If the idea of a pure Google phone grabs you, but not necessarily the hardware in any of the Nexus models, let alone the need to buy a new phone, you can now bring some of that Google experience to your own Android.
News from Google this week as its own Google Now Launcher has moved beyond the realm of “made strictly for the Nexus handsets” to “available for most Android smartphones,” which is what it is.
The home screen replacement tool isn’t a new take on the way a phone can be used, not like Yahoo’s Aviate, Facebook’s Home, or Nokia’s Z Launcher, but rather the search giant’s basic home screen system with its card-based notification system that is “Google Now” integrated for good measure.
If you own an Android handset, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen Google Now in one form or another, possibly asking you to opt in before it provides to you the weather, news and information based on the things you search, and notifications about what buses or trains to take if you’re someone who partakes in the whole public transport system.
Home and work are places Google Now becomes very familiar with, and the entire system starts to work out news and information that you might need, gradually becoming your silent assistant when you use it.
But up until now, only owners of either the Google Nexus products or Motorola’s recent phones have had this integrated into the home screen layout, with other products requiring a series of button combinations in order to get to Google Now, such as holding the home button down, double tapping, or sliding your finger from the home button up into the Google Now icon.
Sometimes, you could speak at the Google search widget on an Android home screen and it would start up (not all the time for us, however).
This week, however, the option to have Google Now as part of your home screen’s layout is a possibility, as Google Now Launcher rolls out to all Android phones, or at least those with Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean” or later on them, which is pretty much every Android handset released in Australia for the past year or two.
For people that choose to try this, you’ll find a home screen and menu system similar to what most device manufacturers offer with swiping from left to right to get you around, a customisable shortcut dock, and home screens supporting widgets,
You’ll also find Google Now on the leftmost screen, replacing Flipboard from Samsung, Blinkfeed on HTC, and LG’s fitness and activity monitor from its most recent release in the G3.
Possibly the most useful addition is the Google Now search widget, which stays on the home screen regardless of what you’re doing and won’t move, listening for the sound of your voice calling out “Ok Google” and waiting for you to give it a command.
Before this, that would only work all the time on the Google Now screen, but with this launcher, we’re finding it works on most screens, with the exception of your lock screen and app menu screen.
Google’s Now Launcher is available now for free from the Google Play Store.