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Google Now Launcher


A Google Feed 'home' button has appeared in the Google Now Launcher

Google doesn't pay much attention to the Google Now Launcher anymore, but that doesn't mean it's dead. The Google app powers this launcher, so small tweaks show up from time to time. Today, there's a noticeable and somewhat perplexing change in the Google Now Launcher. Some users have a new home button in the search box that launches the Google Feed.

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Google is rolling out the tabbed Google app interface to more users

It's been a long road, getting from there to here. Google announced at the end of 2016 that it would start rolling out a tabbed interface in the Google app - one tab for your feed (previously known as Google Now), and the other for reminders/emails/etc. But then Google only enabled it for a small amount of users, and left it at that for a few months. Then a third tab was added, and even more users received the changed interface.

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Google will discontinue Google Now Launcher in the coming weeks

Google currently has two launcher apps in the Play Store; Google Now Launcher and Pixel Launcher. In a few months, there will only be one. According to an email forwarded to us by a tipster, Google has alerted GMS partners of its intention to remove Google Now Launcher from the Play Store in the coming weeks. OEMs that use GNL have options, though.

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The Google Now Launcher's search widget is getting a transparent sub-widget

Google is no stranger to testing changes server-side before releasing them for public consumption; in fact, we reported on them testing multiple Play Store UI tweaks at the same time just a few days ago. For several weeks, we've been getting tips about this new extension for the Google search widget, but it seems to be rolling out more widely now.

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The Nexus Launcher will probably not be an update to Google Now Launcher, but a standalone app

The APK for the new "Nexus Launcher" we detailed yesterday is now floating around the internet, but I've yet to see anyone point out one rather important detail about the whole thing: it doesn't replace Google Now Launcher when installed, but rather is clearly separate in name and branding. Going to the launcher picker with Nexus Launcher and Google Now Launcher installed, you can see both sport different logos and, obviously, names.

Now, this in and of itself is not direct confirmation of the Nexus Launcher being a standalone app, but it seems like a pretty decent bet to make. This leads us to another question: will the Nexus launcher only work on Nexus devices, or does Google plan to make "Nexus" a software branding?

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Google Launcher On Android N Dev Preview 2 Has Pinch To Overview And App Info When Dragging From The Home Screen

Many of the new features in the second Android N dev preview have actually been additions or improvements to Google Now Launcher - we've had the controversial new folders and home screen / lock screen wallpaper options. Here's a third one, and it's a double whammy this time: pinch to overview on the home screen, instead of just long tapping, and finally some consistency when apps are dragged from the home screen or app drawer.

Pinch to overview works as you'd expect: a two finger pinch on any home screen shows the home screen overview, with wallpaper, widgets, and settings options at the bottom.

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Google Launcher On Android N Dev Preview 2 Lets You Set Different Wallpapers For Homescreen And Lockscreen

It's something custom ROMs have been able to do for years, but has never found its way into stock Android. Well, the second Android N dev preview changes that: Home screen and lock screen wallpapers can now be different, if you so choose.

When a wallpaper is set, it now asks if you'd like to apply the wallpaper on your Home screen, Lock screen, or both. Interestingly, while there aren't any stock live wallpapers in N Dev Preview 2 (live wallpapers are still supported, there's just not any preloaded), live wallpapers are not able to be set as just a lock screen wallpaper.

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Android N Dev Preview 2 Includes A New Style For Google Now Launcher Folders

We're still digging into the new Android N preview to see what little things have changed, and one of the most immediately apparent tweaks is the new home screen folder style. Rather than the stacked icons in the round frame we've had for the last few years, folders are like small cutouts, peeking into a grid of app icons.

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Google App v5.6 Beta Adds New Google Now Card To Android Wear, Prepares For Continuous Queries And Eyes-Free TTS [APK Teardown + Download]

Things are heating up for Android Wear lately. Earlier this week, a new version of the Android Wear companion app began rolling out to make preparations for the next OS update. There's now an update to the Google app in the Beta channel which follows up with some interesting changes of its own: a new Wear-specific app that places the Google Now stream into a distinct card on watches. A teardown also shows some interesting new experiments for continuous queries and text-to-speech. There's even a small tweak for the Google Now Launcher.

What's New

The Google Now Card


Views of the new Google Now card and the first page to the right.

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Tip: Long-Press The App Drawer In Google Now Launcher To Immediately Search Installed Apps

One of our readers spotted this neat trick in the latest update to the Google Now Launcher (which is part of the primary Google app). A single tap on the app drawer icon will open the app drawer as usual, but a long-press will open it and immediately highlight the app search field. It will also automatically open your default virtual keyboard, quickly and easily allowing you to type and search for apps.

This is especially handy for those users who keep dozens (or hundreds) of apps on their phones. Check out the animation below to see it in action:

home gif

The long-press function is only available in the latest versions of the Google App.

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