Not Getting The Android 4.4 KitKat Update? Fear Not. You're Not Missing Much

Blogs Damien McFerran 13:34, 17 Jan 2014

With HTC confirming that the One X and One X+ are missing out on Android 4.4 KitKat, Damien offers some words of consolation

Unlike Apple, Google is often quite slow in getting its software updates onto all Android devices out in the wild. The reason for this is simple: Google allows hardware makers and networks to customise the firmware, which often results in delays – or not getting the update at all. As a result, adoption of Android 4.4 - otherwise known as KitKat - has been sluggish; Android 4.3 is still the dominant version of the OS, with KitKat present on less than 2 percent of devices. 

Compare this to the rapid update rate seen on iOS devices, and you can see why many Android users are feeling frustrated. They're having to wait months to get a sniff of the latest software, and in some cases, won't be getting it at all. Case in point: HTC has just confirmed that the One X and One X+ will be stuck on 4.3 forever. 

While this isn't the best news – especially when you consider that both of HTC's phones aren't exactly ancient – it's certainly not the end of the world. I've been using 4.4 on my Nexus 5 since it launched last year, and while it's arguably the best iteration of Google's mobile software yet, the differences between it and Jelly Bean are minimal. Granted, some tidying up has been done behind the scenes to make sure Android is faster, smoother and more efficient than it's ever been, but those looking for dramatic aesthetic changes or revolutionary new features are going to be disappointed.

"Immersive mode" makes some apps easier to use and Google Now has been given pride of place to the left of your main home screen, but most users will be genuinely hard-pressed to tell the difference between 4.3 and 4.4. The most drastic change happens in messaging, with SMS and MMS functionality now being absorbed into Google's Hangouts IM client – a move which some may see as a valid reason not to upgrade to KitKat.

There's nothing here which matches the wow factor of when we first laid eyes on Google Now, or when Apple introduced the new-look iOS 7. Google has clearly gotten to the stage where Android is so accomplished, so feature-rich, that massive, sweeping changes aren't needed – everything looks, sounds and functions well, and 4.4 is more about smoothing the edges rather than ripping up the rulebook and starting afresh. God knows the company has done that enough times in the past - just compare Android 2.0 to Android 4.4, for example.

If you've bought a phone recently that is still lumbered with 4.3, try not to get too jumpy. You'll more than likely get KitKat in 2014. And if you're one of the unlucky people whose phone is stuck on Jelly Bean forever, try not to feel too downhearted – you've still got one of the best mobile operating systems around.

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