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The folks over at TeslaCoil have been hard at work. Just a week or so after testing a ton of small but significant changes in the 3.0 beta release of the popular Nova Launcher, they've expanded them to the full Play Store version. Check out our breakdown of some of the more significant additions for more details. But there's one more trick up its sleeve for the general release: the "OK Google" hotword.

2014-06-03 19.48.37 2014-06-03 19.48.46 2014-06-03 19.49.39

This is the same functionality that's been in the Google Search app for a while, and Google added it to the new Google Experience Launcher for the release of the Nexus 5. With the hotword enabled, you only need to say "OK Google" while the launcher is up to start Google Search, which will immediately start listening for a voice search query. It's only a couple of steps down from talking to the computer on the Enterprise.

Unfortunately, support isn't universal - you'll need a Jelly Bean 4.1 device or higher to start with, and not all Android hardware supports low-power active listening. The Nexus 5 and other phones and tablets with Snapdragon 800 series processors should be able to do it, as well as other recent Qualcomm-based hardware, though we've found some strange exceptions. As a general rule, if your phone can use "OK Google" on GEL or Google Search, it can now use it in Nova as well.

Other small changes since the beta include some small bugs in homescreen and icon positioning. Nova Launcher is a free download, but some advanced features like settings backup and restore require the $4 Nova Launcher Prime upgrade app.

Michael Crider
Michael is a native Texan and a former graphic designer. He's been covering technology in general and Android in particular since 2011. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

  • Dani R.

    The most stable, smoothest and advanced launcher in the Play Store. Great developer, great app.

  • Jephri

    Sweet. Nova launcher... The first app I install on every phone. Nothing else can replace it.

  • Deeco

    Nova, the king of launchers!

    • n00b


      Great update but the mandatory "(all) Apps" tab on the drawer is killing me! Any way to disable it completely?

      • Jair Andres Moreno

        In fact you're a noob, you can set small tabs in settings/drawer and forget the tabs.

        • Brenda Robert

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    • APOI

      Proud owner of the Paid version Nova Prime much better then Apex Launcher or ADW Ex

      • cowgar

        'much better'?

        in what exactly... Nova has been abandoned (almost) and had some forum threads about being a bad battery life eater on some phones (not sure if true or competition bashing, more on XDA anyway)

    • Ricardo A. Fragoso

      Amen... :D

  • podycust

    ok google works for me and am running 4.1!

    • http://thegumshoe.com/ Michael Crider

      Whoops, typo there. Fixed.

  • http://SocialMediarology.com Jeremy A Williams

    Man, i just switched over to Action Launcher, but this might make me switch back to Nova.

    • http://www.about.me/kendallseabury Kendall Seabury

      I use action launcher too, but I also paid for Nova. Best money I've ever spent in the play store.

      • http://SocialMediarology.com Jeremy A Williams

        Agreed. I've purchased Nova, but haven't bought the Pro version of Action Launcher yet.

        • http://www.about.me/kendallseabury Kendall Seabury

          the Quickdrawer on the right is awesome. the fact that you can customize it with widgets is worth it alone.

          • http://SocialMediarology.com Jeremy A Williams

            YES. The Quickbar is what drew me in. Anyone know of a standalone app that does that?

          • http://www.about.me/kendallseabury Kendall Seabury

            I used Quickr for the system toggles. But now I use the quickbar and Power Toggles.

    • Matt Dowdy

      If you're rooted and use xposed then get the OK Google hotword enabler module which works with any launcher and you can also set it to work within any app of your choosing and it's as reliable as using the Google launcher as the Dev says it uses the exact same files

      • shojus

        Good find!

  • Senk

    Sweet! Just installed the Nova update on my N5 running AOKP. "OK Google" tested and working.

  • http://www.about.me/kendallseabury Kendall Seabury

    Question to everyone who wants "swipe right to open Google Now". Why? Is the home button shortcut not enough?

    You do realize that function is not even available to developers.

    • Ball Sackmaster

      This article and update aren't about swiping right to open google now, they're about verbally speaking "ok google" to the devices running nova launcher, instead of the google launcher on nexus devices.

      • Badouken

        He is referring to the bazillion people online complaining about wanting devs to add swiping right to open google now, and then they go to say they will stay on GEL because of it. (as if its some crazy amazing dealbreaking feature)

        • RTWright

          I agree there, it's actually one of the silliest things to be demanding when all you had to do to begin with is press on the Google Search Bar to activate it. It's just as fast as swiping it. Glad to see the Hotword added to Nova though, makes hands free even better. To me, I'd never use GEL, it lacks so much in being able to be customized, which is why I love Nova so much. This beta has been showing some really nice updates, keep it up!

          • Badouken

            Indeed! The main things I love in Nova are completely unavailable in GEL and the hotword is imo better than the swiping right because it allows for some useful hands free moments.

          • Jason Bourne

            The difference is when you press on the search bar, the keyboard pops up and your top 3 most recent search terms appear... leaving only about 20px worth of space for actual Google Now cards.

            Swiping left to get to the full screen Google Now cards is slick and useful... but it looks like Google might be changing things up at the i/o conference.

          • pyroguysf

            Just as fast? Sure, it's nearly just as fast, but it's hardly as seamless. You get a delay as the app still has to load, then wait as your cards fly up from the bottom. There's also significantly more hand movement to go down to the home button (assuming the standard ways of launching it are either with a hold or drag of the home button), back up to the main UI, then back down to home/back to leave Now. On the other hand, with GEL it's a simple, seamless slide back and forth- no delay or significant finger movement.

            Now sure, these are very minor, nit-picky things that don't really have much effect on speed, but that's not really why people want it. From a design standpoint, it's just better because it's so much more simple and fluid, especially if you just want a quick check of something like a sports score.

      • http://www.about.me/kendallseabury Kendall Seabury

        I realise this. Usually whenever there's a conversation about hotword detection in third party launchers people whine about no swipe right.

    • xnadax

      Google Now almost never have anything interesting to show me, so I don't
      really use it much, but if I did, I think I would reason as follows:

      If all you want to do is search, using the home button shortcut is just as good. However, if you just want to check if there are any interesting cards, a swipe to the side and another swipe back feels much better than having to open up another activity and then back out of it. You could compare it to quickly checking the weather on a widget vs opening the weather app, I guess.

      • https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=iWizard Bikram Agarwal

        This. This guy gets it. That's exactly what Google figured out and added that in GEL. The easier it is to access a feature, the more users will use it.

        • http://www.floreacalin.com Calin Florea

          tru that, word :))

        • vgergo

          If Google really wanted more users to use Google Now, they should have made it accessible to 3rd party launchers.

          • https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=iWizard Bikram Agarwal

            But Google wants people to use GEL too. So they kept easy access to GNow exclusive to it.

          • cowgar

            google wants to YOU to use ONLY their blackboxed appz...

            started with browser...calendar...keyboard...text messages...phone app...launcher...All of them being opensource versions in past

            soon Android will be only system to run their appz on...
            NSA? you haven't met Google yet...

      • meelisv

        I have always wondered the same thing. It might be individual, but for me swiping from left means I have to reach further, takes more effort than swiping up from home button. Also lack of infinite scroll and vertical app drawer are other 2 things that make replacing GEL or any other stock launcher on any of my devices with Nova one of the first things I do.

      • Kevin

        You can always use the widget and search widget combined. :)

    • Stripes

      Not to mention that you can access Google Now in the lock screen via the home button plus you lose one home screen that is one swipe away (you are only left with the right one).
      I don't really see the need either; hope Nova Launcher will offer both options when they eventually use Google Now (if Google allows it) in the same manner as GEL.

  • Kaemo

    I just want the ability to resize icons individually. This is long overdue, and quite honestly, the only reason I don't use Nova. It's an amazing app and well worth the purchase.

    • RTWright

      And just what launcher out there currently allows this?

      • DAWhyte

        GO Launcher, Lightning Launcher, SSLauncher....

        • RusticKey


  • Bojan Tomic

    Works on JellyBean 4.1... O.o

  • Badouken

    This launcher literally has everything I want especially simplistic design and stability. OK Google also works on my S3 (I am running 4.4.2). Love how the developer has been making some time to update lately.

  • Itchy_Robot

    FYI - I am pretty sure the author got his info a little wrong. The low power chip management is only necessary to activate the phone when the screen is off. I have an older Galaxy S3 and I am able to do voice activation from my home screen with voice-only. Honestly, I don't even think the voice activation will work when the screen is off for the Snapdragon 800 chips. It can do it, but for some reason Google doesn't use it, nor the OEMs. I think I remember reading that some 3rd party has a patent agreement with Motorola on that feature, keeping others from implementing it. I may be wrong though.

    • vgergo

      Samsung uses it on the Note3 (the SD800 version), except we need to say "Hi Galaxy" (I am so ashamed to say it when other people can hear me...). With the app S for Switch Voice then I get Google at least and not the just as shameful looking SVoice...

      It's https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=hu.viczian.deathtosvoice in the play store.

      • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

        There's also an Xposed module for that in case you are rooted

  • Michael Tran

    8 times out of 10 there is a slight lag on my nexus 7. I wonder what's causing that.

    • Badouken

      Really? I have a nexus 7 and have had no lag at all but its the 2013 version and it has a custom rom. It did completely freak out when I updated it but that was just GEL taking over and then Nova popping back up as default.

    • cowgar

      Try to trim your SSD...

      even though Android 4.3+ contains Trim command, you might have had dirty cells in the past before updating to it...

      • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

        Are you actually recommending an app that hasn't been updated for over a year?

  • Itchy_Robot

    This is exactly what I have been hoping for. Now, if I could only get it to launch and connect my Chromecast apps to wifi in one easy step ... back to the Tasker lab =)

  • GryphKid44

    I couldn't get any of the 3.0 betas to run and now the stable release won't work either. I even tried uninstalling and starting fresh and it still FCs every few seconds. Grrrrr. Guess I am stuck on 2.3 for now.

  • tokuiten

    Well, the hotword was the only thing keeping me on GEL on my N5...

    Welcome back, Nova!

    • Jason Bourne

      Same here. Unless Google delivers a really great GEL at the i/o conference, I'm going back to Nova! Woo!

  • erigion

    Working on HTC One (M7) GPE.

  • https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=iWizard Bikram Agarwal

    Kevin did not run a "Free for a day" promo like Go? I had sent him a request on G+. Well, it was worth a try. :)

    • Björn Lundén

      The Play Store does not allow changing a free app into a paid app so that wouldn't work.

      • https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=iWizard Bikram Agarwal

        No, I meant like what Go Launcher did when it launched version 5. Enter promo code in setting to unlock premium version.

  • http://about.me/tomyu Tom Yu

    This is just fantastic! I loved this feature when I was using the Nexus 4! Now I can get it on my HTC One, too! Great app!!

  • Jesús Cuenca

    I always join with the betas, but I never come to me :-c

  • rap

    Love it!

  • Ricardo A. Fragoso

    OK, running it pretty well on a SGS III Mini... Love it, even when I'm never gonna use it for a good reason... :D

  • Alex

    Not working on Galaxy S4 I9505.

    • Crispin Swickard

      Make sure to turn the option of the hot word on like in the picture. Its not on by default. Also you don't actually need a visible search bar, and can still use it. :)

  • Michael M.

    OK google does not work on xperia Z1. But in GEL it's working fine

  • http://www.twitter.com/ninjustin ninjustin

    How badly is this going to kill my battery? :P

    • LANCE

      badly, it has a wake lock issue

      • http://blog.tonysarju.com/ Tony

        I've experienced this as of last night. It's going to cause me to have to revert to using GEL.