Google Experience Launcher - An Easy Hack To Get The Look Of The Nexus 5 On Any Android Phone Or Tablet

Posted: Jan 9 2014, 12:46pm CST | by , in News

 

Google Experience Launcher - An Easy Hack To Get The Look Of The Nexus 5 On Any Android Phone Or Tablet
Photo Credit: Forbes
 

The Google Search Evolution

One of the best surprises in Android 4.4 Kitkat was the inclusion of Android RunTime or ‘ART’. It makes your phone run faster and its battery last longer and my December post will tell you how to enable it. ART wasn’t the only exciting Easter Egg in KitKat though, for the first time the Google Experience Launcher or ‘GEL’ has been built into Google Search and this means anyone can get it.

What is GEL?
First things first. GEL is the look / user interface of Android and its most recent version is seen on the Nexus 5. Bizarrely this version was omitted from previous Nexus devices (excluding the 2013 Nexus 7) when they were updated to KitKat. This is a great shame because it brings a wide array of visual improvements over past versions of Android, including:

• Translucent notification bar, dock and app drawer
• Enlarged icons
• New system icons
• A dedicated Google Now homescreen left of the homepage
• White system text & white folder backgrounds
• The new ‘Roboto Compact’ type font
• New wallpaper, widget and settings shortcuts
• A slew of new, faster system animations






There are many more and while some may sound incidental, combined they make for a significant and highly optimized new look as the comparison image of Android 4.3 and 4.4 shows below.

Caveats
Do a search for ‘Android KitKat GEL’ and you’ll find specialist Android sites have been writing about hacking it onto other devices since mid-November, when the Nexus 5 first launched. The reason we didn’t cover it then was GEL was unstable and limited to phones only. Now it also works with tablets and in recent weeks version 3.1.24 of the Google Search app has launched in the Play Store which tweaks GEL even further and makes it rock solid on almost any device.

So regardless of whether you own a phone or tablet made by Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Acer, Asus, ZTE, Huawei or anyone else, you can now get that Nexus 5 look and feel and wave goodbye to TouchWiz, HTC Sense and other third party skins. A few caveats remain:

• Your device must already run Android 4.1 or above
• The Motorola Moto G running Android 4.3 is incompatible

These aside, the best news is the hack to apply GEL to your device is both easy and fully reversible. So how do you do it?

How to apply GEL to your Android device
All it takes is five simple steps:

• Check you have Google Search v3.1.24 or higher installed from the Google Play Store
• Download this file (‘com.google.android.launcher-0.9.6.886092’) to your Android device
• Run it
• Tap your home button
• Select the new ‘Launcher’ option in the screen that pops up



For the cautious you may want to select ‘Just once’ when you try the new launcher. This means you will be asked every time you press the home button whether you want to use it or the previous launcher that came with your phone. When you are content to switch, just choose ‘Always’ to make it the default going forward (see image, right).

If you want to remove GEL from your device either uninstall the launcher or go to: settings / apps / Google Search / Clear Defaults. This again lets you choose which launcher you want the next time you press the home key.

The future of the Google Experience Launcher
While the hack to apply GEL to your device is simple, the fact Google keeps updating it to work increasingly smoothly on an ever wider variety of devices indicates it will soon become an official option for all Android handset owners.

Should this happen it will be a key moment for the future of Android. It gives users who want the stock Android experience the option to have it without being forced to buy a Nexus or ‘Google Play Edition’ device yet it should not alienate manufacturers who can still sell their devices with their own skins as differentiators. In fact GEL may even see manufacturers up their game as many third party skins for Android are poorly coded and slow down the user experience. With an option to dump them for a stock Android experience at any moment this tardiness is unlikely to continue for long.

Source: Forbes

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