Original post, February 21: The evidence supporting the lack of an app drawer in the Android N release is really starting to stack up. The just-announced LG G5 has no app drawer and while the Galaxy S7 does have an app drawer, there is a hidden setting to remove it. All of this is making it look increasingly likely that Google is indeed planning to ditch one of Android’s most recognizable features.
In case you missed it, we recently heard from multiple sources that current pre-release builds of what will eventually become Android 7.0 do not include the app drawer. With two of the biggest smartphone releases of 2016 essentially supporting the no app drawer theory, I think we’re soon going to be getting used to an app drawer-less OS. Or installing custom launchers.
I asked LG why it didn’t include an app drawer option in the LG G5 and was told it would only cause more confusion to have an optional app drawer. Although the Galaxy S7 does include an app drawer, there’s an experimental setting in the Galaxy Labs section of the S7 UI called “show all apps on home screen”. Considering the early access OEMs have to new Android versions, this has to be more than just a coincidence.
The interesting thing is that Samsung is clearly hedging its bets, by including both options with a simple “do you find this useful?” up vote/down vote system for the feature. I cornered a Samsung employee during Unpacked and asked what the likelihood was of Samsung flying in the face of Google’s vision for Android 7.0 if a significant number of respondents wanted to keep the app drawer. Perhaps not surprisingly, no one wanted to be quoted but I was I was told that Samsung is very keen on being responsive to customer feedback right now.
The massive backlash last year surrounding the removal of microSD, water-resistance and a removable battery in the Galaxy S6 was heard loud and clear at Samsung HQ. While Samsung still seems more committed to power optimization over a replaceable battery, the re-introduction of a microSD card slot and IP68 rating in the Galaxy S7 are sure to make it a crowd favorite this year.
If Samsung truly is more interested in delivering what the customer wants over what Google wants, then the results of this simple Galaxy S7 straw poll could very much affect the way the majority of Android users understand the operating system in years to come. If more Galaxy S7 owners say they want to keep the app drawer, then Samsung would be foolish to remove it. After all, the bitter memory of the 2015 mass exodus of Galaxy fans would still be resonating within the company.
Because Samsung is practically synonymous with Android, if Samsung does opt to keep the app drawer – even if it reverses the S7 situation and makes the default setting “no app drawer” with an option to enable it – it could put the brakes on Google’s vision in a massive way. By giving away Android, Google can do its best to direct what Android is, but it can’t control the forks or modifications that OEMs bring to it.
Of course, many Asian manufacturers already go against the grain by not including an app drawer even when stock Android does. So if Samsung was to maintain the status quo it would simply be an inversion of the current situation, but one where the world’s largest Android manufacturer by far doesn’t go along with Google’s idea of Android. Considering Samsung Mobile’s complicated forecast for 2016, keeping the fans happy might just be the top priority for a change, so if you buy a Galaxy S7, be sure to make your vote count.
Do you like the app drawer? Do you think Samsung would choose to keep it if the fans want it?