Almost two weeks ago, the Android team made it official: the next version of Android wouldn’t be known as Key Lime Pie.
Nope, now it was going to be called KitKat, after the popular chocolatey treat. And while this change made sense to many (how many people know what key lime pie actually is?), at the same time it came across as extremely gimmicky…an impression not exactly helped by the appearance of a giant chocolate-bar-shaped Android statue on Google’s lawn, or the Android logo on a bunch of KitKat bars.
As I write this, Google has remained quiet on what features the new revision will contain – the webpage dedicated to KitKat so far only features a button for checking whether your chocolate bar has a winning contest code, and a short history of the tasty treats after which Android revisions have been named. Because it will be slotted in as Android OS 4.4, rather than the previously-expected 5.0, it’s probably a safe bet that KitKat won’t feature earth-shattering changes.
What is a safe bet is that that more information will be along shortly; the widely-rumoured launch date for the new OS (and perhaps some new Nexus devices) is October 14.
Android fans are bound to be even more impatient for the details thanks to the noise made by the official launch of the new iPhone 5C and 5S models this past week.
That’s despite the fact that these announcements were somewhat anticlimactic owing to the widespread leakage of the phones’ names and designs (a problem that seems to be getting worse and worse in the post-Jobs era). Many were also incredibly disappointed by the lack of any new products beyond the phones themselves; the long-rumoured iWatch is still a no-show, leaving the Samsung Galaxy Gear the watch accessory to beat.
Still, there were a few items in the Apple announcement that seem to be pointing the way to something much bigger, as Wired magazine has smartly pointed out.
The first of these is the move to 64-bit processing in the new A7 chip. While the new 5S isn’t configured to fully take advantage of everything 64-bit can offer (it would need to bump up the memory past 4 GB for that), it does show the company positioning its mobile lineup for the next big leap.
Even if the iPhone 5S isn’t quite the phone to make best use of 64-bit, it looks forward to a time when a mobile device actually has the processing power to double as a full-on workstation, the way notebooks have in the recent past.
Samsung has already leaped into the fray to promise that its future Android devices will have 64-bit processing too; it’ll be interesting to see if KitKat does anything to back that up, or if that’s something that will appear in Android OS 5.0.
Another interesting addition is the fingerprint scanner built into the iPhone 5S’s home button. True, it’s not the first mobile device to feature fingerprint authentication – the Android-based Motorola ATRIX 4G included biometrics over two years ago.
But where the ATRIX 4G’s fingerprint reader was awkwardly placed on the rear of the phone, the front-facing reader on the 5S will allow it to be used quickly and easily. And with fingerprint authentication being bundled right into the new version of iOS for use as authentication for purchases in the iTunes store, it seems to have more far-reaching implications.
Time will tell how reliable the reader is in practice, of course.
Will KitKat also add features to more properly play in this space? I guess we’ll know in a few weeks.
The biggest question, though, is just how many devices will be able to make use of KitKat when it hits the streets. This is a bigger worry in the wake of Jelly Bean 4.3, which seems to have had little device pickup beyond Google’s own Nexus devices and a small handful from other manufacturers.
Contrast that to Apple’s iOS 7, which will be available for all Apple phones from the iPhone 4 forward, starting September 18, and it looks a bit underwhelming.
As always, stay tuned.