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Here are some new features of the Pixel Launcher in Android 15

The Pixel Launcher in Android 15 is adding new animations and features to improve your app launching experience.

Published onApril 15, 2024

google pixel 8 pro ai wallpaper 1
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority
  • Google is preparing to tweak the Pixel Launcher’s animations and feature set in Android 15.
  • The Pixel Launcher app powers the home screen and recents screen on Pixel phones.
  • There’s a new swipe-to-home animation that’s snappier, a new title bar in the recents screen, widget recommendations, and more.

The app that powers your phone’s home screen is called a launcher, and thanks to Android’s customizability, there are a lot of Android home screen launchers from which to choose. Most people stick with the default home screen launcher, which in the case of Google’s Pixel phones is called the Pixel Launcher. The Pixel Launcher may not be as customizable as, say, Nova Launcher, but it continues to add new features with every Android release. The upcoming Android 15 update will be no exception, as the new release is preparing to tweak several aspects of the app launching experience.

For starters, Google is preparing to tweak the animation that plays when you swipe up on an app to return to the home screen. The new animation is faster, springier, and better highlights the wallpaper zoom effect. Here’s a screen recording that compares the swipe-to-home animation in Android 14 versus Android 15 Beta 1.

Next, the Pixel Launcher is preparing to improve its widget recommendations in Android 15. Currently, when you open the widget selector in the Pixel Launcher, a seemingly random widget will appear at the top of the page. There’s no real explanation for why the Pixel Launcher chooses to recommend a particular widget, but thankfully with the new recommendation system, you’ll have more recommendations to choose from. Plus, the recommendations are categorized by type, making it easier to find a widget that suits your home screen needs.

Android 15 Beta 1 Pixel Launcher widget selector
Mishaal Rahman / Android Authority
New widget recommendations UI in Android 15 Beta 1.

In my testing, I spotted three recommendation categories: Essentials, Social, and Entertainment. However, a quick look through the Pixel Launcher’s code reveals five other categories that can appear, including Health & fitness, News & magazines, Suggested for you, Your Chill Zone, and Weather. Interestingly, some widgets from third-party apps were recommended to me, which suggests the Pixel Launcher may be employing some algorithmic approach to recommendations instead of just using a hardcoded list.

Android 14 QPR3 B 2 1 Pixel Launcher widgets selector
Mishaal Rahman / Android Authority

Another widget-related improvement in Android 15 is the addition of a “+ Add” button in the Pixel Launcher’s widget selector. This button makes it slightly easier to add a widget to the home screen, as you’ll no longer have to press and hold and then drag the widget. Instead, you can just tap “+ Add,” and the Pixel Launcher will automatically add your choice of widget to an empty spot on the home screen.

Android 15 Beta 1 Pixel Launcher add widget
Mishaal Rahman / Android Authority

Lastly, the Pixel Launcher in Android 15 is also preparing to improve the recents screen UI. The recents screen, in case you aren’t aware, is actually powered by a module within the system launcher app called QuickStep. The recents screen in Android 14 consists of a horizontal carousel of recently opened apps. That isn’t changing in Android 15, but what is changing is the method to access the menu where the buttons to open the app info page, enter split screen mode, and pause an app are located.

In Android 14, this menu is accessed by long-pressing on an app’s icon in the recents screen. This may not be obvious to some users, causing them to miss these shortcuts entirely. Android 15 might fix that by adding a small pill near the top of each app in the recents screen. This pill contains the app’s icon, name, and a dropdown arrow that opens the aforementioned menu. This change should hopefully make these buttons more easily discoverable.

All of the changes to the Pixel Launcher that I documented in this article aren’t live yet in Android 15 beta 1. In order to show them off, I had to enable some flags manually. Thus, it’s possible one or more of these changes won’t be released in the stable version of Android 15, which will drop later this year. However, these subtle changes improve the app launching experience, so I don’t see why they won’t be rolled out. Since the Pixel Launcher is only shipped on Google’s own Pixel devices, it’s unclear how many of these changes will make their way to the stock launcher in AOSP, so it remains to be seen whether devices from other OEMs will get any of these changes in their respective Android 15 updates.

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