Motorola(s goog) announced a pair of KitKat upgrades this week, making it the handset maker to deliver Android 4.4 the soonest. First the new Verizon(vz)(vod) line of phones — the Droid Ultra, Maxx and Mini — received the new software and as the week ended the Moto G followed suit. Motorola promised KitKat to the latter phone in early 2014. So what’s going on?
A welcome change in the Android world is what’s going on.
Motorola is doing something with the platform that has been desired for a long time. The company is keeping the user experience and interface fairly standard, like the Nexus line of phones, but engineering ways to add useful new features. This helps the handsets stand out from the crowd, keeps them simple to use and perhaps most importantly, makes it easier and faster to build software updates.
I called this approach a “Nexus for the masses” because of its similarities to the Nexus device line Google maintains. While these are typically great devices, many consumers don’t know about them or won’t buy a phone from Google Play since they want to actually hold the device before buying it.
Of course, the Motorola handsets aren’t “pure” Android, nor are they true Nexus devices. But they follow the concept closer than any others. And if you want a phone that will get Android software updates before most others, save for a Nexus or Google Play Edition device, Motorola should be your first look.
Motorola doesn’t make a tablet these days, so you’ll have to consider another hardware partner for your tablets needs. Could the $35 tablet for India be worth the look? The Aakash tablet line isn’t likely going to be your choice if you’re reading this site but for many who have no access to technology, it opens up a door.
For $38 the U.S version of the UbiSlate offers a very basic mobile web and app experience. The hardware is akin to a 2010 tablet although it does run Android 4.0.3. So it’s not something that most Gigaom readers would even look at. It’s aimed, however, at providing a first mobile experience for consumers that might not be able to afford one otherwise.
Those that can afford the latest and greatest technology surely consider Samsung’s Galaxy line. And this week the company debuted a new accessory that works not just with Samsung products but with any phone running Android 4.1 or better. The new Samsung Gamepad adds hardware controls for gaming: an 8-way directional pad, two analog sticks, four Action buttons and a pair of triggers. It’s currently available in select European markets with additional availability planned in 2014.