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What Google Has in Store for Android 4.4

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As we near the official announcement, leaks and screenshots reveal what we can expect in Android 4.4.

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The rumored release dates came and went, but judging from a flurry of leaks and pre-release app updates, the wait for Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) official announcement to Android 4.4 may soon be over. But while Oct. 31 does seem like the most natural date to announce an OS named after a staple Halloween candy it's still up in the air whether Google will finally lift the veil on KitKat for its legion of Android fans. However, with recent leaks and screenshots purportedly taken of the new mobile OS, we already have a pretty good idea of what to expect in the upcoming release.

Google Experience Launcher

As we've started to see in the months leading up to the new OS, Google has begun to "take back Android" from the clutches of meddling manufacturers. Google apps like Gmail and the Google keyboard have been lifted from OS updates and plunked onto the Google Play Store, allowing them to be both downloaded and updated separately from the big OS updates. But with OS skins like Samsung's (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) TouchWiz and HTC's (OTCMKTS:HTCXF) Sense slapped on top of the stock operating system, Android devices from different manufacturers still have a distinctly different look and feel from one another. And all that tinkering not only irritates users who prefer the "Pure Google Experience," it leads to heavy delays for software updates that could have otherwise been immediate if the device was running an un-skinned version of Android.

Well, that all might change with the release of the Google Experience Launcher. What it aims to do, presumably, is unify all the stock and skinned Android devices into a single UI that mimics (or essentially is) stock Android. Not only that, but analysts believe the Google Experience Launcher won't necessarily need 4.4 to run and could be compatible with versions all the way back to 2.2 Froyo, granting Android users with ancient phones the ability to run a current UI. While most of the details remain speculatory, they do fall in line with the company's recent "reacquisition" of Google apps.

Low-End Device and Wearable Support

Speaking of ancient phones, you know fragmentation is bad when devices released just last year may not see an OS update. For Android users, many have seen support disappear even before the contracts with their carriers expire. Of course, the lion's share of the blame lies with the skin-happy manufacturers and the bloatware-touting carriers -- all of whom hope users tire of waiting for an update and simply upgrade their phones. But some of this is due to how older devices simply don't have the muscle to run newer OS platforms.

However, recent rumors have claimed Android 4.4 will support low-end devices and be able to run smoothly despite outdated processor speeds and limited RAM. Also, it could point to compatibility with wearable devices like, say, a watch or a Google Glass.
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