One of the best things about being an Android user is the plethora of customizations that users have at their disposal. Everything from simple changes (like wallpaper), to the extremely advanced, root-requiring mods – there's something for everyone. One of the best ways to add some flare to the Android experience without a lot of work, however, is by changing the launcher. Many launchers feature advanced functionality over that of Google's stock offering, including themes, transition animations, quick access to oft-used tools, and so much more.
KitKat introduces a lot of much-needed features into Android, like better support for low-memory devices, a new storage framework, SMS integration with BLAH BLAH BLAH. We all know what the people want: transparent user interface elements! Following Nova Launcher's update to better visually match the KitKat launcher on the Nexus 5, popular alternative Apex Launcher now has a beta version that does much the same thing.
The beta version was released to the Apex Launcher Beta Google Group, which you can find here.
Now that the KitKat update has started rolling out to various Nexus devices, we're, unfortunately, seeing no traces of the Google Experience Launcher, which confirms an earlier report stating as much. No GEL means no transparency in the default and a pretty barebones boring AOSP launcher. It also means no Google Now integration and no "Ok Google" hotword support while on any home screen.
Boring Nexus 7 launcher
However, not all is lost.
So you didn't get a Nexus 5 – that's okay. You can still get that shiny new KitKat look and feel with the new Nova Launcher beta. It won't get you all the way there (the transparent nav bar is limited, for example), but the new version of this third-party homescreen has a lot of little visual tweaks to make it look almost like the real thing.
The Nova Launcher developer posted recently about the changes that were coming in light of KitKat, and now here we are.
The biggest user-facing change in Android 4.4 KitKat is, without a doubt, the launcher. The new launcher experience provides deeper Google Now integration (it's literally the leftmost homescreen), beautiful transparent navigation buttons and notification bar, always-on Google Now listening, and a much cleaner app drawer. For now, though, this launcher will remain a Nexus 5 exclusive - Google wants to see what the reaction is before expanding this 'Google experience' to other devices or the Play Store-using public.
One of the more drool-worthy aspects of the software from the Nexus 5 (and not necessarily Android 4.4) is the homescreen and launcher, which includes a ton of new features tied directly into Google Now and Google Search. But you might want to curb your enthusiasm: according to a report from The Verge, Google isn't interested in expanding that launcher to other devices at the moment.
The popular invite-only contextual launcher Aviate upgraded today from Alpha to Beta. It's still invite-only, but it's definitely worth looking at, as one of the most powerful alpha products I've ever used just got even better. (Did I mention we have an invite code good for 500 invites later in the post?)
The team behind Aviate promises that, besides new features, the beta launch means that the full wait list of users will be brought on board, with all users getting five invite codes to dole out to friends.
Several days ago, I started a series of rumor posts on my personal Google+ account discussing some Android rumors I felt were interesting enough to share, but didn't feel confident enough yet to do so here on the site. The posts were heavily prefixed with disclaimers that none of them may turn out to be true but that I had a certain level of confidence to talk about them in public unofficially.
The flick-gesture for quickly opening the camera app on the Moto X and new DROIDs has been repeatedly highlighted by Motorola. And like any buzz-worthy feature in an upcoming phone, it's been almost immediately duplicated. Twisty Launcher popped into the Play Store last night, promising to deliver a customized version of this gesture-based feature, with the added benefit of being compatible with any device or app.
The name "launcher" is a bit of a misnomer - Twisty launches apps, but it isn't a homescreen in any way.