Project Svelte: Android 4.4 KitKat works on entry-level thanks to modded Nexus 4

Chris Burns - Nov 27, 2013, 1:08pm CST
Project Svelte: Android 4.4 KitKat works on entry-level thanks to modded Nexus 4

In the creation of the newest version of Google’s mobile operating system Android 4.4 KitKat, the developers responsible for testing it did so on modified Nexus 4 devices. One key element in the creation of the full feature set of Android 4.4 KitKat was “Project Svelte”, a name for a goal that was to bring the software to any device running a mere 512MB of RAM. To create a system that worked this way, Android developers didn’t go out and grab a 512MB smartphone, they crippled their Nexus 4 devices to do the work instead.

According to a chat with ReadWriteWeb, Dave Burke, the head of engineering for Android at Google and the rest of the Android developers on the project simply knocked out some of the higher-end abilities of the Nexus 4. They made with the cut-downs to turn this device into an entry-level smartphone by all internal appearances. Have a peek at the original configuration of the device in one of our Nexus 4 reviews to get an idea of how odd this new change would be for a common user.

Instead of 720p, this Nexus 4 worked at 960 x 540 – a rather standard qHD resolution for a massive amount of new entry-level phones. They kicked out two of the CPU cores from the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, then knocked down the max clock frequency for the device.

The four goals for Project Svelte were, according to Burke:

– 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.

For new budget-minded or low-powered smartphones around the world, this iteration of Android will work much, much better than previous iterations of the mobile operating system. Google has pushed the boundaries of this new system by adding new features at the same time as they’ve cut down on the requirements for it to run, and run smoothly.


Google’s Android team has also made certain that the memory profile specifically will show minimal difference in the switch from Jelly Bean to KitKat for all devices. Have a peek at a brief rundown of the devices that have recently or will soon see this software upgrade in the timeline below!

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