With the introduction of the Nexus 5, Google adopted a new launcher. This launcher was quickly adapted to be unofficially installed and used across other devices but in March 2014, Google released their Google Now Launcher for various Nexus and Google Play Edition devices. And just recently, Google has updated the application, which allows it to run on any Android device running 4.1 Jelly Bean or higher.
There are dozens of launchers available for Android and most offer more customization compared with the Google Play Launcher. Nevertheless, it’s one of my favorite launchers. This article is to explain why that’s the case.
Essentially, the Google Now Launcher is designed to give quick and simple access to Google Now. Google Now is Google’s mind reading clever service that anticipates what you need from your smart device(s) and provides it before you need to ask for it. Say, that reminds me Editor; should we review Google Now? It also gives you voice access to the Google search without touching the screen, although this is only available in some regions (and sadly not mine, yet).
There are a few cosmetic differences between the launcher from Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and the launcher from Google 4.4 Kit Kat. Firstly, the newer launcher drops the white lines that separates the shortcut icons and Google Search buttons from the main homescreen. There’s a bigger difference in the app tray, whereby the 4.0 launcher includes widgets in another tab and the 4.4 launcher hides these. On the newer launcher, to add a widget to your home page you must long hold down on a blank area just as you used to in even older versions of Android. I’m glad Google bought that back, I find it much easier to work with than having to navigate into another tab in my application tray.
To launch Google Now from the Google Now Launcher, slide from the left to the right. You also have the Google Search icon located at the top of the screen (on some devices it will occupy the top left corner). You also have a Microphone icon for quick access to the voice command function but on most devices, you can simply say, “Okay Google” to activate this function.
It’s not quite Star Trek but it’s not a million miles away.
The Google Now Launcher has some other handy features, including making the icons larger, which makes the device easier to use and less cluttered. On my 2013 Nexus 7 the app tray in landscape mode moves from seven across and four down, to six by four. It makes a difference.
As a launcher, you can put icons into folders and unlike the original stock launcher, it comes with just one screen and the ability to add more, rather than five. This is important to me: I do not use many widgets and I don’t like having lots of homescreens.
I think it’s important to highlight that the Google Now Launcher is not for you if you want advanced features and the ability to customize every aspect of the launcher. The only feature that I truly miss is the ability to hide icons that I don’t need showing. I can disable applications and this hides them, but sometimes I need an application on the device but don’t need to see the icon. Nevertheless, the simplicity and elegance of the Google Now launcher means that it is still one of my favourite launchers.