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?