and issue was solved

Below is the superuser versions used in various KitKat versions

Version 1.65 – Sup…erSU-v1.65.zip –4.4 – Factory Image – krt16o
Version 1.75 – UPDATE-SuperSU-v1.75.zip – 4.4 – Factory Image – krt16s
Version 1.80 – UPDATE-SuperSU-v1.80.zip – 4.4.1 and 4.4.2

Conclusion

Overall it is a great experience to use KitKat; Nexus 4 became smoother and faster; Battery life got improved. I did not feel any change in the Camera app or quality of the pictures though I read it happened in Nexus 5.

So that was my hands on review about Android 4.4. Hope you enjoyed it. Please leave valuable comments and share with your friends. Happy New Year!!

Skype vs. Hangouts Review

Hello everyone. Today I wanted to give a candid feedback about Google Hangouts after the 1st usage.

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Before Hangouts – Skype

Flashback about my video chat using Skype to communicate with wife and kid, a year ago.

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Skype was installed in my PC and Android version Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. Also Skype user name was created for both users.

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It works well for one to one video chat as a free user, but the video goes off if I invite a third person and continue as audio chat.

Okay, no problem, I understood a free user deserves only thatL. Video clarity was also good when I was using Wi-Fi and broadband in both locations.

But things changed, replaced WI-FI with 3G (SIM card in TAB) due to various reasons and Skype started under-performing. Video was lagging behind the audio and most of the time 3G user goes offline and Skype tries to reconnect. It was bad experience!!

Things changed again, I moved the 3G connection to my mobile (HTC Desire) and used WI-FI Hotspot to connect my Tab. It was terrible experience since user goes offline every 5 seconds.

Advantages
Skype supports multiple platforms – Android, IOS, Blackberry, and Windows
It can act as calling card – paid users can make calls to any phone

Disadvantages
Separate account need to be created
It needs to be installed in all devices
Interface is not modern (chat window looks ugly)
No group video chat for free users
Video lag and connection issues for low bandwidth

Story about Hangouts
I started exploring about Hangouts (part of Google +) from last few months since I heard it supports multi user video chat. I did not get a chance to try out due to reluctance from users to use Google +.

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Finally Google announced in IO 2013 that they are replacing Google Messenger and Google talks with single app Google Hangouts. The app made available for both Android and IOS and it became major rival for Facetime, BBM (Blackberry is planning to launch android version soon)

Cool stuff – all conversations are stored in cloud and it will sync across all devices and we can have never ending conversations. It is not necessary to install app in PC, the browser can be used to start conversation, which is also quite convenient

Today I tried video call using Hangouts – one end in Chrome and other in Galaxy Tab2. It worked perfectly even in 3G and WI-FI tethering. No video lag and connection issues.

It can also replace other messaging apps – Viber, Whatsapp etc. As of now, there is no SMS feature, but it is most requested feature – can be anticipated soon

Advantages
Google account can be used to sign in
Browser also can be used to start chat
Data resides in cloud and it can sync across devices
Never ending conversations
Group video chat and users can also share any video in the chat
No video lag and works in low bandwidth

Disadvantages
No phone call options
Volume was bit low compared to Skype

So, that’s it. My 1st hangout and I really enjoyed it. Please try it out and hope you will also enjoy the experience.
Comments are always welcome

Thanks for reading

Hangout for Android – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.talk

Google Cloud Print Review – Amazing

Google introduced a new product this month called “Cloud print”. The beta version is available as and android and Chrome application.

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Let’s see how we can leverage this technology

 Concept

Google cloud print is created to connect printers on the web – to make home and work printers available for anyone around the world. This means I can take a picture in US and print in friend’s printer in India without e-mail and fax. Also this will work in phone, tablet, Chromebook.

Classic printers can be connected to make it available in the cloud with the help of Chrome – https://support.google.com/cloudprint/answer/1686197?rd=1
I was very excited to see the announcement and downloaded the app on 1st day in my Nexus 4. But I was not able to really test or enjoy the power since there is no printer in home and office printer is secured.
Now what happens if the Google Cloud print app is opened in phone?
Launch the app and it will show all printer jobs
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Click on the pint button to choose a file – you can choose all storage applications – Google Drive, File manager, Gallery, Drop box etc
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Once selecting the file, it will show all registered devices (including printers) – It did not make any sense to me at that point of time.
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But today, I found out the use of the devices!!

 If you make online payment, you will see the transaction message at the end along with Print button.

 If you want to save these details, you can take a screenshot and e-mail to yourself for future reference. Otherwise it is possible to convert this to PDF using Chrome browser – find my previous blog for more details.

Now along with the PDF a new section appears – Google Cloud Print, in which I can choose all my devices. Select the device and the PDF will be transferred to the device (or printer too).

Chrome_Print

This is amazing. No screenshot, saving and sending to mail – just push to any devices with one click

So, what’s your story? Did you find real time benefits of the app? Please add your comments