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

by: Chris SmithNovember 6, 2013

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.”


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.

  • MasterMuffin

    Well luckily as long as you have the latest Play services and Google search app, you can just download the launcher starter app from web

    • RarestName

      I agree, I don’t know why there’s such a fuss over this.

      • MasterMuffin

        Well Nexus devices should be equal so I kinda understand the fuss, but just kinda

  • Kenneth Rohde Christiansen

    I guess they will release it at some point. It is created for the Nexus 5, and though it might work well on other devices such as the Nexus 4, it probably hasn’t been designed and tested on tablet and the like.

    I will be a bit disappointed if the Moto X doesn’t get something at least very similar

    • Daemeon Holmes

      You guys are incredible. Your phone is out-specced within a few months of it coming out. That’s the name of the game. You are not going to get every feature of every new phone that is released after yours. There’s no reason at all to be disappointed. Your phone doesn’t work any worse than it did before the Nexus 5 was launched. And if you want a nexus experience, then wait for a nexus device. Geez…..

  • Dimitar Gospodinov

    you should of written this before devs ported it to all devices :D

    • MasterMuffin

      Ported? You can just install the app, no porting needed :)

      • Dimitar Gospodinov

        my bad :D but yes :D

  • Bone

    No problem, have Google Now! disabled anyway, uses too much battery.

    • MasterMuffin

      WAY too much. Over 300 wakelocks in few hours, my phone couldn’t deep sleep at all :/

      • Bender

        I found the same absolutely hammered my s4 battery, since I removed it along with the official Facebook app my battery is great

      • Dimitar Gospodinov

        maybe it need the SD 800 or the low power part of it…that’s why it consumes so much battery

      • Paul Taylor

        Strange. I think there might be something else wrong with your phone’s setup, unless it’s the voice-activated side of things. Have you tried switching that off by itself?

  • platinumglass

    Will this be applicable to Note 3 also? I mean the launcher experience. Such a noob at these things.

    • adam evans

      yes, doesnt sound like youll be getting it through the play store. However you should be able to download and install it your self !

    • Skander

      It looks horrible on big screens including the Note 3.
      I have no idea what Google is thinking with this weird ass launcher.

  • Andre rh Rebske Hoppe

    this launcher looks nice in some resolutions and ugly on others, in my case i prefere the old one

  • sivakiran33

    Mmmm. y other device, I’ll try to get the Nexus 5 from a giveaway. :D
    the details are here

  • adam evans

    Will be interesting to see how they do it. Google has essentially built its own distribution of android on the nexus 5 and it would be good if it could be installed to other devices.

    From Google’s point of view it should get more people tied into their services so I don’t see why they wouldn’t do it!

  • jeremy

    Personally i think thay it’s not a very functional or attractive launcher anyways. I’m curious though if the nexus 4 won’t be getting this horrible “search” experience launcher what will the default launcher look like when it receives kitkat in a few weeks? Will it have another completely different looking launcher, or will it have the same appearance and just lack some of the features? I don’t really get it, or where Google is taking android. This has to he the ugliest version of stock android I have ever seen. Who in the hell though up the idea to put sundar in charge of progressing android??

    • Paul Taylor

      “This has to he the ugliest version of stock android I have ever seen.” Hmm, not entirely convinced it’s uglier than stock Froyo… You’re right though, if they don’t give us the N5 launcher it won’t exactly be the end of the world. Most people who even know what a launcher is, probably the first thing they do is swap it for a 3rd-party effort.

      • jeremy

        Okay your right definatly not worse than froyo, I am just so disapointed. I had bigger expectations for the newest version of android. Ever since 4.1 updates have been very minimal. I was hoping for a UI overhaul. Really no significant changes since 4.0 in appearance. 4.4 looks a little different, but still pretty similar and in my opinion what they did change was not for the better? My nexus 5 arrives tomorrow Maybe my opinion will change when looking at it on that 1080p screen!! Lol

        • Paul Taylor

          Oh haha you had to throw in that last detail didn’t you! :jealous:

        • Bobby Wright

          Why does Android need a UI overhaul already? It hasn’t been like this very long. Why not allow Google to refine the OS vs having to change it (visually)? It already looks amazing as is.

          • jeremy

            Not very long it has looked this way since Oct 2011 when android ICS was annoumced. I just think that its time for a new look. They are acting like apple here. Lol okay no they’re not really, but I’m just a little bored of this look.

  • Roberto Tomás

    this quells any concerns about google shutting the door on open-source android. glad to see they are not straying from their “don’t be evil” motto

  • Hugo Oskarsson

    I REALLY hope they release android 5 soon and that they give us something truly new.

    • kalloud

      I expect android 5.0 to be announced no sooner than beginning of 2015

      • Hugo Oskarsson

        To BAAD

  • Too late… APK has been out for over a week now. I did a blog post on it, appears on the first page when you search for the google experience launcher, received no requests to move the files.

  • Ben Edwards

    I’m assuming the other devices will get a standard launcher that *looks* like the N5 launcher but without the always-on voice features, due to the older chipsets not having the low power core to handle it.

  • MSmith79

    I don’t get it. It’s in the 4.4 AOSP build released by Google. Confused.

  • Nanananana~

    for rooted phones only? sorry im confuse.. Thanks :)

  • ziplock9000

    I may not get another Nexus device if Google are not delivering on their promises.