Flashback: Android 4.4 KitKat optimized the OS for telephones with simply 512MB of RAM


Bear in mind when Google used to call Android releases after deserts? It could even put statues of mentioned deserts in entrance of its workplace – issues have been enjoyable again then and extra importantly, each new launch carried main enhancements.

Some have been main milestones, the likes of Android 2.3 Gingerbread, the model that was so good that it refused to die. Android 4.4 KitKat launched intensive upgrades as effectively, that are surprisingly related to this present day, eight years after its 2013 launch.

First, the title – this was the primary launch to be named after a branded snack, all of the others are generic deserts. This one was going to observe swimsuit with the “Key Lime Pie” title, however final minute take care of Nestle gave us the title we all know immediately. Regardless of this setback, pies will ultimately be acknowledged for his or her significance on the desk with the v9.0 launch.

Flashback: Android 4.4 KitKat made the OS faster and optimized it for phones with just 512MB of RAM

KitKat got here after three releases of Jelly Bean, a model that targeted on delivering a buttery-smooth UI. Except for a number of UI tweaks of its personal, KitKat’s focus was on bettering efficiency on gadgets with restricted sources.

That was the aim of Undertaking Svelte, which aimed to run Android on as little as 340 MB of RAM, although 512MB was extra life like. Wanting again at some statistics, the common telephone in 2013 had 1GB of RAM with 3GB being probably the most that you could possibly purchase. This implies there have been fairly a number of gadgets with sub-1 GB of RAM again then and there are such gadgets even immediately (okay, they’re smartwatches, however the level stands).

Flashback: Android 4.4 KitKat made the OS faster and optimized for phones with just 512MB of RAM

Google builders created many instruments to shrink RAM utilization by the OS and apps. One such device was zRAM, a compressed phase of RAM the place unused knowledge might be saved briefly to unencumber room. That is totally different from the digital RAM function you see on present telephones, that one leverages the quick inner storage to maneuver knowledge out of RAM. In fact, again in 2013 comparatively gradual eMMC was the norm, particularly on low-end gadgets, so such a scheme wouldn’t have labored in addition to zRAM.

Flashback: Android 4.4 KitKat made the OS faster and optimized it for phones with just 512MB of RAM

One other main change was the preparation to interchange Dalvik VM with the Android Runtime (ART). The Dalvik digital machine was essential for early Android because it allowed software program to be hardware-agnostic – ARM, x86 and even the uncommon MIPS CPUs have been supported. Android 2.2 Froyo launched Simply-in-Time (JIT) compilation to hurry up utility efficiency, however after a number of years Dalvik was beginning to present its age.

ART makes use of Forward-of-Time compilation, mainly compiling the app to the telephone CPU’s machine code as a part of the app set up course of. KitKat nonetheless used Dalvik by default, it wouldn’t be till Lollipop that Android accomplished the change over to ART. However ART continues to be used immediately and v4.4 laid the groundwork for that.

We could have undersold how a lot KitKat modified Android’s UI as one minor change had a serious impression – v4.4 allowed customers to decide on a default launcher within the Settings display screen. This was doable in earlier variations, however it was tedious. Now anybody may simply check out totally different launchers in the event that they weren’t pleased with what the producer pores and skin needed to provide.

A number of extra UI tweaks included adopting a translucent search for sure UI elements just like the standing bar and navigation bar. Immersive mode allowed apps to run in full display screen, hiding these two bars utterly, together with different OS interface components. A brand new transitions framework allowed builders to create cool, {smooth} animations for his or her apps.

KitKat made the status and navigation bars translucent
KitKat made the standing and navigation bars translucent • The Immersive full display screen mode

KitKat added native help for the IR blaster, earlier than that producers have been utilizing customized options, which have been more durable for app builders to help. Additionally, the NFC performance gained help for host card emulation, permitting the telephone to behave as a sensible card, which is used for cell funds, loyalty playing cards, transit passes and so forth.

Flashback: Android 4.4 KitKat made the OS faster and optimized it for phones with just 512MB of RAM

Different new options embody wi-fi printing (over Wi-Fi or on-line companies like Google Cloud Print), the choice to certify telephones as Miracast appropriate, enhancements to connections with Bluetooth gadgets and extra.

Flashback: Android 4.4 KitKat made the OS faster and optimized it for phones with just 512MB of RAM

KitKat made telephones safer by switching SELinux (Safety-Enhanced Linux) to “implementing” mode, which prevented compromised apps from accessing elements of the system they’d no enterprise touching. v4.4 additionally modified how apps entry the reminiscence card and simplified the looking of native and cloud-stored information.

Files stored on the cloud could now be browsed as those stored locally
Recordsdata saved on the cloud may now be browsed as these saved domestically

There are various extra tiny enhancements that arrived with KitKat. For instance, it modified the way in which how sensor knowledge is tracked to scale back energy utilization. This additionally enabled the creation of the step counter function, which was constructed into the OS as a substitute of leaving it to apps to implement a power-hungry answer.

Moves and Runtastic Pedometer using the new step counter feature
Strikes and Runtastic Pedometer utilizing the brand new step counter function

KitKat’s aim was to achieve 1 million customers. A couple of 12 months after its launch, v4.4 KitKat was already working on one third of Android gadgets and it wouldn’t be till mid-2015 earlier than KitKat caught up with Jelly Bean. It by no means hit 50% adoption as Lollipop was already out by that point and gobbling up market share. In late 2015 Android was working on 1.4 billion gadgets in complete, so KitKat by no means bought to energy a billion gadgets.

Flashback: Android 4.4 KitKat made the OS faster and optimized for phones with just 512MB of RAM

However Android 4.4 KitKat’s legacy isn’t about what number of telephones it ran on in its heyday. The RAM optimizations that made the OS bearable on low-end gadgets, the efficiency and safety enhancements, plus the brand new connectivity options it launched are nonetheless related even in model 12.


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