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A Look at What’s New in the Google Experience Launcher

ANDROID 4.4 NEXUS 4

Yesterday, Google finally announced the Nexus 5, Kit Kat, and all of the other goodies that came with them. One massive change they made is big improvements to the Google Experience launcher, which is just a fancy term for the stock Android launcher that comes on certain vanilla Android devices. If you have a device from Samsung or LG, then you are running a skinned version of the Android launcher, which isn’t bad, but just not exactly what Google would call their “experience.”

We want to go over all of the changes that Google made, so continue on to see what you should expect if you decided to load this onto your very own Android device. 

Android’s stock launcher has always been sort of simplistic, but this newest update basically redefines that meaning. Previously, when you opened the app drawer you would have two sections; your apps and your widgets. Starting with this launcher, like it was before Ice Cream Sandwich and Honeycomb, all you have is your apps in the drawer. They have created a separate section for widgets, which we are quite happy about. The icons are bright and bold, and it gives off an easy-to-see vibe that is enjoyable.

To access your widgets section, simply long press on your homescreen and you will be greeted by an entirely new interface. From here, you can choose a custom wallpaper, add widgets to your homescreen, and access the Settings menu for the launcher itself. To add a new homescreen, since you are started off with just one, you can drag one of your app icons or a new widget to the edge of your first homescreen, and you will then see a new homescreen pop up on the right side of your display. Once you see the new homescreen pop up, just drop the widget or icon where you would like it placed. You will then have multiple homescreens for adding all of your favorite widgets and folders.

Much like we saw in Jelly Bean, most widgets’ sizes can be customized and dragged to fit a certain space you are looking to fill. When moving widgets around each other, they will automatically move and get out of the way of whatever you are trying to place. And don’t forget that a simple flick of either a widget or icon can remove it from a homescreen, a feature that was also introduced in Jelly Bean.

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In terms of the biggest change you will see, Google decided to integrate Google Now into the launcher, which was previously accessed by opening the Google Search app or hitting on the Google search bar on your homescreen. If you owned certain devices, you could also swipe up from the bottom of your display to access it. With this launcher, simply swipe right to open up Google Now which sits on the left of your main homescreen. It’s a very cool feature, and for those that didn’t fully take advantage of Google Now, then now you don’t have an excuse not to use it.

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Other things you will notice are changes to the UI when switching your wallpaper (which has been simplified), a different look and animations when opening and using folders on your homescreen, plus the addition of that “always-listening” Google Search widget they have permanently placed on your main screen. All of the changes they have made make for one exciting Android experience, and as you know, that’s what we are all about.

If you want to get the latest Google Experience launcher on your device, visit this post here to find the downloads. Trust us, it’s worth your time.

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  • Omega!!

    Hi guys my nexus 5 arrived today but i cant use the swipe right to open up Google Now! It does not open that way is there something wrong with my nexus??

  • Amat Mulisha

    Its work on my xperia ZL.but how to make folder in menu??everytime i touch and hold a icon,it will bring me to the home screen.does it work like that??i have a lot application and its need a folder to arrange that

  • Josh Eck

    OK so I have this loaded onto my Note 3, but everytime I swipe to the left to get to Google Now and actually touch a card to open more information, Google Search crashes. Anyone else? I’ve done the language change trick.

  • HamZeh Awadallah

    i like it so much but a lot of option missing her like there is no option to sort apps and also you cant select icon pack ! any help if you know ?

  • David

    These changes seem to make it more like Nova Launcher, or am I just missing something?

  • http://www.juegos2.info/ Juegos 2

    1 Some new changes, and some new applications. I know it’s not really useful, but I’ll try and be there for your feedback

  • Marco Mendoza

    what about live wallpapers? are they still supported

  • cheeto0

    Will it be in the play store?

  • thunder

    the one thing i really wanted was the ability to control the phone with your voice while the screen was off. loved that feature on the moto x and the galaxy note 3. thought google handling something like that would be the best, oh well back to the note 3.

  • tom

    Is the carrier brand always shown in the upper left corner? Terrible.

  • Garemlin

    Guess I’m one of the few that does not use Google Now at all. I have found it to be a complete battery hog.

  • Pan Szym

    Thanks to xposed framework I made my statusbar fully transparent. After installing Google Experience Launcher and some of the Nexus 5 apps everything works and looks great.
    (CM 10.2 GT-I9100)

  • monkey god

    wait a minute. To add a widget, you just long press on the homescreen? So we’re back to Gingerbread then? honestly, i thought it was strange that they took out this option

  • HarvesterX

    I’m happily typing this on a 4.3 G2 CyanogenMod ROM and read this expecting this to blow my mind. No, this is just another launcher we will all use for a few days because we are “hardcore”, and then within an dyaday to a week wewe’ll all have Nova or Apex or Go, etc back where it belongs. Nova already allows you to long press for widgets (and get rid of the section tab in the drawer). Nothing new there. I like swiping up from home actually, as I have my phone set to the left and camera to the right. I also have a dozen other options to get to Now. Maybe this will help out people who never knew it existed? Dunno.

    Somebody flamed me recently in here saying “good luck getting a working 4.3 ROM in the G2 much less a4.4 one.. It will NEVER happen. I think he was from here but maybe some other forum. Just wanted to letya know the klatest nightly is flawless and yes I have knock on working. Oh, without touching my kernel either I nailed a 17648 on 3DMark… Something else I told you (to this guy). Lower your governor down and try again… But I’m done arguing with you. I have a kernel to flash (oh yeah, I’m flashing kernel’s and you are entitled Samsung here…) And that was just one benchy which means nothing. I have them screenies.. PM SamFanBoy.

    Lol sorry for the rant. First part was meant to stay on topic. I like the way the folders are looking though. Ifit ccan offer up the speed of a third party launcher I’m all over it

  • AndrewScottRox

    So as a Galaxy Nexus user running stock 4.3, is this an enhancement or a stock part of Kit Kat that is offered on its own?

  • Bojan Tomic

    Is there “Downloads” apk? :)

  • C-Law

    Why is the status bar black and the nav bar only partially transparent? I thought this was pulled from the nexus 5. Just a little confused why the app isn’t showing up looking the same as in the n5 pics

  • disastrousrainbow

    The icon size threw me off on the Note 3. Like many have said, it’s like an Android Jitterbug phone or something. Haha. Don’t know if it’s just a scaling issue or what but it looks a little silly and, unsurprisingly, iOS like.

    • Frettfreak

      its scaling. There is a dev byte from Roman Nurik and the some others from teh andriod design team talking about how they scaled the DPI on the n5 launcher to make better use of the 1080p. You can probably use an app if you are rooted to make it look more normal on other phones.

  • todini

    ‘If you have a (non-nexus) device from Samsung or LG, then you are running a skinned version of the Android launcher, which isn’t bad, but just not exactly what Google would call their “experience.”

  • Guest

    Is there a way to hide apps or change icons of apps within the app drawer? I would like to hide all of my pre-installed carrier bloatware without root.

    • CoreRooted

      No and no.

  • interstellarmind

    Whoa – not a fan of the home page being the left-most page

    • joejoe5709

      I don’t mind it except it’s very Blinkfeed/iOS-ish.

  • LiiIiikEaBau5

    I have issues with Google Now, it crushes every time i say something :-( anyone else have same problem???

    • LewisSD

      You installed an unreleased app pulled from a phone running a newer version of Android. Of course its not going to work perfectly.

      • LiiIiikEaBau5

        After changing the default language and then change it back to english, it works awesome!

    • Peter

      Change the default language, so a search, then change it back again. Worked for me.

      • LiiIiikEaBau5

        Thanks dude, you are awesome! I works now!

        Yohoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

  • Brandon Hoffman

    Nearly 8 thousand people have sing the petition to to get android 4.4 on galaxy nexus http://www.change.org/petitions/google-update-the-galaxy-nexus-with-android-4-4-kitkat

    • Brandon Hoffman

      signed*

    • Adrynalyne

      Maybe they should hum it too.

    • Chippah

      Enough with these petitions already!

    • LewisSD

      This is pointless. There will be custom roms available for the galaxy nexus in no time. A ton of the features are going to come from apps themselves too. No need for a petition unless its to get all the galaxy nexus owners to just upgrade their phones to the nexus 5.

    • Frettfreak

      why waste googles time and resources on a phone that kinda sucked, and is kinda old. GET A NEW PHONE.

  • Jeff

    I really like that Home Launcher switch functionality.

  • Chippah

    No Scrolling Folders FFS? and theres like a 8 icon limit,
    useless. – Touchwiz launcher on note 3 makes more sense (no pun intended, har har)

    I DO love the swype left for Gnow and “ok google”

    • TuckandRoll84

      I thought I was pretty punny so I decided to try entering a contest. I submitted ten puns which all had me chuckling to myself. When the results were announced I held my breath waiting to told I won, but as it turns out, no pun in ten did.

      Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

    • Bionic_Pags

      useless like a limp peckah… tssss….dats what my muddah used ta say

  • http://www.twitter.com/V3RDICT Jeremiah N

    That always listening Search widget is crushing my Nexus 4 battery.

    • Jeff Miller

      Thats because you do not have a Snapdragon 800 processor that supports this feature.

      • http://www.twitter.com/V3RDICT Jeremiah N

        Correct. The feature will probably be removed when the Launcher is pushed to the Play Store.

  • d-rock

    I really like LG’s take on the home screen….5 columns, up to 7 shortcuts on the dock and can move the app launcher around, yet simple. Only thing I would like is resizing ALL widgets.

    • Frettfreak

      i have been wanting to try LG’s. I just wish they would do more to NOT look like samsung.

  • Daeshaun Griffiths

    I want to use GNow more so its a change I like. And if I still want to use action launcher nothing changes.

  • mmeiklejohn

    perhaps im just used to my kodev app icons, but these icons look grainy and dull

  • Fattie McDoogles

    The best part about this is it’s now a launcher. Which means it will be in the Play Store soon just like everything else. Who knows what the possibilities are for what Google will do with it.

  • afazel

    Have they implemented folders in the app drawer yet? If not, I hope Nova introduces these features.

    • Chippah

      Touchwiz does, lol

    • http://www.baldypal.com/ BaldyPal

      Nova already supports folders in the app drawer. I moved all my background apps to that folder to get them out of my way. works great.

      • afazel

        Yes, I know. I’m using that in Nova now, because I got addicted to it in the Sense 5 launcher. I’m hoping that in addition to the current Nova features that they will be able to include some of the features from the “Google Experience” launcher.

    • Justin W

      No :(

      Would be nice though, I have a lot of Samsung apps I want to hide.

  • Guest

    so swipe right to open google now from the homescreen……. What if I just want to scroll through my homescreens? I can’t swipe right anymore because that swipe has been repurposed to bring up Google Now ?

    • Eddie R

      no, not quite what you think. Google Now only comes up when you swipe from the left most homescreen.

  • Alireza Hosseini

    Where did that Contacts app come from? Beside that, icons of Calendar and Clock didn’t change for me!

    • JWil

      Thats what I’m saying. Everything looks very boxy (TouchWiz). Hmmm

      • LionStone

        Yea, I’ll take care of that with Shafted icons! :-)

    • afazel

      Looks like the TouchWiz contacts icon

      • Alireza Hosseini

        You’re right! BTW TouchWiz doesn’t deserve it :D

    • CoreRooted

      Calendar and Clock icons won’t change because of the launcher. Only if you update those apps will the icons change.

      Google Experience does not support changing icons, so it will pull whatever the default icon is from the system.

  • JWil

    Some of the icons in KK look a bit like TouchWiz….is it just me or does anyone else see that?

    • Tommy Boy

      That’s because it is TW… (Look at the status bar)

  • Chris King

    I wish Google would make a launcher app and put it play store like they did with the keyboard

    • Droidzilla

      I wouldn’t bet against it at this point.

    • jnt

      I could’ve sworn I read on one of these blogs in the past week they were going to do just that… I’m leaning towards Android Police, but could be wrong.

    • Frettfreak

      that HAS to be in the works.

  • Brandon Hoffman

    The icons seem way to big for me their MASSIVE on my galaxy nexus

    • http://dasalehaus.wordpress.com/ Enzy

      Glad I’m not the only one that noticed this. It’s like I accidentally turned the grandma setting on.

      • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

        Permanent accessibility … LOL

      • michael arazan

        Grandma setting? Does that include hard candy stuck to your device and a Bday check for $20

    • Liderc

      It’s called 1080P vs 720P.

      • Justin W

        The icons actually are slightly larger though. My Gnote3 has extremely large icons compared to other stock-type launchers since I installed the Google Experience Launcher.

        • Mitchman

          That is precisely why I don’t want it on my Note 3 right now.

          • Adam Elghor

            but they look so beautiful on nova launcher if you make the app drawer a 5×6 grid

          • Justin W

            Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of using the Google Experience launcher? Lol.

    • http://twitter.com/savagejeep SavageJeep

      And the font…????
      - domo arigato Roboto. It was fun

      • elvisgp

        It’s still roboto….. Just the condensed version.

    • Larizard

      There’s a video of Roman Nurik and the Android Design in Action Team on youtube, explaining how KitKit bumped up the pixel density, because of the hardware on the Nexus 5.

    • Aghil V Ravindran

      Change your display ppi to 280 using some apps. I did the same and its okay now. Also you can change the text size to “Large”, cos 280 ppi text are way to small.

    • stacyallen125

      Don’t worry about deceiving. Now, its a compeletely secure way
      to make a 55$/hour.. Just go to this link… alturl.com/ugpjo

    • Eddie Ramirez

      The reason for the bigger icons is because its meant for the Nexus 5. The PPI is set for that phone and you have installed it on a galaxy nexus.

    • susanlawson124

      as Joyce explained I am in shock that someone can get paid $4001
      in 4 weeks on the internet. have you read this web site 2.gp/sjud

    • Michael Romano

      Huge on my Nexus 7 (2013)!!

    • Zubair

      Google had to copy IOS 7 bigger icons sizes… lol who is now the copy cat again

      • angermeans

        Your trying way too hard.

  • brkshr

    I’m not big on the new ‘Google Now on the left’ thing. I liked having my business widgets on the right of the home screen and my personal stuff on the left. So now, instead of swiping once or twice to the left or right, I now have to swipe up to 4 times to the right.

    I also feel like this setup is kind of copying ios. They have always had ‘search’ on the left most screen. Maybe this is to help them convert or something. Idk.

    Also, the fact that my wallpaper is not centered on the home screen, annoys the hell out of me. If I’m on my main home screen, I want to be looking at the center of my wallpaper. Not whatever is out in left field.

    • http://people.ign.com/mrfrodo24 MrFrodo24

      Out in left field, lol. Totally agree with you though about the Google Now being on the left. Should be able to toggle that feature.

      • Cyber Jethro

        You can by turning Google Now off. I’m not sure if it makes the center-most screen the default though..

        • LionStone

          He means without losing G Now functionality

    • Adam Truelove

      I LOVE that they put Google Now on the left. I’ve been wanting them to do this for such a long time. It’s so natural to swipe to a screen to get to this instead of swiping from some invisible section of the screen. This will also allow non-nerds to find Google Now, it’s much less hidden now.

      • JRomeo

        so a swipe doesnt pull up google now UNLESS you’re in the left most homescreen, correct?

        • Chris Hinds

          You can also swipe up like in the past.

        • brkshr

          Yes, but your new home screen (when you press the home button from any app) is now the left most screen. So Google Now is automatically just one swipe to the left.

        • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

          Correct. Only from the first homescreen. And, as ever, you can swipe up too.

      • Bobby Phoenix

        I don’t. I like to have my homescreens be a continuous circle. Meaning I can keep swiping left or right, and it will keep going to the next screen until I’m back at my homescreen.

    • Chris Hinds

      On the video kellex just posted, he said you can toggle the Google now on the left screen function off.

      • brkshr

        I’m not seeing where to do that… I wonder if it’s in the settings>home menu in 4.4. I don’t have that yet, as I’m just using the Launcher Experience on 4.3 currently.

        • Droidzilla

          It’s in the Settings menu when you long press from a home screen (option on the right).

          • brkshr

            I can turn off Google Now completely and that takes it off the left most screen, but then I lose Google Now completely.

          • Droidzilla

            Well, that’s no solution at all. I bet Nova, GO, et al will come up with a Google Experience themed launcher in short order; sounds like it’ll be more your thing.

          • brkshr

            That’s what I’m hoping. Hopefully, there’s no unforeseen barriers in changing up the GEL for them.

          • Frettfreak

            only thing i am wondering about with other launchers is will we be able to use voice activated commands? the “ok google” cause i have been hearing that it may be a part of the launcher.

    • Raven

      I much prefer the rotating (5 sided) cube affect of Nova (and many other launchers). When I swipe past the last screen it jumps to the first and vice versa. I guess I will be sticking with Nova launcher for the time being. And then I can swipe up from anywhere if I actually want to use Google Now. But, until I can theme it to be much darker to match the rest of my desktop I certainly don’t want that loud white screen coming up when I am swiping through screens.

    • PhillipCun

      I understand why they did it. The home screen on androids are more robust than iOS; you can consume a lot of the information you need via widgets. If you think of Google Now as a place to consume information then adding it to the home screen makes a lot of sense.

      Best part about Android is if you don’t like it, you can install something else. I been using an iPhone 5 waiting for a new Android phone to buy and it made me appreciate the openness of Android a lot more.

    • LewisSD

      LOL my home screen is exactly the opposite. I am hoping Nova rebuilds their launcher based on this so we can get gestures and all the other good stuff that comes with custom launchers.

    • Cowboydroid

      Simple solution…download another launcher.

      • Frettfreak

        thats what i was thinking. all this bitching.. just use something else.. this IS android after all.

    • disastrousrainbow

      You can center the wallpaper when you’re setting it. If you don’t it goes by default to the fart left of it.

      • brkshr

        Thanks

      • alex

        haha…fart left

    • Allen Byrd

      I totally agree. I bet Nova will be updating the UI to look like 4.4, but they’ll make an option to disable the Google Now swipe integration or just leave it out altogether. It’s only a matter of time.

      • Frettfreak

        I am sure they are. I know Action Launcher dev already announced all the transparency stuff coming to his soon.

  • Robert Willis

    Do you think they changed the way to activate Google Now because of devices with hardware Home buttons? Seems like this is a big improvement for those devices.

    • Scott

      Very well could be.

  • Carl Bacchus

    Hey man I would really like to know if there is unlimited apps in folders now saw something in a post back then but not getting any confirmation

  • czechm8

    I don’t seen anything compelling enough to move from Nova at this point. Nice work though by Google!

    • http://twitter.com/savagejeep SavageJeep

      I think the always listening part for search sold me. I love me some Nova and custom icons, but I use Google Now way to much.

  • Scott Kart

    VZW Moto X: Launcher, gmail, search, and keyboard seem to be working nicely.  However my soft keys aren’t transparent any longer which is kind of annoying..any ideas?

    • Brian McGuire

      I haven’t figured that out yet either. Are your icons a lot larger on the Moto X using the new launcher? I suspect its because its not adjusting to the lower rez on the Moto X.

      • Scott Kart

        Yea the icons definitely seem abnormally big… not sure if this is on purpose or what?

  • Shane Redman

    Google Search isn’t meant for other phones. Reminders doesn’t work (FC) and also messed up when I did a “Post to” Command FC’d as well. I could live without the Posting to G+, but I do use reminders fairly often. And since the new Home doesn’t work with earlier GNow builds, I had to revert back.

    • Justin W

      Reminders work for me on a Note 3, as well as posting to G+. Also, with the Experience Launcher, you have to update your Play Services, Google Search, and install the launcher (there’s a post on reddit somewhere with that information and downloads, though).

  • avs

    Apart from the Google Now integration, I still prefer the Nova Launcher

    • feztheforeigner

      Translucent software buttons and notification bar are nice.

      • Jared

        do you have those two features? what phone are you using?

      • Tweekex

        You can do that with Nova..

    • Jeff

      Until I can switch my icons with those from icon packs on the stock launcher, I’ll also be using Nova Launcher, even though I think the stock launcher looks pretty slick.

      • tu3218

        Yeah I can’t stand looking at TW icons using this stock launcher. I love the new features but want to be able to change the icons.

  • Geoffrey Gunter

    Is anyone else having problems with voice search? Both my Nexus 7 (2013) and my Galaxy nexus force close when I use them with the GEL.

    • shanepbrady

      Switch the voice to a different voice, like English UK, do a search, and then put it back

    • TheDave1022

      If you havent done so, go into Now settings, set the voice language to English (UK), run a search, then set it back to English (US) and it should work

      • Shane Redman

        I don’t think that’s the full issue. I also had problems setting reminders and other things.

        • http://www.baldypal.com/ BaldyPal

          There is also a file you have to move to /system/lib in root browser. check the comments in the downloads article, i got it from there. worked great on GNexus.

          • Shane Redman

            but i’m not rooted….still should work?

          • http://www.baldypal.com/ BaldyPal

            No, I don’t think you should expect to make an app work if you don’t have the rights to apply the appropriate system changes which makes it work. Basically, you’d have to wait for a system update for those type of system changes. you are out of luck.

          • Shane Redman

            Figured. Thanks for the help

          • http://www.baldypal.com/ BaldyPal

            What phone do you have? if N4, if shouldn’t be long til you get the 4.4 update. others, at the mercy of the OEM.

          • Shane Redman

            I know I have a while unless they skip 4.3 and put the Maxx straight on 4.4. I’ll be happy if I see it by Feb, I know what I got myself into.

          • jednc

            I have installed those APKs on a Moto X, an SG4 and an SG3. All have worked. I did have the crash issues on the Moto X and SG4 when doing voice search. The S3 worked without issue. On the S4 I had to leave the language set to English (UK). On the Moto X I could choose either UK or US. Since I turned off “hot words” (because I wanted to use the Moto X built-in hot words), I switch back to UK on that phone (since I like the voice better that way. For some reason tech just sounds better with a British accent.

  • DanSan

    i wish i could load the apks. cant get any of them to work with my GS4 on cm10.1.3

    not sure which is the best way of installing them

    • http://www.bfolkers.com Brian Folkers

      I’m using CM 10.2 on my S4, and they installed no problem. Hmm..

      • DanSan

        did u just copy the apks to sdcard and then clicked to install them? or did u copy to system/app folder? i tried with clock, it installed but just force closed. i wanted to install the new camera but wasnt sure if i have to install both the camera and gallery apk.

        • http://www.bfolkers.com Brian Folkers

          I haven’t done the new camera yet. I’ve done the launcher, Google Now, Play Services, and Hangouts.

          I just downloaded and clicked to open straight from downloads.

          • DanSan

            good to know. if u do the camera let me know if u install the camera or gallery… or both apks

  • http://www.bfolkers.com Brian Folkers

    I want to use this, but I like being able to change the grid of my home screen to 5×5. Guess I’ll stick with Nova.

    • Moku

      That’s exactly what I’m worried about. I don’t think Nova (or Apex, for that matter) will be able to replicate the stock experience anymore, seeing as Google Experience is probably closed source. I want the new fancy features of Google Experience, but I also want to change the grid on my homescreen, and my dock for that matter, as I use 6 apps on my dock for my Nexus 4. Sadly, I don’t think Google Experience will let you change that. At least not for now.

      • Allen Byrd

        I’m sure it’s possible. All that they really have to change is the app drawer and a few icons. The hardest part will be the swipe for Google Now thing, which I’m not a fan of anyway.

    • Ryan B

      Yes, I hope nova updates soon to get the subtle animations and additions added.

    • feztheforeigner

      I like having custom tabs in the app drawer, which Google has now apparently removed…

      • Frettfreak

        Tabs or folders works for me. But since i started using them, and keeping my home screens for widgets and very few icons, its excruciating to have to go back to something that doesnt let me do this. lol

  • JZ

    Now I wanna know what Birdman was saying to you :P

    • http://www.droid-life.com/ Tim-o-tato

      He was telling me about the Aurora forums beginning work on Kit Kat ;)

  • rephael martinez

    I wish I was able to run this on my Galaxy S2 i777. It’s having trouble installing the files

  • Larry Bublitz

    Fantastic! This and the SMS in Hangouts are what I’m looking forward to the most in KK

    • PaulSchroeder

      Just download the APK’s. Working great on my S4

  • Adam Truelove

    I don’t understand why they didn’t include this launcher in the AOSP.

    • LeDerp

      i think its because theyll have it at a standalone downloadable app?

    • miri

      It’s [officially] exclusive to Nexus 5. At least for the time being.

    • Drome

      because then it is available for everyone to steal. Most of google’s innovations will be in their closed source apps from now on. This is to keep people on android and not forks like amazon products but also allow them to update them outside of a firmware update

    • TheDave1022

      Maybe because of Google Now integration, which isnt open source?