Shortly after Android 4.4 hit Nexus devices, a new beta of the popular Nova Launcher home screen added UI elements borrowed from the Google Experience Launcher. Now that version has hit the Play Store with some refinements and additional features. While the Google Now integration isn't possible with a third-party launcher, this is about as close as you'll get to the Kitkat look without going stock.

2013-12-10 21.19.43 Screenshot_2013-12-10-14-48-51 Screenshot_2013-12-10-14-48-41

You'd have to look twice to tell Nova from the stock Google Experience Launcher – the icons, fonts, and colors are all reproduced here, but with the fully customized Nova settings underneath. Here's the full changelog:

  • KitKat scroll indicator (Desktop - Scroll Indicator)
  • KitKat folders styles (Folders - Folder Background, Light Background)
  • KitKat font (Look and Feel - Icon Font - Condensed, Android 4.1+)
  • KitKat app drawer icon
  • Google KitKat icon theme (Look and Feel - Icon Theme)
  • Small autohiding tabs in app drawer (Drawer - Small Tabs)
  • Transparent system bars on KitKat (Look and feel - Transparent Notification Bar. Requires KitKat)
  • Backup/Restore from external sdcard

Most of this was in the beta, but now it's in regular Google Play channel and should be more stable. You can check out Nova Launcher for free, the pick up the Prime key if you like what you see.

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • Bluewall

    Does anyone know actually why it's only KitKat themed ?
    I know, GEL is not open source, but the launcher was updated in AOSP on 4.4 too !
    So, why is it still 4.3 based ?

    • ReturnOfTheMack

      Pretty sure this is 4.4 based. That's usualy how Kevin makes ui changes.

      • Bluewall

        And it seems it's still only just a KitKat theme, or am I saying something wrong here ?

        • blahmoomoo

          I'm not sure what you're saying, honestly, but with this update you can get Nova Launcher to look like GEL. If you don't like GEL, you can keep the same look and feel that it already had (based on the JB launcher), or do a mix. In fact, right now I have it looking like GEL, except with keeping the old folder theme and black background for opened folders (I dislike the white background).

        • Matt Martin

          There is an AOSP launcher for KitKat, but it does not include the Google Now functionality. The launcher that comes default on the Nexus 5 is closed source. Kind of antithetical to the whole open is good thing Google usually does, but I understand why they're doing it.

          • UtopiaNH

            Given time, google now will get an API to allow for that kind of functionality. Their priority right now is getting the GEL concept out the door onto every 4.1+ device long term. Also the camera API. Both of those things where supposed to be ready for Kitkat and wheren't.

  • steelew

    Seems the same to me

  • Mehmet Fatih

    I am on a rooted 4.1.2 JB (Stock) Galaxy S2, can I somehow disable touchwiz for good and use nova (or another launcher) ? I love launchers but I hate that touchwiz is working background. is it possible?

    • Flf

      You need a new ROM then

    • guy

      Use Chameleon ROM

    • http://blog.artesea.co.uk/ artesea

      You could freeze the stock launcher using Titanium, however if something went wrong with Nova with a Play Store update you would be left with nothing (see Action Launcher users who's latest update converted the pro app in to a key and left them with no launcher)

      • Imparus

        Well you can still access setting without a launcher and then get to your apps.

  • Sean Lumly

    I'm glad to *finally* have a transparent Nav Bar on my Nexus 7's home-screen. :/

    It seems Nova did what Google "couldn't"...

    • Imparus

      ? loading GEL onto the nexus 7 will give you that. And before you say, that that shouldn't be necessary I will say, it looks like Google will soon release it to the nexus 7 from the new cover accessory gallery ;)

  • uofmike

    I'm assuming there is still no: swipe left to get to Google Now?

    If not, does anyone know how you could do this without being on GEL? I like GEL but not being able to customize icon sizes/rows and add gestures really makes it second rate for me compared to Nova/Apex

    EDIT: I'm an idiot.

    • Brad

      I was wondering the same thing

    • Brian

      Did you not read the article?

      • uofmike

        my bad, missed that. Saw the changes and "You'd have to look twice to tell Nova from the stock Google Experience Launcher"

      • Brad

        While the Google Now integration isn't possible with a third-party launcher, this is about as close as you'll get to the Kitkat look without going stock.


    • Cesar

      There are a couple of third party launchers that sort of imitate that behavior, but none of them have Google Now as an actual page like GEL does. They appear to be simply a gesture that opens the app. Such gestures are applicable in Nova Launcher.

  • Cesar

    "Most of this was in the beta, but the icons and app drawer tabs appear to be new additions." Nope. Those were in the beta too, just a newer version of it. I've been using all of these features in the beta for a couple of weeks now.

    • Frederico Silva

      You're so #BETAYOLO

    • RyanWhitwam

      Hmm, you're probably right. The original changelog we had from the beta didn't include them, but I haven't been using Nova since the 4.4 update. Might have been added after the initial push.

  • kevotwo

    wish he would update telsaunread to work with hangouts or any oher sms app like apexs unread notifications

    • Cesar

      I was patiently waiting for that same functionality for a long time. Eventually, I buckled and got Missed It!, and it was totally worth it.

    • guest

      i wish it would show unread messages on stock email app...
      stopped after i upgraded to 4.4, still not working on 4.4.2...

  • Patrick Thompson

    I love Nova Launcher ( I used it for about 2 years on my Galaxy Nexus), but GELs 'Okay, Google, and quick swipe to Google Now are two awesome features I'm not willing to give up.

    • motoridersd

      While I do wish I had the Ok Google option in Nova, I have a quick swipe up to launch Google Now that works very well. I just can't with GEL's horizontal app drawer. I also love gestures in Nova Launcher, allows for a much cleaner home screen with a ton of functionality. Too bad we can't have the good of both in one!

    • John Smith

      add Voice Search icon on home screen. either from Nova Settings or Drawer icon.

  • evertjr

    what wallpaper is this on the first screenshot?

  • http://www.emuparadise.me/roms-isos-games.php rarely online

    And somehow the GEL is getting all the attention when better launchers like this can do so much more.

    I sense a bias.

    • fritish

      I dunno man. I was all NOVA until GEL. I miss many features of my NOVA set-up, but the "OK Google" and direct, immediate loading of Google Now makes up for it to me.

      Granted, I actually use those two features heavily, so it's just my take. Each to his own. AP seems to cover both pretty well to me.

  • Crispin Swickard

    I have ran all the beta versions pretty much since they introduced the transparency, and it works on the N7 running stock 4.4, CM11, Galaxy Nexus with CM11, however does not enable transparency on an N10 on either stock 4.4(.1 as I tested), and CM11. Would be nice if they could add it in if GNex can do it..

  • mLogician

    No transparent bars for Nexus 10 :(

    • killik

      It is a hardware limitation of the Nexus 10. It is set at OS level.
      A custom ROM could enable it, but they did not deactivate it for no reason.

  • mLogician

    I keep switching between Nova and Action Launcher. Nova is better.

  • kgh

    Sorry if it was said already but "Transparent system bars on KitKat (Look and feel - Transparent Notification Bar. Requires KitKat)" isn't really accurate. The device has to already have transparency available to use the functionality. In other words, transparency works on my Note 3 using Nova or TW and I'm still running JB.

    I understand that KitKat will bring this new functionality to more devices but I didn't want anyone to think that Nova requires KitKat for a transparent notification bar.

  • chris

    How did you get your status bar to look like that? The time and the icons

    • Adam


  • Les Fenison

    I agree that we need unread counts for hangouts. Two more features we need from the stock kitkat launcher is being able to wake up google by saying "ok google" and having google now appear when scrolling to the far left of the desktop