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Android 4.4: The design changes at a glance

Android 4.4: The design changes at a glance

Android 4.4 KitKat brings a refreshed design scheme to the platform in addition to new features. Although the changes are not as big as the jump from Android 2.x to 4.x, the Android team has optimized and improved the mobile system in many places. Today we'll show you the most important changes and innovations.

nexus 5 android 4 4 design teaser
© Google

White replaces blue

With Android 4.4, Google uses white instead of blue as an accent color, which you can see immediately with the icons in the status bar on the home screen. The swipe gesture trail on the Android keyboard and many more items have also changed color. Google undertook this step in order for the eye to be directed away from the operating system and toward the actual content. How blue forces the eye towards the OS more than white I'm not sure.

android 4 4 farben
Less is more: white replaces blue as the system accent color. / © Google

New gestures

Smartphones with large screens make one-handed operation more difficult. In order to counteract this, Google has introduced two new thumb gestures: a double tap will now increase the visible range automatically (like in Google Chrome) and a double tap with subsequent swipe up or down will increase/decrease the current image area gradually (as we shared recently in Google Maps).

Your branding

Another innovation is app design in KitKat. Developers now have the opportunity to add their own variations to set system colors and icons in the basic Android design framework in order to make the identity of their brand stand out to better advantage. However, developers are still encouraged to continue to respect the core design guidelines. Already well-known elements, such as the icon for content sharing, should not be completely replaced by a different icon, but instead can be colored to better match the app brand.

your branding google wallet music
Google Wallet and Play Music: two examples of color-coded app branding. / © Google

Full screen apps

Android 4.4 offers two new full screen modes that offer an unobstructed view of your content: in the "lean back" mode, all system bars are completely hidden but can be displayed quickly by a finger tap on the screen. This is ideal for video playback as the mode will assume that less interaction with the screen is required.

The "immersive" mode also hides all system bars, however is more appropriate for further interactive full screen activities where you will already by tapping the screen anyways, like in gaming for example. Instead of a simple finger tap, a wiping gesture from the top or bottom will bring up the respective status or navigation bar. This is useful for multimedia viewing like photo galleries or presentations as well as books and games.

Transparent system bars

The transparent status bar and navigation bar are not necessarily confined to the home screen either. Apps can also be adapted to feature a background that floats behind the system bars, increasing your visual screen space. The system bar and action bar can also be merged into one unit to give a better view of other content, as you can see in the shots below.

durchsichtige systemleisten
Transparent system bars and the combined status bar/action bar (left). / © Google

Larger launcher icons

The Nexus 5, with its Full HD 4.95-inch display, is a XXHDPI device. This means that it has a very high pixel density: 445 pixels per inch, to be exact. So icons on the home screen do not look too small, with Android 4.4 KitKat, Google has adjusted the size of the icons so that they are displayed 25 percent larger. Developers should therefore adapt their apps to the new launcher icon effect and offer launcher icons with a size of 192 pixels (XXXHDPI), as they should be designed according to the next highest dpi bucket.

Screen Video Recording

For the first time with Android 4.4, Google allows you to capture video of your screen and thus delivers a corresponding "Screen Recording Utility". This is accessed via an ADB command in a Terminal Emulator. Whether Google will offer the option of recording video via an app or a shortcut cannot be confirmed at this time, but it seems likely a simple hack will appear before long if Google doesn't include it as stock.

If you're keen for the developer side of the story, here's the Android Developer video (it's a long one) about all the new features in kitKat.

Link to Video

Our Nexus 5 has just arrived, so we'll play around and report back asap.

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  • Hi guys, first of all @Akshay - I'd be very surprised to see KitKat on the S2, unless there's a new model of extended update distribution that comes with the new OS version's focus on fixing fragmentation etc. The simple fact is, there's so many newer Samsung devices that would get the update treatment first that they would never bother going back that far. After all, it takes Samsung forever to even do updates for the current flagships, and the S2 is a fair way down the list. But as @The Meltz says, there's definitely going to be 4.4 options for you, just not via Samsung, and they will come a lot sooner than anything from Sammy.

    @Eddie, guaranteed. I would expect the Note 3 to be the first, then S4 followed by S4 variants like Active/Zoom/Mini etc, then Note 2/S3/S3 mini and so on. Plus all the tablets. I expect the work would have already started, but Samsung would undoubtedly still be a bit busy with all the 4.3 update work they have on their plate. Patience, my friend, but you will be amongst the first to get it for sure.

  • Will the note 3 be one of the first devices to get it? x

  • Will my Samsung Galaxy S2 get Kitkat 4.4 update???
    Please reply asap. I'm eager for that update!!!

    • @Akshay: Relax!!! Lol.
      "Reply asap????" Lmao.
      It won't even be released for the S4 until next year!!!
      Trust me, the speed at which they reply to your question, is NOT gonna make a difference on the speed at which you get it!!!!
      Just relax a little. Lol.

      But just an FYI, if it's released for the S4 and S3, and not released for the S2, chances are you'll still be able to find it somewhere, and still download it manually.

  • Is 4.4 going to work on SAMSUNG GALAXY S3?

    • Hey @Reynaldo, KitKat will definitely work on the S3, it's just a question of whether Samsung releases the update for the S3. The S4 variants will get it and of course the Note 3, then it'd be S3 variants and Note 2 next on the list, but so far we don't know if or when the S3 will be scheduled for 4.4 KitKat. In any case, if you are comfortable flashing custom ROMs and Samsung doesn't do it quick enough for you, you can always put it on your S3 yourself.

  • I love this web

  •   4
    Deactivated Account Nov 6, 2013 Link to comment

    I have the Samsung Galaxy S4 19505 ..can Kitkat be loaded onto this ....I'm a novice

    • Hey @Alec, it sure can. Samsung aren't the greatest at rolling out updates quickly, but the S4 is definitely at the front of the line for when they do. Keep an eye on AndroidPIT for the scheduled rollout, and of course the leaked firmware which will appear before Samsung gets organized properly. It might be a while, because 4.3 is still rolling out to S4's as we speak, so it will undoubtedly be next year until the S4 sees KitKat.

  • After playing with KitKat on the Nexus 5 last night I have to say I like the 4.4 changes. Some of the more technical changes, like cloud printing and Tap to pay, I haven't used extensively yet but the visual changes are pretty impressive.

  • Nice!!!
    Android 4.4 kitkat now may be available on TV like digital products as i see a news about it

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