Nexus 5’s Google Experience Launcher may not come to other devices, Nexuses included

November 6, 2013
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Nexus 5 press image

The new “Google Experience Launcher” that’s basically a revamped Google Search / Google Now app with launcher functions is a Nexus 5 exclusive for the time being, and it may not come to other Android devices, including other Nexus models.

A few days ago, a report revealed that Google overhauled the Google Search / Google Now app to include launcher functionalities in Android 4.4 KitKat, at least on the Nexus 5.

But Google has confirmed to The Verge that the feature is unique for the Nexus 5, and it may be a while until we see it on other devices, if that ever happens:

Google tells [The Verge] that the new Launcher on the Nexus 5 is exclusive to the phone — though the company may change its mind and offer it for the Nexus 4 and perhaps even put it on the Play store someday. For now, Google wants to see how users take to the Launcher on Nexus 5 before it offers it on other devices.

From the looks of it, instead the expected pure Android experience on the Nexus 5, users will get a pure Android experience on Google steroids – essentially Google is apparently offering a unique smartphone experience to Nexus 5 users, while other Nexus device owners will be sort-of left behind.

In a way, this is similar to what Samsung, HTC and any other OEM would try to accomplish with a flagship device that runs Android: offer a customized experience. However, Google’s reasons are different and are largely based on the need of putting Search front and center in every product the company builds – other Android device makers customize many other features of the OS pre-installed on their devices, while Google’s only Nexus 5 will only have a different launcher compared to other Nexus handsets and tablets.

The launcher however, is a major piece of the puzzle for Google, and Matias Duarte describes it as “the single most exciting thing for Nexus 5.”

android-4.4-kitkat-google-experience-launcher-aa-1

That doesn’t make it a bad thing when looking at it with Google’s eyes, it’s a logical business decision. But owners of older Nexus devices who would want to use the new Google Experience Launcher on their handsets and tablets may disagree with that approach.

From a different point of view, while the Google Search / Google Now launcher may be welcomed by most Android users, especially those that rely on many Google services including Google Now, the launcher may not be for everybody for obvious and not-so-obvious search/privacy-related reasons.

But most importantly, we’ll remind you that the Nexus 5’s launcher competes directly with other launchers in the Play Store and, event more significant, with custom launchers that may be found on board on many Android devices from various OEMs out there. By releasing it in the Google Play Store for anybody to install, Google may not serve the best interests of its partners that build Android devices, as users would be able to simply install and choose it over the default application.

Interestingly, Duarte also told The Verge when talking about the Nexus 5 that “ultimately, [Google has] to design the hardware and the software together,” which certainly sounds interesting, because it’s the kind of thing you’d hear from the competition. Is Nexus/Android development moving to a slightly different direction?

Finally, the Android 4.4 KitKat quick start guide we’ve talked about yesterday does mention that some features are available on the Nexus 5 only, although the words “exclusive” or “unique” aren’t used to describe them.

Google Experience Launcher aa

That said, the Google Experience Launcher has already been extracted from the Android 4.4 KitKat Nexus 5 build and can be used on other devices, whatever Google’s intentions with it may be for it – here’s everything you need to know about it.

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