Some months back before the Nexus 5 was even official, there were rumours and discussions about a possible new launcher made by Google. Initially this was called the “Google Experience Launcher” or GEL, and whilst many speculated that the launcher might be available to all, it has so far only been standard on the Nexus 5.
Yesterday, the Google Search app was updated, and that brought with it a few tweaks and bugfixes as well as new branding for the GEL. The Google Experience has become the Google Now Launcher.
For those with a Nexus 5, heading into Settings -> Home shows the new name for the launcher. Those with handsets other than a Nexus 5 who sideloaded the software will have also seen a Google Now Launcher splash screen on the app’s first launch, which is perhaps an indicator of Google’s intention to roll out the launcher to the wider world.
The most exciting indicator of that intention is a new launch screen when users install the GNL for the first time. Users who have done this have had the option to import their icons from their stock Android launcher. Seeing as officially the GNL is pre-installed on the Nexus 5, this is a clear-as-day sign that the launcher will see a rollout to other handsets sometime soon.
In terms of other changes, the bug which made icons in the lower right hand corner of the Nexus 7 disappear has been fixed, as well as a few other minor bugs. There’s also now the option for hotword detection when using Search in the UK or Canada (finally!), which resulted in me asking all sorts of silly questions to my HTC One last night.
There’s also new cards which tell you when to leave for appointments, as well as new ones for the Winter Olympics.
For those who haven’t got GNL, it might be worth having a look around the web for the APK which can be sideloaded onto your device. It’s a great launcher with some neat functionality to boot. If you’ve already updated and spotted any changes we haven’t, let us know.