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Android 4.4 KitKat “Project Svelte” could end Android fragmentation

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Google Nexus 5
The Google Nexus 5 runs Android 4.4 KitKat out the box

The Android 4.4 KitKat “Project Svelte” could be Google’s first step towards fixing Android OS fragmentation.

Project Svelte allows Android 4.4 KitKat to run on older hardware that is usually associated with entry-level smartphones, and could be the way forward so that all Android devices are on the same OS page.

During an interview with ReadWrite, Google’s Head of Engineering Dave Burke revealed that Project Svelte was achieved using a specially created Google Nexus 4 with only two processors, 512MB of RAM and a qHD resolution display.

ANALYSIS: Android 4.4 KitKat’s Project Svelte: what it is and why you should care

This special Nexus 4 was used to get Android KitKat to work with entry-level specs and actualy get it working properly.

“The goal of Project Svelte was basically to reduce the memory footprint to fit into 512MB. The way we did it, by the way – which we didn’t talk about – was to take a Nexus 4 and adapt it to run at 512MB”, explained Burke.

“We adapted the resolution to qHD that is 960 x 540p because that is kind of the sweet spot for entry level smartphones. We reduced it from four CPUs to two CPUs. We reduced the clock frequency and whatnot. And literally a bunch of us just used that as our default phone. It was painful, and it was broken to start with.”

After the construction of the KitKat Nexus 4 test device, Google had four key objectives that it wished to achieve with Project Svelte.

  • Reduce the footprint of the system.
  • Reduce the footprint (memory usage) of the apps that run on a Google Experience (Nexus) device.
  • Fix how apps react and crash during bad memory situations.
  • Provide better measurement and instrumentation of how apps are running in Android so developers can see how memory-conscious their apps are.

Burke said the first two were achieved with the Project Svelte Nexus 4 as memory usage reduction was achieved by stripping Google apps from the OS in order to make them behave like standalone apps.

The company then used ProcStats, a RAM usage score, to keep tabs on app memory usage and then monitoring that from within the apps.

Android KitKat basically got the best parts from both Project Butter and Project Svelte, two project overseen by Burke himself.

“We were kind of joking that, when I started, the first thing that I was working on was Project Butter to make the system smoother. The thing is, butter puts on weight. So then I did Project Svelte to lose weight. So now my contribution to Android is basically zero. “

Google is still working with third party manufacturers to updating older devices to Android 4.4 KitKat.

Read more: Google Nexus 5 review


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