Google introduced a new home screen and app launcher when the company launched the Nexus 5 smartphone. Now it’s available for other Nexus devices as well as Google Play Experience devices from Samsung, Motorola, LG, and HTC.
All you have to do is download the Google Now Launcher from the Play Store on a Nexus device running Android 4.4 KitKat or later.
Now that the Launcher is in the Play Store, Google can also push updates to its home screen experience to Nexus 5 users without launching a whole new version of Android.
The Google Now Launcher lets you access Google Now cards and notifications by swiping from the left side of the screen on your home screen. It also gives you more real estate on your home screen thanks to translucent status and navigation bars, allowing your wallpaper to go from edge to edge.
One of the biggest changes involves the search box at the top of the home screen. While the old Android launcher was basically a home screen app with a search widget tacked on, the Google Now Launcher is basically a Google Search app with a home screen tacked on.
Not only can you start a search by typing in the box or start a voice search (or other voice action) by tapping the microphone icon, but you can just say “OK Google” and speak your query.
At this point the Google Now Launcher is an optional add-on for older Nexus devices. If you’re happy with the launcher that came with your Nexus 7 tablet, for instance, you can stick with it. But if you’ve been aching to try the new Nexus 5 launcher, now it’s available for other devices as well.
There’s also a migration wizard. The first time you open the new launcher, it asks if you want to import your app icons from your old home screen app.