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Exclusive: Android N may not have an app drawer

Google is reportedly planning on removing the app drawer from the Android N release. Multiple sources have now confirmed to Android Authority that current Android N builds do not include an app drawer.

Published onFebruary 20, 2016

Nova Launcher App Drawer Google Icons

Google is reportedly planning on removing the app drawer from the Android N release. While there is still a long way to go until the public release of Android 7.0 in late 2016, Android Authority has now received word from two separate sources that pre-release Android N builds currently do not include an app drawer (Update: We’ve since found even more evidence of the app drawer’s planned removal).

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Google may, of course, re-add the app drawer before the Android N developer preview is distributed at Google I/O 2016 in a couple of months, but for now it looks like Android N will ditch one of Android’s most recognizable features. If it goes ahead, the move will likely be seen as undermining one of the foundations of Android – that of customization and individuality – but it is already obvious that Google is not entirely happy with the app drawer.

Android Marshmallow App Drawer

When Android Marshmallow introduced a vertically scrolling app drawer, it wasn’t met with much enthusiasm. While the interface actually makes a lot more sense – an endlessly scrolling list of vertical apps is faster and more logical to navigate than a horizontal set of paginated cards – Google would have heard the negative feedback.

It is already obvious that Google is not entirely happy with the app drawer.

Removing the app drawer altogether would reintroduce the preferred horizontal app icon structure while removing the step of actually launching the app drawer. It would also make finding and uninstalling apps an arguably simpler process than it is now.

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Whether Google’s reasoning is based on user preference for horizontality or on interface simplicity, Android fans are nevertheless likely to see it as Android becoming more like iOS. But it must be noted that many Android user interfaces already use an app drawer-less version of Android. Asian manufacturers like HUAWEI and Xiaomi already use the home screen as the app drawer (Huawei’s EMUI once had an app drawer, but removed it 2012).

Having not seen the Android N builds for ourselves we can’t say if the next version of Android will be set up the same way as iOS or existing app drawer-less Android skins or will introduce an entirely different take on the idea. It does seem reasonable to assume that familiar customization features like widgets and folders will remain intact though.

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If the move goes ahead, Android’s motto of “be together, not the same” might need some reworking, but, as with all earth-shattering Android changes, we will eventually get used to it. The timing coincides with rumors of tighter integration of Chrome OS with Android, and would reimagine Android’s traditional “desktop-like” arrangement of a hidden app list behind a more visual home screen.

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Of course, anyone not happy wth the idea would be able to simply install a custom launcher to get the app drawer back. At this stage we can’t say how committed Google is to the idea – whether it is set in stone or simply a possibility – but removing the app drawer would certainly bring Android and iOS closer together in terms of user experience, a trend that has become increasingly noticeable in recent years.

What do you think of the idea of no app drawer in Android?

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