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Android 4.4 KitKat: An only slightly better Android

Florence Ion | Nov. 8, 2013
Google tried to make the design of the Android 4.4 KitKat more consumer-friendly but there are still flaws to it.

You can also look up places of business based on a search term. It didn't work too well for me in the beginning, but after a few tries it managed to eventually bring up places related to my inquiry. The screen can get crowded with information, though, when you're just trying to call a friend or family member. When I typed in "Mom," it also brought up the numbers for the parking garages near the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art ("MOMA"). I don't like the long listing of extra numbers, but at least the information was useful.

The Caller ID function works, too, but an image will only show up if the business or person has a Google+ profile. The interface for this function also looks like it reverts back to Jelly Bean, as evidenced by its black options bar.

Beginning early next year, Google will also show you the Google+ profile for incoming calls—even those who are not in your circles—essentially turning the app into a full-fledged phone directory. It's clear that Google wants you to use its social networking service for connecting with others. Whether this will translate into more true Google+ users remains to be seen, though the company is certainly trying to convert Android users into Google+ users.

Google Now, now, now!
In KitKat, Google Now resides in its own Home screen panel, similar to the way BlinkFeed takes up a panel on the HTC One's Sense UI. To get to it, all you have to do is swipe over all the way to the left—or you can shout at your device, "Okay, Google." You'll have to wake up the screen for this to work; Google didn't just give the whole world the MotoX's best feature.

Google Now continues to be Android's strongest feature. In KitKat, you can customize it without waiting for the Cards to pop up by scrolling down to the very bottom and tapping the wand icon. You can input your favorite sports teams or stocks, set up your most frequented Places, and choose your preferences for everything else, like when other Cards should appear.

There is also a dedicated Reminders panel that lists past, present, and upcoming reminders, and you can easily add one through voice or text input.

The more tightly integrated Google Now is more than a gentle nudge to use the service for all of your searchable needs. Google is almost forcing you to gravitate toward it now that it's a part of your Home screen.

The new features in Google Now may possibly see their way over to other versions of Android in a future update, but for now these enhancements are only available on KitKat.


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