back to article Rap for KitKat in crap app wrap trap flap: Android 4.4 is 'meant to work like that'

Google has rebuffed users and devs calling on the internet king to reinstate text wrapping, broken and replaced in Android 4.4 aka KitKat. The problem is that text displayed by web browsers using the WebView component isn't automatically laid out to fit on the screen of devices running the mobile OS, forcing users to zoom out …


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  1. OffBeatMammal

    not just webview...

    ... it looks like the changes in KitKat are messing with layout in the email client as well :(

    1. Anomalous Cowturd

      Re: not just webview...

      I can confirm that zoom / reflow are badly broken in the Email client, and also that Opera Mini and Classic both work as expected. e.g. Properly, like they always have.

      I have disabled the Android browser, and all of the other Google Play crud.

      There aren't that many reasons to upgrade as far as I can see... Perhaps slightly better battery life. Hard to say as I've only had it since Sunday.


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What is this?

      Complaining about Android?

      How dare you.

  2. MacroRodent

    They are now Windows-compatible

    Ah, Google apparently wants to be Windows Phone compatible. The mobile IE browser has always behaved like that, and yes, it sucks. Sadly, Opera is not available on WP (before getting a Lumia,I always used Opera Mini on Symbian, which performed text reflow cleverly).

    1. ThomH

      Re: They are now Windows-compatible

      [Mobile] Safari is the same, for the record. Zooms never reflow. I can't help feeling Google is throwing away a usability advantage. At worst they should, in classic Android style, make it optional.

      1. Asylum Sam

        Re: They are now Windows-compatible

        Couldn't agree more, WP7 (remember that?? ) lasted exactly as long as it took me to realise reflow didn't work before it was off my phone, and android on in its place.... about twenty minutes after install.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: They are now Windows-compatible

      Opera Mobile for Symbian also managed text reflow properly (cleverly), had a tap-to-zoom that actually worked and finally had a single-column mode too. Everything that's come after that seems to be lacking in some way, even Opera for Android, unless they've put those features back into their WebKit browser.

      Seems that the people who design the mobile browsers don't actually use them.

    3. Robert Grant Silver badge

      Re: They are now Windows-compatible

      Agreed; I had a WM6 device with beautiful Opera-based text reflow. Downhill since then for reflow!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They are now Windows-compatible

      Thanks for the heads up. Was just about to splash out on Android or some other new phone. While this is less than idea (HTML parsing or IP reporting or something) Opera is at least a solution for me should the chrome/Android browser be this useless.

  3. as2003

    Whether or not I agree with Google's design decisions, I can usually see *why* they've done something.

    I have no idea why they would do this. It seems everybody loses.

    1. John Tserkezis

      "I have no idea why they would do this."

      Zooming in like that would render the surrounding ads too large to be usefully visible.

      So it seems that not *everybody* loses, just everyone except Google and the advertisers.

      1. an it guy

        okay, there is one possible reason. Google wants the web to work the way it wants. So, mobile themes/designs for mobile users. It's perhaps a huge stick that might get the rest of the web to follow. I'm kind of surprised that reddit does not have a mobile theme (no, I've not taken the time to actually check).

        Should we follow Google's every whim? Perhaps not. But a good mobile device design is hard to get working and so that's the bit that needs fixing.

        The other thing is what John said. an excellent tap to zoom essentially renders desktop ads useless on a mobile device as you see the content and nothing else. Low click through rates means less income for the site and google.

        That said, opera mini on kitkat works just like it always has: well. When on an underpowered device I can have 18 tabs open and the phone is usable, I consider that good engineering. Oh, and many advertising companies don't bother with Opera Mobile, which seems like a missed market, given it's 12% of mobile devices...

        1. VinceH

          "The other thing is what John said. an excellent tap to zoom essentially renders desktop ads useless on a mobile device as you see the content and nothing else. Low click through rates means less income for the site and google."

          On the other hand, if they effectively make web browsing (and, judging by other comments further up, reading emails and ebooks) difficult, less people are likely to use that function of their phones - which is therefore unlikely to increase click through rates; people won't be clicking on adverts they still won't be seeing. ISTM that Google are throwing the baby out with the bathwater, here.

      2. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

        The right tool for the job

        Hmm. I looked up WebView and the Basic Usage section of that documentation says:

        "By default, a WebView provides no browser-like widgets, does not enable JavaScript and web page errors are ignored. If your goal is only to display some HTML as a part of your UI, this is probably fine; the user won't need to interact with the web page beyond reading it, and the web page won't need to interact with the user. If you actually want a full-blown web browser, then you probably want to invoke the Browser application with a URL Intent rather than show it with a WebView." [emphasis added]

        Is this a case of building applications with the wrong Android components?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Because responsive design. Yes, it's breaking backwards compatibility. Yes it is a pain in the arse.

    3. Old Handle

      Perhaps they want to discourage people from viewing normal web pages, so they will buy more apps from the Google Play store instead.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Kat Krap?

    It was only a matter of time before Google screwed things up again with page rendering. Remember what they did to GMail page rendering a few years back when they "upgraded" the GMail themes.

  5. dssf


    Failure to engage and cage a high-wage page sage leads to rage....

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: *age*

      Chap in pap strap-line rap mishap while on a nap gets slap?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Title is right up there with the all time Reg classics

    I don't suppose you guys keep a scoreboard of the best titles of all time, based on some proprietary formula to determine cleverness by counting rhymes & alliterations, with bonus points for innuendo?

    The only thing keeping this out of the all time top ten was the subtitle's complete and utter matter-of-factness. Surely there was some gold awaiting with the use of words such as Android, deployed, and fanboied?

    1. nematoad Silver badge

      Re: Title is right up there with the all time Reg classics

      Nah, it's horrible.

      Whoever wrote the headline would be better off working for the Sun.

      "Swedes 2 Turnips 1."

      Now that's a headline to be proud of.

      See this as a tutorial on headline writing:

      1. AbelSoul

        Re: Title is right up there with the all time Reg classics


        First slide:

        "Super Caley Go Ballistic Celtic Are Atrocious"

        is perhaps the best football headline ever written.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    You're holding it wrong.....

    ...turn to portrait, If that doesn't work, buy a bigger phone.

    No big deal.

    1. Graham Marsden

      Re: You're holding it wrong.....

      No, you're just *reading* it wrong!

  8. CountZer0

    close to best title ever, but beaten

    Nork splash shot snapped by passing satellite.

    Orbiting pap pic shows duff commie rocket in flight

    from the archives

    Just the right balance of innuendo & technology... extra points would have been awarded for use of Jap's Island in there too, but maybe next time.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem with Opera

    The problem I've found with Opera is with sites that are updated a lot.

    Say, the mobile twitter site.

    You go to click a link, but for some reason it gets the page layout of the latest page and clicks *that* region, rather than the original link.

    Annoying, as it means you have to go back, refresh, find the link and select it again.

    1. larokus

      Re: The problem with Opera

      The latest Opera Beta.... errr sorry version 18 seems to have fixed that. Also, it is reasons like these that I have abonded the MUST UPDATE OS school of thought.

      1. bigtimehustler

        Re: The problem with Opera

        Welcome to security issues then, i shall count down the days till your phone is malware ridden by drive by browser exploits. If it isn't already.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Just install the OTAkill app and inhibit further Google world take over attempts..Kitkat offers only minor and annoying user visible changes over Jelly Bean.

    1. Irongut

      Re: OTAkill

      I guess you are resolutely sticking to your guns with Windows ME, there is no need to upgrade to XP or later because they add only minor and annoying user visible changes.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OTAkill

        Silly child. If Google produce a major new OS issue, Android 5 say, then yes, I shall certainly consider installing it. But these minor increments that merely serve to suck you further into Google's current version of computing, no...

  11. ziggyball

    Surely this is a software patent/IP issue? Else Apple/MS would have implemented it?

    Doesn't HTC hold the patent? And opera must have a similar one?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The reason.

    WebView is now Chrome based, rather than the ancient Webkit that's been there since Android 1.x

    Google also gave plenty of warning of this impending change. If developers winged it, that's their fault.

  13. TeeCee Gold badge

    Well something just had to be broken... in: "Have a break, have a KitKat."

    Yes, advertising culture is that subliminally ingrained at Google......

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Logical approach

    It's an extension of the credo "do no evil" to "we can do no wrong"?

  15. Chris King

    Have A Break...

    ...just not a line break.

  16. Paul 18

    Just star the damn issue

    1. Add star

    2. ??

    3. Profit

    Go on star it, pretty please with sugar on top. If it get's on the first page of google code issues (sorted by stars) it'll get more visibility. Cant do any harm eh? It's already on page two.

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: Just star the damn issue

      The status of the Issue is reported as closed on Jan 13th, with the comment "Working as intended".

  17. Justin Pasher

    Terminology confusion

    El Reg seems to be confused with the term "deprecated". If NARROW_COLUMNS and SINGLE_COLUMN was deprecated, it would still work properly, just no guarantee it would work in the future. According to the Android development page, the feature was completely removed, not deprecated.

    Without researching, I'm not sure if they previously deprecated these features, but if they didn't, it's a little brash for Google to remove an important feature out of the blue without any warning.

  18. Nathan Askew

    Change to WebView

    El Reg is only telling part of the story here. The reason this is happening in KitKat is because WebView now uses Chromium rather than the old Android Browser renderer. This allows for better, quicker layout but the consequence is that devs need to update a small bit of code to implement correctly.

    No big issue.

    1. Paul 18

      Re: Change to WebView

      Better layout? Really? Did you read any of the article?

      Fwiw cm are working on a revert that I guess could be applied to various source based roms

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