Nova is a homescreen launcher replacement that doesn't look like one, an option that feels about as close to stock as anything non-stock can—except immediately following the release of a new version of Android. During that time, Nova looks slightly dated, harking back to a distant past known to us as several months ago (or, for the majority of devices out there, the present). But without fail, an update comes that brings Nova users the look and feel of Google's latest homescreen.
Earlier this year, Nokia surprised everyone by developing an interesting Android app called Z Launcher. Back then, it was only available for beta participants as an APK download on Nokia's website. Today, along with its Android N1 tablet announcement at Slush 2014, the company has revealed that Z Launcher is making its official debut on the Play Store.
In a rather exciting post to its Google Design Google+ page today, Google announced a big set of improvements to the material design guidelines. The design spec, which - since this summer - has been a "preview," has been updated with links to relevant Android developer documentation, a new section called "What is Material?" a "What's new" section (to stay up to date on any changes), and a couple of other exciting changes.
If you've been paying attention the last several months, you're probably aware that since we posted our early look at Google's revamped launcher icons, users have been yearning for the "materialized" versions of their favorite apps' icons. This new design direction even spurred custom icon packs to replicate the look and feel of the rumored Google goodies. For developers and designers on Android, it's easy to see the attention the new icons are getting and start thinking about redesigning your own app's launcher icon.
For a long time now, Google's Search app has had a new, more rounded launcher icon and a simple label in your app drawer: Google. The app's Play Store listing, however, has stubbornly clung to the name "Google Search," while retaining the old boxy icon of yore. Without a word, it looks like Google has cleaned up its Play Store listing at long last with the refreshed icon and simplified name.
August is over, and as a resident of the southern United States, I say good riddance - we're now beginning the slow slide into the more bearable part of the year. But Android apps know no season, and while the crop of new apps from August was a little light, there are a few that you should definitely check out. Below are the Android Police writers' picks for the best new apps from the last month, plus a few honorable mentions.
Developer Klinker Apps, the folks behind the Talon Twitter client and the EvolveSMS messaging app, have just released Blur, a free launcher replacement that takes the approach introduced by the Google Now Launcher and opens it up to other apps. With Blur, any app that adds on support for the launcher can have its own dedicated page that rests right on a person's homescreen. In practice, this means users can swipe to the left to access their Twitter feed, text messages, a basic calculator, or a dedicated Google Now page that the Klinker brothers MacGyvered to imitate the GNL.
There comes a point many, many months after the release of a new version of Android where devoted users just can't quash the desire to get their hands on an even newer version. A preview of Android L is already available for download, but unless you are willing to flash your device and put up with any number of potential bugs, I wouldn't recommend installing it on a phone you actually need to use.
I don't think the developer behind the Xposed Google Experience Launcher Settings (XGELS) module will be satisfied until he's made the stock Google Search launcher every bit as flexible as Nova and Apex. The latest update to the popular module adds even more customization options. Premium users can now assign custom icons to a single app or the app drawer icon, with or without a full icon theme applied, like most of the more advanced launchers allow.
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.