(MoneyWatch) Apple might have recently unveiled its new iOS7 for iPhone and iPad devices, but Google hasn't been sitting idly by. Indeed, Google has been lapping both Apple and Microsoft with the frequency of its mobile OS updates, and the latest -- KitKat -- is now available for the Nexus 5 with other devices soon to follow in coming weeks.
KitKit, also known as Android 4.4, is coming to number of handsets. But Android suffers from fragmentation problems, and you won't be able to upgrade just any handset. Most Nexus handsets can get KitKat (excepting the Galaxy Nexus), as well as flagship carrier models like the HTC One, Galaxy S4, and Moto X.
What's under the hood? Here's a rundown of what to expect:
Hands-free voice recognition. The Moto X currently lets you invoke Google Now's Siri-like voice commands at any time. KitKat expands some of that convenience, albeit with limitations. You can only invoke Google Now by voice when the phone is on or the home screen or already running Google Now, and the phone must be awake for this to work. It also appears that currently, this is only available on the Nexus 5 -- but don't expect it to be limited to just one handset for long.
Smarter Dialer. An overhauled Dialer makes making and receiving calls on KitKat far more usable. A smarter caller ID uses Google search data to tell you who's calling when you get a ping from a business (or a Google+ contact, if you have any of those), and you can easily search for numbers as well. The Dialer also makes it easier to see your contacts for making calls as well.
Improved visuals. Let's face it: Android feels engineered, not designed. You should get some relief from the techy, industrial aesthetic in KitKat, since Google has started to address the user experience with a streamlined, flatter interface and some nice visuals, like the translucent navigation bar. Don't peer too deep, though, since the makeover is incomplete -- the Settings panel is still a frightening jumble, for example.
Native print support. Need to print from your phone? Google has baked Google Cloud Print into KitKat, so you can connect to nearby printers on your Wi-Fi network.
Performance improvements for older handsets. If you already own a high end handset, you might now notice much of an improvement, but low-end and older handsets are specifically targeted in Google's performance improvements for KitKat. Android 4.4 less memory and performs more efficiently, which should make your less advanced handset feel more responsive.