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Android’s Biggest Changes Aren’t Part of KitKat

My HTC One isn’t running Android 4.4 KitKat, but it feels pretty close. I just downloaded several apps that come standard with Google‘s Nexus 5. The apps were graciously posted by Droid Life, and when combined with a new “Google Home” launcher, the experience is a lota stock Android phone. I didn’t even have to root the phone or void my warranty. For now, this is somewhat of a hack, a way for enthusiasts to use Android as Google intended, even on non-Nexus devices. But it’s no accident that some of the biggest new features in Android 4.4 don’t require you to have Android 4.4 at all. In the future, it’s likely that Google will let users switch to the Nexus experience to practically any Android phone, with no rooting or sketchy third-party download sites required. Ron Amadeo of Ars Technica wrote a great story last month about how Google is taking back control of Android at the expense of the software’s open source roots. Slowly, Google is ceasing development on the open source versions of key apps, such as the software keyboard and the web browser, while building up proprietary apps such as Google Keyboard and Chrome.these apps are then licensed to phone makers as a package deal. If you’re Samsung, you can’t include Google’s app store without also including Google’s search app and web browser. This is how Google ensures that its services are available onmajor Android phones. The problem for Google is that it’s still easy for phone makers to circumvent those services. Samsung, for instance, has simply created its own versions of most Android core functions and hidden the Google stuff away by default.
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