Ever since 2014, Google has offered users to install its own Google Now-based launcher on any Android device, but that option may soon revoke.
According to reports, Google is planning to remove the Google Now Launcher from the Play Store not later than Q1 2017. It will also stop approving new Android devices that'll ship with the said launcher beginning March 1.
Google Now Launcher To Be Pulled Soon
The report was culled from an email forwarded to Android Police. In it Google says that because its Search Launcher Services library is a more scalable solution, it decided to do away with the Google Now Launcher.
Google's proprietary launcher was designed primarily for its Nexus line of devices, although many users with non-stock Android phones had the option to download it, presumably to cover up unpleasant and hyper-customized Android skins slapped on by third-party phone manufacturers.
The Google Now launcher is by contrast clean, smooth, streamlined, very organized, and fitted with a consistent Material Design flair all throughout.
Google Now Launcher Will Still Be Supported (Kinda)
While the email clearly states that Google is about to pull the Now Launcher off the Play Store before Q1 2017 ends, it also states that support for existing users will continue via updates to the Google Search app.
With the pseudo-demise of the Now Launcher, it's possible that Google is redirecting its focus on expanding the new Pixel launcher, although it's currently exclusive to the company's self-branded flagships, the Pixel and Pixel XL. When Google finally kills off the Now Launcher however, users would have to relent with their default Android skin or download a different one from the Play Store, like the Nova Launcher or the Zero launcher. There's practically a trove of them available.
Will Google Release Its Pixel Launcher To Other Devices?
Could this mean that the Pixel launcher will soon open up to other devices? The notion seems unlikely for now, as it's actually one of the incentives customers get with Pixel handsets. Don't hold your breath for a wide Pixel launcher release any time soon, but if Google's Now Launcher was able to land on other devices in the past, it's certainly a possibility that the newer Pixel launcher will have the same fate.
But Google seems stingier about what features it's willing to share with other phone manufacturers, given that it's trying to provide plenty of incentives for users who pick up either a Pixel or a Pixel XL. That's not to say, however, that it will totally close off broad access to the Pixel launcher, but as it stands, the prospect seems unlikely.
Anyhow, the email also states that the Search Launcher Services library for OEMS that's been in testing is now finally available. That's the one Sony used to integrate the Google Now panel into its custom Android launcher in the past. That essentially means that OEMs can overlay the Google Now panel on whatever launcher they choose.
The Google Now Launcher currently has 50 million downloads on the Play Store.