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Some KitKat features exclusive to Nexus 5

There are a couple of cool features of Android 4.4 KitKat that you won't see unless you have the Google Nexus 5 smartphone.

There are a couple of cool features of Android 4.4 KitKat that you won't see unless you have the Google Nexus 5 smartphone.

(Credit: Google)

It would make sense that Android 4.4 KitKat runs excellently on the Google Nexus 5 smartphone — after all, the Nexus phone hardware and vanilla Android software are designed to go together. But there are a few features, specifically, Google Now features, of the operating system that will not run on the base software of any other phone, which is a shame for those users because they're great.

The first of these is the ability to activate the voice control function by saying "OK, Google" from the home screen. This means that whichever of the home screens you happen to be on, you can open voice search just by saying "OK, Google" — you don't have to tap a button to activate it.

The second is that Google Now has been integrated into the home screen. It appears when you swipe to the right, immediately to the left of the default home screen, instead of swiping up. It's still tucked away but easier to find for users who may be unfamiliar with the feature.

Finally, Google has returned to the long-press-to-add-widgets configuration utility rather than adding them from the app drawer. We actually like this, it feels more intuitive, although we suspect that it won't have universal appeal.

The good news is that the Nexus 5 is providing Google with a test bed for these features, with plans to roll them out across the entirety of KitKat if they prove popular. The company told Computerworld in a statement:

The Nexus program is about pushing the next generation of user experiences across software and hardware. As part of that, we're trying something new on Nexus 5, and we'll see how users like it. Users have loved launchers from Google Play for some time now; in fact, some of the most popular launchers have been installed over 100 million times. For now, the Google Now home screen integration and "OK, Google" hot word is specific to the N5.

At the moment, the Nexus 5 is the only smartphone on the market running Android KitKat. Google has not detailed when the operating system will be arriving for other platforms, although it's expected to arrive for other Nexus devices soon.