One of the big standout features of the Google’s latest Android release, KitKat, was a new homescreen/launcher experience that essentially merged Google search app with the standard Android home screen. Unfortunately, up until now the feature was exclusive to the Nexus 5. That changes today as Google released the Google Now Launcher app on Google Play allowing users to enable the functionality on Nexus and Google Play Edition devices. The experience brings a few improvements to Google Search integration on the home screen, the most notable of which is the ability have “always-on” voice commands using “OK Google.” It will also put a ton of Google Now content within easy reach:
• Google Now on your home screen – it’s easier than ever to get just the right information at just the right time.
• Just say “Ok Google” – when you’re on your home screen, just say “Ok Google” to trigger voice input. Then say your search query. Or tell your phone what to do, like send a text message, get directions, or play a song (available in the US, UK, and Canada).
• Faster search – tap the search box and you can enter your query immediately.
• Easy access to your favorite Google products and services, like Gmail, YouTube, and Maps.
• Larger viewing area – the status and navigation bars are now translucent, so your wallpaper pops from every pixel, and is even visible when you expand your apps drawer (when supported by device).
• Intuitive wallpaper picker – select any image that’s stored on your device, or in the cloud. Position and preview your wallpaper before you set it.
The Google Now Launcher is available on Google Play for free now. For now it’s limited to Nexus and Google Play edition devices only.