Sony isn't making the most compelling Android phones these days, but it does at least try to put out good software. It's one of the most developer-friendly OEMs and it was even the first to release the N preview on non-Nexus hardware. Now, Sony has the distinction of being the first to do something else. The latest version of the Xperia Home beta has a Google Now pane just like the Google Now Launcher—no other OEM has done this on its custom launcher. Read More
LG took a lot of heat (deservedly) for its decision to remove the app drawer from its stock launcher on the G5. It eventually showed off a different version of the home screen in its recent UX 5.0 video. That one had an optional app drawer, and now that version (named Home 4.0) is available for download. Read More
The Google app is an interesting beast within the Android Ecosystem. It provides speech recognition, Google Now, multiple APIs, and even a launcher. Next to Google Play Services, the Google app is by far the most multi-faceted apk most of us have on our phones and tablets. The latest couple of updates teased users of the Android M Developer Preview 3 with brief access to Now On Tap before it was quickly taken away with a promise that it was still "coming soon". There were also a few other smaller details waiting to be found in a teardown, including the likely return of rotation support on the Google Now Launcher and some more forward motion for offline voice commands. Read More
We know everybody is looking forward to the big Hangouts 4.0 update; and despite a pretty active day for updates, there's no sign that the big green chat app is going to get a big new version today. While we're waiting, a smallish update to the Google Play Newsstand app reminds us that there's plenty of stuff to read in the news. The changes in this release are mostly centered around improving performance and accessibility, and fixing bugs. However, there is one potentially handy new feature making an appearance: home screen shortcuts.
This is the semi-official changelog:
- Home icon support: Get direct access to a news edition or topic by adding an icon to your device home screen.
Nokia doesn't have much to do with Android, but it does make those super-cheap Android devices with the wonky interface and no Google services. That's not the extent of Nokia's Android ambitions, though. There's a new launcher from the company called Z Launcher, and you can try it right now. Make no mistake – it's basic, but kind of neat.
In our recent post about Google's plans to break its Search sauce out of the dedicated app and bring it to the rest of Android, I alluded to the fact that we'd have more to talk about later. Specifically left un-discussed were the implications of new navigation buttons for the Android home screen. As readers will remember, our information leads us to believe that the navigation bar will be getting a shakeup, with the new layout including the typical back and multitask buttons, plus a "Google" button, which appears - for now - to be an actual Google logo. Read More
There are a number of big names when it comes to home screen replacements, and Apex is very near the top of the list. This app adds a ton of options to the AOSP launcher and it has just gotten an update to v2.3. It includes plenty of fixes, but also some new features.
The incomparable @evleaks has offered up another look at Samsung's alleged UI experimentation, this time showing what would appear to be predictive search or information cards, similar to those offered by Google Now. Split into two parts, the collection shows everything from home temperature automation to exercise tracking to flight info, package tracking, appointments, and plenty more.
What differentiates the cards from Google's own service (design aside) is apparent social integration beyond birthdays and commutes. We can see, for example, evidence of check-in or location sharing and media sharing alongside the other cards. Read More
The Play Store is brimming with alternative home screens, but Aviate was far and away one of the most impressive we saw last year. This beautifully designed launcher takes a completely different approach to organizing your apps and data. Apparently Yahoo was just as impressed as we were because the company just announced at CES that it has acquired Aviate.
In case you missed it, Aviate tracks your usage patterns and groups apps into categories that are presented to you based on the time of day and your location. For example, in the morning it might show you your calendar appointments and news apps in the morning "space." If you're near a restaurant, it shows you reviews and surfaces dining apps. Read More
Google finally unveiled KitKat last week, but you may have noticed something was missing. Yes, there was no news on the so-called Google Experience Launcher. Earlier leaks led us to suspect that Google's homescreen experience was coming to more Android devices, but the big day came and went with no mention. Recent revelations about how the Android 4.4 homescreen works breathe new life into the possibility of a more Googley experience for all.