There are only so many times we can introduce Android with some variation of the phrase “is infinitely customizable”. We have discussed launchers like Dodol, Buzz, Smart Launcher and so many others to death already. However, these third party customizations have never been able to help alleviate that feeling of alienation. They might be excellent, but they don’t feel right; even the recently reviewed Aviate is no exception – it’s brilliant, but alien ground. Until now, that is. Google decided that its stock Android launcher should be available to download and released it to the the Play Store under the label Google Now Launcher.
The launcher is officially exclusive to Nexus and Google Play Edition devices at this time, but you can, of course, download the APK (a link to which has been provided at the end) to install it on other devices.
Google Now Launcher parallels the stock KitKat Launcher that comes with the Nexus 5. If you’ve been using the stock KitKat launcher on an older device, you will immediately notice that Google Now is now a swipe away, to the left of the home screen. You’ll also notice that the ‘Apps’ and ‘Widgets’ tabs at the top of the app drawer have been removed, making room for larger icons in the app drawer. Widgets are added like they were in pre-ICS era, by holding down over an empty space on the home screen. Below is a comparison of the old and new app drawers.
In addition to adding widgets, long-pressing any blank area of the home screen also allows you to change the wallpaper, tweak the launcher’s settings and rearrage multiple screens. At first you have a single home screen; dragging app icons or widgets to its right creates additional screens.
Editor’s Note: A step in the right direction for Google. If you own a Nexus 5 device, the app should show up as “Installed” on Google Play, which we’re guessing means that any minor UI changes to the launcher from Google won’t require a system update from now on. As with other Google apps, all you’ll have to do is update from the Play Store. Unfortunately, the app is only available for Nexus and Google Play Edition devices for now. We’ve included a APK mirror (courtesy XDA-Developers) for those of you who’d want to try it out on other devices, but remember that you won’t be getting direct updates. If you’ve never sideloaded an APK before, toggle on the “Unknown sources” option from Settings > Security, then transfer the APK to your device’s storage and open it using any file manager (like ES File Explorer).