Ahead of the release of Google’s upcoming Pixel smartphones, we’ve heard a lot regarding a new Android launcher originally known as the “Nexus Launcher”, which has now become the “Pixel Launcher” to reflect Google’s new smartphone branding. The launcher brings a new look and feel compared to standard Android launchers, but as it turns out, that’s not all it will bring…

While looking through the Pixel Launcher and several other Google apps, Android Police revealed two big changes that Google has in store for the homescreen. The first revolves around icons.

Android has always had icons that don’t share just a single shape but can look different from app to app. Unlike other operating systems, this provides a level of variety to the homescreen. Now though it seems Google wants to take a different approach, rounded icons. These new icons all adopt the shape of a circle, some being redesigned to fit the shape, others simply resting atop it.

The icons look pretty good, and the change isn’t for the worse from my point of view, but what’s more interesting is a snippet of code that has been found in some Google apps, including the recent latest version of Google Duo. In the snippet we notice references to two different icons, one the standard, the other rounded. That means that, more than likely, these apps will only use the rounded icon on the Pixel launcher and not on other launchers, at least not without some modification. This is not confirmed though, as Google could be planning to switch all of these icons over entirely, but based on the evidence we can see now, it seems these will only appear on the Pixel launcher.

Along with that, the Google Calendar icon is also adopting this new circular format but with a new dynamic icon. This allows the app’s icon to match the date in either the round or standard formats. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like third-party apps will be able to replicate this based on the method in which Google has implemented it.

On another note, it appears that the Pixel Launcher is set to bring back launcher shortcuts. These were originally discovered within the second Android N developer preview and act quite a lot like that of 3D Touch on iOS. It’s unclear if this will be accessed by pressure sensitive displays, long-pressing an icon, or a gesture. Right now most Google apps support the feature, with the shortcuts from each listed below.


Both launcher shortcuts and the new rounded icons both seem to target API 25, a step above the current API 24 that is found on Android 7.0. Odds are both of these will make their full debut in Android 7.1 which has been rumored to launch with the Pixel phones. There will likely be more changes with this as well, but for now, we’ll just have to wait and see what Google shows us on October 4th…

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Ben Schoon

Ben is a writer and video producer for 9to5Google.

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