Android KitKat May Have "Always Listen" Support

Slashgear reports that a recent leaked build of Android 4.4 "KatKat" references to homepage-based "OK Google Now" abilities, meaning the platform will support phones that can "listen" for commands without draining the life of the battery. Currently, the ability to speak commands is limited to the speaker button on the Google Search widget and within the Google Search app itself.

The news is based on a leak of an Italian build of the LG-made Nexus 5 running Android 4.4, which was capable of responding to "OK Google" or "OK Google Now" from the homescreen. This device is supposedly shipping with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 chip featuring the company's Snapdragon Voice Activation tech.

The report also points to Motorola's Moto X phone that uses the Motorola X8 compute system for voice activation even when the phone screen is off. There's a unique CPU core dedicated specifically to low-power listening, thus the phone's battery isn't eaten alive as the device sits and listens for the next user command.

That said, this "listening" ability will likely be introduced on the Nexus 5, and a feature not every Android phone will support. That is, of course, if Google hasn't teamed up with device makers to optimize this app in such a way that the battery drain is minimal. This "listening" feature may also be an Android 4.4 feature exclusive anyway, excluding many devices.

AndroidPolice also reports that Google is actually releasing a new "Google Experience" launcher within Android 4.4, and possibly as a free, standalone app on Google Play for those who want to ditch the manufacturer's custom interface. The brand itself will also include other components -- like the Google Keyboard for instance -- that users can install to make their device more Google-like.

The report clarifies that Google Search/Now is integrated deep within Google Experience, and has a permanent home on the very left home screen. This screen features a one-touch button to set a reminder, and the Search's voice input prompt is now somewhat transparent on the bottom and floats instead of occupying the whole screen.

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  • JD88
    11726850 said:
    Hopefully this is a feature and not an NSA mandate spun by the PR people at Google.

    I actually hope it is an NSA mandate. Could you imagine the number of farts they would hear from people with these in their back pocket?

    Isn't the NSA big brother thing overplayed yet? Everyone cool stopped talking about it ages ago when they realized that there was nothing in their lives for the government to give two brown nuggets about.
  • Onus
    I don't want to sound like a paranoid conspiracy theorist, but given the Constitutional violations of the current US Government, this looks like potentially one more feature they could and would get their hands on and abuse.
  • usbgtx550
    Not to sure if I'm a fan of this "always listening" feature.
  • stm69
    OLLLLLLDDDDDDD..... NSA already has this feature for years! :)
  • joytech22
    I seriously doubt the "Always Listen" feature would be for monitoring..
    Imagine the amount of data required. A whole day might rack up 50-100MB just for monitoring your chatter. Why would Google intentionally do that to your data plan?

    Always-listening would probably use Android's Offline voice recognition.
  • monsta
    I just wish they would hurry up and release Kitkat 4.4
  • stevejnb
    11727087 said:
    Not to sure if I'm a fan of this "always listening" feature.

    Reading the article, it made it sound like it was a specific piece of hardware that is aimed at very specific signals with a low power overhead, rather than a catchall "record everything and send it to the evil government" type setup. If it remains this, I see it as nothing but good... Seriously, if you can at any time say "Call Eye P. Freely" and it calls that person from your contact list without clicking buttons, or "ignore call" and all that jazz, I don't consider that a terrible thing.
  • mrmez
    And people are paranoid about Apple's finger print scanner...
  • JD88
    My father has the Moto X. I talked him into upgrading from the iPhone 4s to that instead of a 5s.

    Both he and I were worried at first that it might be hard for him to use the phone to its full potential as he isn't very technically inclined (almost 70). He uses his phone for only basic apps, web browsing, and maps. We were both blown away by the phone. He didn't like the Galaxy S4 or HTC one because he said they were too big. He said the Moto X felt as small as the iPhone 5 because of how well designed it was, yet still had a big screen. He tells me he uses the voice commands all the time and that they work about 9 times out of 10. He says he uses it to program navigation, dial phone calls, send text messages, and to search things in Google. He doesn't like to type a lot on phone keyboards and says this has made it to where he barely has to at all.

    In short, Google has done something pretty amazing here. Unlike gimmicks from Samsung or Apple, this is software and hardware that normal people will actually use in their everyday life.


    I also wanted to note how much he does NOT miss his iPhone. Part of this was probably because the home button was going out on it for the second time. He has had every one since the second gen and was worried about the change in software from what he is used to. He had no trouble adapting to Android right away and says it's just as stable and smooth has his iPhones were, if not better. He said he loves the ability to put widgets like email and weather on the home screen where they are easy to get to.

  • teh_chem
    I find voice command/interface with 4.1+/Google Now to be convenient for a few things--setting a reminder, instructing navigation, a brief google search, etc. But not nearly enough to have an always-listen mode running all the time. I'm okay interacting with my phone to turn on a voice command feature, it doesn't need to be running all the time waiting for me to say "OK Google."