The Google Now Launcher, a launcher that runs on Nexus devices and is often one of the first we install on devices that feature terrible skins (LG and Huawei’s phones come to mind), may be put to bed here in the coming weeks. According to an email sent out to Google’s GMS partners list and obtained by Android Police, Google plans to unlist the Now Launcher at the end of Q1 and will also no longer allow partners to include it in their phones after March 1.
The email states that because Google’s Google Search Launcher Services library is now out of testing and available to be used by OEMs, the Google Now Launcher no longer needs to be around. For those curious, the Google Search Launcher Services library is essentially the swipe over into Google Now that you get on the Google Now Launcher to access Now cards. Google has opened up this action to OEMs, which could mean Samsung or LG or Huawei could bake it into their own launchers. Sony previously helped Google test it.
Companies like Motorola, who use the Google Now Launcher (GNL) out of the box, will have to find another solution. That could mean using AOSP’s Launcher3, which now works with the Search Launcher Services library. If you use a DROID phone on Verizon, you likely have Launcher3, though it likely doesn’t have Google Now integration yet.
Wait, so what about Nexus phones? Well, Nexus phones are dead, at this point. In other words, it’s not like we have new Nexus phones on the horizon that will need the Google Now Launcher. Going forward, as Google fully retires the Google Now Launcher, they could always switch the Nexus 6P or 5X over to Launcher3 or something if needed. Then again, by the end of 2017, those phones will be through their 2-year support period for major updates and they could just sit on Google Now Launcher. Google did state in the email that current GNL users will continue to see support through the Google Search app (Search app actually powers GNL, which is mostly a shell). Or, there is the Pixel launcher, but that so far has been reserved for Pixel phones.
In the end, if the Google Now Launcher is done, that’s a bit of a sad story. It’s a great launcher for those who want access to Google at all times. It’s great for those who like a light launcher without a bunch of fluff. And it’s free and sees decent support.
If you want in on the Google Now Launcher before the listing goes away, you can download it at the link below.