Google’s latest iteration of its mobile operating system, Android 4.4 KitKat, saw the company shedding some pounds off the world’s most-used mobile operating system and allow it to run better on slower hardware. Google claims Android 4.4 will run on as little as 512MB of RAM – a quarter of the RAM contained in most flagship smartphones today.
In an interview with Dave Burke, Google’s head of engineering for Android, ReadWrite was told of how Google focused on optimizing memory usage for Android. This became known internally as Project Svelte, which came after the Android team released Android 4.1, where the primary goal was Project Butter – achieving a consistent 60fps frame rate for animations.
The LG Nexus 5, the first Android device to run on Android 4.4 KitKat
Project Svelte was crucial for Google, because allowing the latest version of Android to run on slower – and more importantly older – hardware will go some way to reducing the notorious fragmentation issue that has plagued Android for some time now. To test Project Svelte, Google’s engineers all used throttled down Nexus 4 smartphones, which had a reduced resolution of 960 x 540, and only using two of the four CPU cores at a reduced clock speed, ensuring that the engineers experienced how the operating system would feel like to a user running on an entry-level device.
The result was seen in Android 4.4, which has several features that happen behind the scenes to optimize the system, such as the decoupling of Google Apps from the OS to reduce the platform’s footprint, and the automatic killing of apps which hog too much memory for too long.