Google’s next major update to Android – version 4.4 or ‘KitKat’ to go by its sweet-themed name – will include major new features such as native printing, wireless NFC payments and wireless display output.
Earlier today we got some hands on time with Android 4.4, which is not available yet but is expected to be revealed alongside the Nexus 5 later this month. Whilst the OS overall looks very much like the current Jelly Bean software, we’ve picked out a number of intriguing additions from the Settings app.
A new subsection for ‘Payments’ now sits at the bottom of the Device category, though upon opening it we found the next page to be bare. The symbol next to Payments suggests the involvement of wireless payment systems, which will be aided by NFC (Near Field Communications).
Almost at the bottom of the Settings app is another new addition; Printing. This category again revealed little, only the message ‘No services installed’. This is another new addition to Android and one which we’re hoping will make wireless printing from our smart devices much easier. Currently many printer manufacturers offer a free app to download to phones and tablets from the Play Store but most offer limited file and app compatibility with photo and simple document printing the norm. Fingers crossed this option will allow Android users to print from anywhere when using a phone or tablet running 4.4.
Finally, hidden within the Display subsection of the Settings App, nestled right at the bottom is an option for Wireless display. This feature is already on the new Nexus 7 and some other Android 4.2 devices and looks set to become a major addition and Google’s answer to Apple’s AirPlay. Although our play with the software didn’t reveal any of the finer details, this feature will be based on the MiraCast technology which has already been adopted by the likes of LG, Sony and others. Miracast is being built into some TVs already but can also be added to most HDTVs using a dongle such as Netgear’s Push2TV device, allowing you to stream video, pictures and other content from an Android phone or tablet to the big screen.
This feature is pretty straightforward, offering the user a simple on/off switch and a button to scan for compatible devices. Once a compatible Miracast TV or dongle appears on screen you can tap it and then sit back and wait for your Android’s screen to be mirrored onto a TV or big screen.
We’re itching to try out these new features but as our brief play was with what is almost certainly an unfinished version of Android 4.4, we’ll have to wait until much closer to Google’s launch event to have a proper go. Going by Google’s history, an October event will uncover Android 4.4 fully for the first time.