When the Nexus 5 was launched, one of the most talked about features in it – apart from the price tag, which remains astounding – was its launcher app. In particular, the option to simply issue voice commands by saying “OK, Google” on the homescreen grabbed a lot of users’ imaginations. Well, the launcher, christened Google Now Launcher, is now available for Nexus devices (and Play Edition handsets) and it worked just fine on both our 2012 Nexus 7 and Nexus 4.
A 12 MB download, the Google Now Launcher replaces your homescreen app with a relatively quieter and more Spartan look. You have three homescreens (one of which is dedicated to Google Now, more of which later) to choose from and lo and behold, both the notification area and the app drawer are transparent, so if you have a particularly jazzy wallpaper, it will literally shine right through them. While on the subject of wallpapers, the app adds a few to your collection, but nothing that will really make you sit up in wonder. App icons too seemed discernibly larger and sharper on both devices.
However, what makes the launcher special are two features. The first of course, is the “OK Google” feature, which brings up the voice search option the moment you say those words out loud on the homescreen. And well, you can ask the app to do a whole lot of things apart from just searching the Web for information using this feature – I actually was able to get the app to start writing a mail to Raju PP using it (I did have to give the app access to my contacts, but hey, this is an app from Google, so trust comes easily). There were very few accent issues – certainly fewer than Siri – and things moved along very smoothly in the voice department depending on what we were asking the app to do.
The other feature is merely a swipe to the right away from the homescreen. That is Google Now itself, which gives the launcher its name. For those from a non-Android planet, Google Now is basically a series of cards that tries to predict your information needs. So a map card will tell you how far you are from home, a sport card will give you the scores from matches involving teams you follow, and so on and so forth. Well, in most Android deices, you access Google Now by long pressing the Home button and dragging it upwards. Well, with this launcher, things get even simpler – just swipe to the right from the homescreen and you are in Google Now land. Of course, you can still do the long press and drag home button upwards routine if you wish (it is the best option to access Google Now from other apps). And all this works smoothly, speedily and certainly seems to tax the device a whole lot lesser than some of the launchers we have seen. We had zero lags and stutters on our devices.
So should you be downloading the Google Now Launcher? The answer to be honest, depends on whether you are addicted to Google Now or not. If you are, grabbing this is pretty much a no-brainer. We also think that this launcher is a great option for those who want to keep things simple and speedy. But if you are the type for whom a launcher means endless customization options, then you can afford to give it a miss. What did we do? Ah, we will give you a hint – we are getting addicted to saying “OK, Google”.
Available from: Google Play