A smarter way to use your phone or tablet
Looking for an even more 'Googley' experience on your Android device? The Google Now Launcher is a slick piece of software that replicates some key functions of the stock Android OS, and (literally) places Google Now near the center of your device.
The Google Now Launcher is now available for all devices running Android OS 4.1 and higher. So, if don't have a stock Android phone/tablet like the Nexus 5 or Nexus 10, you can now get a similar experience on your Samsung, HTC, or Sony device.
What is Google Now Launcher?
The Google Now Launcher transforms the front-end of your device. Much like other launchers such as Nova and Go EX, it alters the look and behavior of things like the home screen, the app drawer, the way apps launch, and app icons.
So, what does it actually change? Lots of things actually. For starters, the Google Now 'contextual assistant' service is just a left-swipe away from your home screen. Here you can view all of your cards at a glance, checking the latest weather, traffic info, and content from the web that you might be into.
Another big advantage of the Google Now Launcher is that it gives you 'always-on' access to Google's voice search. You simply need to say "OK Google" then bark a search term or command at your device. This only works when your device is unocked and you're on the home screen but it does make for a time-saving way of checking stuff.
In terms of design and layout, The Google Now Launcher uses a modified version of the stock Android home screen. It dispenses with the five-screen approach though, and reduces it to three screens, (with the option to add more).
App icons in Google Now Launcher are slightly bigger than the stock Android ones and are more spaced-out in the app drawer, meaning that if you have lots of apps installed you'll be flipping screens a lot to get around.
How to install Google Now Launcher
If you're used to setting up Android launchers you won't have too many issues with Google Now Launcher. In fact, you might even lament the lack of customization options within the Settings menu, which are pretty minimal.
Even if you're new to all this then it's not too much of a bind. Simply install the Google Now Launcher app through Google Play and go to the 'Home' option within the Android Settings menu, then set Google Now Launcher as the default. Widgets, wallpapers, and the settings menu itself are all accessed via a long-press on the home screen, making for a speedy way to customize the launcher.
The time is Now
If you're a stock Android user who wants a simpler way to access Google search and services, Google Now Launcher is well worth installing. Likewise, if you've always wanted to try the stock Android experience and haven't been able to because your device runs a modified version of the OS, Google Now Launcher will appeal.
However, the design elements, while simple and stylish, may not be to your taste and the lack of themes and customization tools may frustrate you in this respect.