What's new in the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy S4 Android 4.4.2 KitKat update?

Samsung released the Android 4.4.2 KitKat update for the Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy S4 unlocked handsets and we've been playing with it constantly since.

By previous Samsung standards this is a pretty rapid turn around for an Android update so we've delved deep, into the Note 3 version at least, to find what's new and to spot any problems. So far we've noticed it's quicker and, it's too early to say for sure, but battery life seems to have improved.

Instant camera access

From awakening the device users are now met with a camera icon in the bottom right hand corner. Swiping from its centre to anywhere on the screen will unlock and immediately fire up the camera. This is an old idea but great to see it as we've missed the tap and twist unlock that quick opened the camera on the Galaxy S3.

Home launcher settings

Users who like to go off the beaten path with their own launchers can now set them as default from the settings menu.

In the "Default applications" settings any installed launchers will appear and can easily be selected as the default launcher of choice for the home screen.

Transparent notification bar

Behold! The background goes on right to the top of the screen now as the notification bar has been made transparent. Short notification text is still displayed, just on the backdrop of whatever background you choose - so don't go too light or the white text won't be much use.

It's not just the text that's white now, the whole notification bar has been bled of colour. The battery is now white as are the upload and download arrows in the data section. It certainly looks cleaner than before and the colour isn't missed, so far.

The font has also been changed in the pull-down menu. Now with thinner lettering the definition from the high quality screen makes it look really attractive.

SMS app choice

The new "Default applications" option allows users to choose the default app for dealing with messages. It's automatically set to SMS but there is an option to use Hangouts for those Google fans.

When you actually open Messages, after making the change to Hangouts, Samsung steps in asking if you want to set Messages as the default app, again. A simple cancel gets rid of this. But you can no longer send a text from within your messages window anyway. You'll need to use the Hangouts icon or tap the message icon from a person's contact.

Hangouts works like iMessage in that it will text if the contact is offline but offer to send over data if they're signed into Google. But it appears to leave you signed in which could cost on battery life in the long run.

Cloud printing support comes built-in

One of the Android 4.4.2 KitKat updates that should arrive on all devices is cloud printing support. Options for this are found in the settings section. This has potential as it means apps can build printing options right in - with even more exciting prospects for 3D printing, should it support that one day.

Other extras

In the NFC settings section there is now a "Tap and pay" option. Though there are no payment apps installed as the UK is limited in that department. But US users can probably take advantage of Google Wallet here.

GPS in the settings has been replaced with "Location" which now has information on "Recent location requests" like from Google Play or Google Search. Location reporting can be tunred on and off separately to GPS. There's also "My places" that allows users to save a Home, Office and Car as standard with the option to add more if needs be. Users can also select from a list of which apps are allowed to tag a location when used, like Camera and S Note.

Now that Android offers support for IR blasters more apps can start to take advantage of that. Meaning users aren't forced to only use the Samsung remote control app.

Conclusions

The Android 4.4.2 KitKat update is an incremental one indeed. It looks a bit nicer and has wider support to create potentially useful future apps.

On the whole most users won't notice a huge difference but we love the quick camera access. We can't confirm it from our minimal use so far but battery life appears to be improved also. What have your experiences been?

READ: Hands-on: Samsung Galaxy S5 review