In KitKat, the new launcher is part of the Google Search app, report says

by: Chris SmithNovember 1, 2013

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Not directly visible to the KitKat user, it appears that the Google Search app has actually taken over the launcher in the new Android release, according to the discoveries made by a publication.

Google Search and Google Now received their own updates and visual makeovers in KitKat – which is expected considering that Google’s entire business revolves around search – but it looks like Google went a step further and made Search an even more important part of Android.


Ars Technica took a closer look to Android 4.4 KitKat and found that the Google Home launcher has been sacrificed in favor of the new Google Search, which takes over the screen in a similar fashion Facebook’s launcher does:

That’s right, Google Search isn’t just integrated into the home screen, it is the home screen. Everything you see on the home screen—the wallpaper, the icons, the widgets, and the app drawer—are all drawn by the Google Search app. “GoogleHome.apk” still exists, but it is an empty shell that forwards everything to the search app.

[Check out the image above in which a comparison between the Android 4.3 launcher and the Android 4.4 Google Search app is shown.]

The difference here is that Google does it in a more subtle way than Facebook, which isn’t obvious to the user and doesn’t change the overall experience when it comes to visual elements.

Installing just the GoogleHome.apk found on the Nexus 5 on other devices would only bring up an error message telling the user that the Google Search app has not been found (image below). Installing the Google Search app will fix the problem, but it will also bring Google’s Search-filled launcher to your device.

Is that a bad or a good thing? That depends on your preferences and your stance towards privacy and ads – ultimately it has something to do with advertising because that’s how Google make cash.


Not to mention that the implications of this finding are actually bigger when it comes to OEMs and their way of customizing the Android experience they offer especially because Google Search is an independent app that can be installed on any Android device.

On a related note, earlier today we heard that the smarter Dialer may someday get ads, but Google has told Ars Technica that won’t happen – but then again, a few years ago the company promised not to show banner ads in search results, a promise that was recently broken.

The new Google Search does bring new features to users including always-on listening (at least on the Google Nexus 5) and app indexing support (which means Search can open apps to respond to certain queries), but does the fact that the launcher is a Search front bother you?

  • Christian Tolentino

    always-on listening Google Search not working on my HTC One International Version (NOT ROOTED)

    • Aniruddh

      You can expect that since you didn’t get official KitKat. It isn’t working on my Note 3 too. There is probably a separate APK for that.

      • Sean Zemunik

        If your talking about the OK Google voice activation. Voice language needs to be set as american English. Then a box will appear in options called hot words. Tick the box then when ever Google now is open you can say OK Google and away you go. I don’t use it because the settings have trouble with my australian accent.

    • D’Ander McSullivan

      It works flawlessly on my international Note 2. Maybe because I’m on an AOSP rom.

    • taz89

      Think you have to change the language to English US for that to work… Read that elsewhere

    • The Android Enforcer

      Yeah thats because the language has to be english, it sucks but that’s the only way I know of. .
      I did an article on it over at

    • FRGuzman

      I think I heard somewhere (MKBHD video I think) that it only works on Nexus 5, at least right now…

  • T.J.

    As long as it makes my experience more intuitive, smoother, and faster, I’m all for it.

    • dirr

      Yeah, and this is for smooth transition to left straight to Google Now, exactly same as Camera/Gallery app.

    • Roberto Tomás

      As long as my lung is going to a deserving recipient, I’m all for donating it … wth?

  • Harjifangki

    I wonder what will happen to Third party launcher… E.g. Nova/Apex et al.
    Is it still possible to run both of the launcher together (Google experience & Nova)?

    • MasterMuffin

      Of course it is?

      • udara (:

        is it?

        • MasterMuffin


          • Laszlo Demeter

            All this also means that phones which are not AOSP, like HTC and Samsung will never have this Google Search home screen, because of Touchwiz and Sense. So bye bye semi-touchless Google Now commands

          • Harjifangki

            Is it though?
            Launchers like Apex / Nova are based on the AOSP launcher. Now apparently Google is moving it’s Google Experience Launcher to closed source. In other word, other launcher won’t be able to replicate these features anymore.
            So i guess we have to choose between Nova’s flexibility, or Google Experience.

          • MasterMuffin

            Oh I didn’t get what you were saying, I thought you were wondering if it’s possible to run them at the same time

          • Harjifangki

            Yeah, sorry for the bad phrasing.
            What I really want to say is: Is it possible to enjoy the Google Experience Launcher appearance, while still maintaining the customability of Nova et al?

          • Justin Leahey

            I was wondering this too. I really like the Google Now screen on the google launcher, but I don’t like not having my customizations from Nova (mainly gestures). I really hope the 3rd party launchers can make it work with the new search. When I tap the search bar it opens the Google Launcher on my Nexus 4. I would love to have Nova be able to add a Google Now screen like on the Google launcher.

    • FRGuzman

      They run perfectly. Why wouldn’t it work?

      • Roberto Tomás

        does running a different launcher keep google home/google search app from reporting your currently installed apps and currently running apps to the google now servers?

  • Brian(aka brianzion) Carr

    bring on the kitkat updates

  • Groud Frank

    It doesn’t bother me one bit. Ads are how Google makes some money. I can’t help but think that the more money they make, the more money they will put into research to develop Android even more. I currently use Aviate Launcher and I love it but I think I will switch to Google Home if they make it available as a standalone app. I already live in the Google ecosystem and it will be my way of contributing to the development of Android. Plus some of those ads are very useful!

    • Arturo Carter

      Well said bro. For the amount of services and software google gives to consumers, looking a small ad here and there is no problem for me. Plus two things, google places those ads in a very unobtrusive way and the ads they do hit me with, is tailored to me and I have found myself from time to time clicking on an ad or two.
      GO GOOGLE!

  • Megan Nicoles

    Does this Search function also support search Content on the Android Device? Example search SMS, Email etc?

  • Tanner Hoyt

    AOSP is essentially dead. Stock KitKat is mostly closed source.

    • tim

      No, your wrong. Totally wrong. New launcher is Open Source and what’s more devs can even use Immersive Mod in their launchers

      • tim


      • Tanner Hoyt

        Like it or not, Android is slowly becoming more and more closed source. The launcher is essentially Google Search now. And Google Search is not open source.

        This has been going on for a while. Android’s AOSP elements have slowly been abandoned by Google in favor of closed source alternatives.

        • Jerry

          No. Android is 100% Open Source. Google Apps always was Google property. Nothing changed.

          You are wrong, once again.

          • Tanner Hoyt

            What happens when nearly all of the core functionality of Android is powered by Google Apps? I mean, even TEXTING is now on a closed source application.

            When Android was young, the only apps that were closed source were apps like Maps, YouTube, and Gmail. No one minded because those were Google’s services. Most of the other apps were open source. But over time, Google began abandoning development of many of the AOSP apps in favor of their own, closed source alternatives.

            Personally, I’m okay with Google taking more control. I’m just saying that Android is no longer as “open” as it once was. That, sir, is a fact.

          • Jerry

            What you talking about?! SMS is now more open than whenever before !!!

            Now every app can be default SMS/MMS app. And user can switch easily this. Same with system interface.

          • Tanner Hoyt

            You seriously do not understand what open source is do you? The Hangouts app now handles SMS/MMS in stock KitKat. That is a closed source app. Yes, you can change the default SMS app, but that doesn’t make it “open”! You can change your default browser on Mac OSX, but the operating system itself is still proprietary.

          • Jerry

            No, you don’t understand what OPEN means.

            When every developer can make deafault SMS app, that means OPEN!

            And in AOSP SMS standard app is still. That means real OPENESS.

          • Tanner Hoyt

            I never said KitKat didn’t let you have CHOICE. I said it wasn’t OPEN by which I meant it was heavily CLOSED SOURCE. Now do you understand?

            And yes, the “Messaging” AOSP app still exists, but it will no longer be developed by Google. So, just like “Search” and “Music”, it will basically die.

          • Jerry

            Man what’s wrong with you? Heavily CLOSED SOURCE OS = iOS. I know your a fanboy iOS.

            Every OEM make own apps and repalced them with standard AOSP apps, for what the heck Google have to in your opinion still developing these apps..?!

            Google developing own much better apps and putting them to Google Play that anyone can download them.

            You are just a iOS TROLL.

          • Tanner Hoyt

            Lol? Umadbro?

            I even said above that I personally don’t mind. I never said Google taking more control was a bad thing, I just stated that they were and you denied it.

            I’m an Android user, but I know how guys like you work. Whenever you realize you’re losing an argument, you resort to calling me an Apple/iOS fanboy in a vain effort to get more people on your side and bash me as well. Just give it up. You’re wrong. End of story.

            I think it’s cute how you vote up all of your own posts ;)

          • Jerry

            Because you are a iOS troll.

            Before I can’t download stock keyboard, now I can! That mean if OEM changed keybord (they do that), now everybody can switch to stock.

            And that is more OPEN than before. Before everybody must use one SMS app. In Android 4.4 everyone can switch to favourite SMS app.

            That is OPENESS.

            Android is now more open than whenever before!

          • Tanner Hoyt

            You’re confusing choice with open source. But whatever. Believe what you want. I’m done arguing with you.

          • Jerry

            Google doing what users want. Users want choice and more openess.

            They don’t want to Google wasting time to developing apps which people even can’t use because OEM making their own version of that apps.

          • Wildfire

            He got one point. Google is till giving choice. But by OPEN SOURCE he means the codes that the apps are written in. Thus ,some apps that were open before like Msg and launchers are going to be closed because of mixing with other services and stuff

          • Jerry

            No, I don’t.

            Nothing changed with Android’a OPEN SOURCE code. And this is what you can’t understand.

            Android is same OPEN SOURCE than before but now is MORE OPENESS in Android. This is fact.

          • number29

            You’re misunderstanding what open source is. Android’s SMS app was open source. The new hangouts app is not. You can still choose to use a different SMS app, but the core Android experience is now more closed source than it was with 4.3

          • Jerry


            Do you understand that SMS app is in AOSP is Open Source and OEM can implement it to Android 4.4? Do you?

            With new OPEN SOURCE Photo Editor in Android 4.4 as not only more Open Source apps than before but is even more OPENESS because user can changed default SMS app.

            STOP teaching others what OPEN Source meant if you even not be able to read and understand what you reading…

          • number29
          • Jerry


            Are you dumb? Or just troll?

          • number29

            Just linking you to an article so you can understand what open source means.

          • Jerry

            I thin he’s not troll… just dumb ass hell.

          • Saul Contreras

            Nobody else will say it so I will. You’re a fucking moron

          • Jerry

            Google doing what users want. Users want choice and more openess.

            They don’t want to Google wasting time to developing apps which people even can’t use because OEM making their own version of that apps…

          • Jerry

            And by the way, in iOS you can’t even make default browser. And that means not only closed but ULTRA CLOSED.

          • Tanner Hoyt

            You have a serious problem with reading and comprehending. I said Mac OSX lets you set a default browser. I never said “iOS” anywhere in that post.

          • Richard Sequeira

            Try deleting Safari on Mac OS X and you’ll be bound for performance problems.

          • evans

            Tanner, no point arguing with someone that can’t differentiate between open OS and open source.

            I guess Jerry might even don’t know what a ‘source code’ is, lol.

            And no point arguing with someone that accuse you as an iPhone fanboy when you actually explain him about open source. His response is clearly childish and immature, not worth further pursuing.

          • Jerry

            I’m developer and I think I much better understand what Open Source is than you.

            I saying that, now Google not only provide more Open Source apps in AOSP but even is more OPENESS in Android 4.4.

            Too difficult for you to understand that?

          • William Larsson

            well Hangouts, Keep, Drive, Search is also Googles property, doesnt it make sense to have them closed source

        • Scott Etherington

          this entire conversation was just funny clearly no idea what open source code is and just ploughed ahead.

          • Jerry

            Your whole trolling just collapsed… Mr iTroll?

            Google developing even AOSP apps, Android 4.4 Kikat has new GALLERY APP with new EDITING features!!!

            Tell me now why bad you feeling Mr iTROLL… ?!



          • Jordan

            Lol. This is one of the funniest threads I’ve read. Jerry has no idea what open source means and claims to be a developer. Jerry, open source means that Google releases the source code, so that other developers (like yourself) can read that code, understand it, and modify at will. Google has slowly pulled a majority of the stock apps out of the android OS and replaced them with closed source alternatives, like hangouts and google search. These are closed source because Google does not release the source code for these applications and developers, therefore, cannot read, understand, or modify that code. Android is still an incredibly open platform in terms of choice. But, everyone else is still right in suggesting that a majority of android’s essential stock apps are now closed source apps that are not shared with AOSP. Does this clear things up a bit?

            Side note, you’re much more likely to be a troll than the other folks.

          • Jerry

            What are you talking about? Show me right now which app Google pulled from AOSP !!!

            Don’t teach me morons what Open Sourced is… because you showing only how dumb you are.

            1) I’m was talking about in first Open Source apps – Google still developing new Apps for AOSP like new Photo Editor (see above) and even one app wasn’r pulled from AOSP!

            2) second I was talking about how more OPENESS is in Android 4.4, and how more OPEN Google is now than before.

            Only morons traying tech me what Open Source meant…

          • PleaseJustBeQuiet

            Wow. Just wow.

            Show us then, Jerry, where we might find a built in opensource SMS app that ships on the new Nexus 5?

          • Jordan

            Eh, Jerry…you don’t speak so well. You claim to know what open source means, but everything that you’ve said would suggest the contrary. I know that you were talking about the openness of Android, but the phrase you have repeatedly used to describe this openness is “open source.” Open source and openness are two different things entirely. Android is very open, sure–but, there’s no denying that closed source apps are a direct consequence of Google’s continued decoupling of core apps from Android.

  • Pan Szym

    Tested on GT-I9100 with CM10.2.
    If you want to feel KitKat flavour:
    1.Google Play Services (PrebuildGmsCore.apk)
    2.Search app (Velvet.apk)
    3.Google Experience Launcher (GoogleHome.apk)

    + other apps from Nexus 5 for example
    mail (I recommend delete old app via root explorer next copy the new one and install), clock, keyboard, hangouts (delete previous version), gallery (I can’t edit pictures), camera (photosphere doesn’t work).

    Everything works great apart of launcher’s landscape orientation.

  • Roberto Tomás

    apparently I am the only person who is concerned. From what I am reading: your basic android experience now reports all installed apps to google, as well as all currently running apps. although you can use a different launcher, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will keep Google search from reporting those details back to Google servers.

    The dialer in 4.4 also automatically does a search on any phone number you enter, so it can give you details about that number — but also it is reporting you telephone conversation habits to Google servers.

    OEMs are not free to remove these services unless they remove all Google apps, including the Google App Store, effectively making it a non-android build (like Amazon’s). OEMs are free to install a different launcher, but may not be free to make that the default launcher, so you might still have to do that change yourself.

    4.4 almost looks like the swan-song for Android. :(

    • trwb

      Microsoft and Apple do this too. Google has known a lot of what you do on your phone for a long time, including app usage and contacts. Now they will know a little bit more. At least with Android one can root and bock permissions to certain things. Privacy is very hard to come by these days.

    • evans

      you’re not alone brother.
      honestly I think this move by google is outrageous. if we allow this, I can’t imagine how further google will invade our privacy in next Android version.

      maybe ads in lockscreen next ? with always-listening voice ‘assistant’ ? yeah right

      • number29

        Sadly the fans welcomed this sort of intrusion with open arms (pun intended) when they first started cheering on Google and Android. I guess it might eventually come back and bite them on the arse, hard, and I for one will be sitting on the sidelines laughing at the outrage and saying ‘I told you so’!

  • Sebastian Navarro Panzetta

    Hola en LG Optimus G Pro E980 jelly beam 4.1.2 se instala todo bien pero calculadora y reloj da error al intentar instalar y el launcher cuando quiero abrir o usarlo me sale desafortunadamente búsqueda de google se detuvo ya cambie idioma reinicie el dispositivo cambie un archivo en system lib y todo sigue igual! ! Si alguien sabe cómo se puede solucionar se lo agradezco pero me parece que para jelly beam 4.1.2 no va esto del launcher.! !

  • GadgetDeputy

    Battle Of The Titans – Nexus 5 Versus HTC One

    Which is the smartphone for you? The newly announced Nexus 5 or the ever reliable HTC One?

  • Wildfire

    I’m somehow against, it isn’t suitable for low ram smartphones since it will run Google Now everytime. Not to mention that Google Now works better in the USA, but it’s not that useful on most other countries. I and most of my friends never use it

    • evans

      good point, it could be problematic for low end phone, contradict with kitkat aim for low end phone.

  • Ruri

    how do i get rid of the error message i uninstalled google seach and reinstalled it but it the message still appears