While the company will allow phone-makers to bring Google Now features into their own launchers via “Search Launcher Services,” this is probably a net loss for Android loyalists. A launcher app, usually used to change the default design of a phone’s operating system, can change the look and feel of a phone completely, and Google Now was one of the best around.
Companies like Samsung and HTC make great phones with (arguably) confusing and ugly interfaces. One of the big benefits of Android over iOS is that you can fully customize how your phone looks, so downloading Google Now was a solid way to get a relatively pure experience on whatever phone you wanted. Don’t like TouchWiz, the software that comes on Samsung’s phones? No problem: Just download Google Now, which is simple, clean and intuitive, making your phone feel a lot faster.
The launcher allowed Android users to access Google’s information cards, which included updates from Google Maps, weather and more. Google’s was one of several popular Android launchers, with more than 50 million downloads on the Play Store.
When Google launched its new Pixel phone, the company also launched a proprietary Pixel Launcher—the new stock Android launcher going forward. However, unlike the Google Now launcher, the Pixel launcher is not available on third-party phones as of now.
Google Now’s features will continue to be supported in some form via the Google Search app, which also has an iOS version. But there’s a difference between using a launcher and booting up an app, of course.
Popular alternatives to Google’s Launcher include Nova Launcher and Action Launcher. While the move to the launcher may not seem like enough of a reason to switch to Google’s Pixel phones, it may foreshadow a series of moves to make Google’s impressive Pixel phone the premiere choice for Android users. Google has not yet publicly announced the news about its Google Now launcher.
RIP Google Now launcher. You were the best.