Google Now Launcher now available in the Play store

google now launchter tablet

We wrote about significant updates to Google apps, including the Search app, a few weeks ago. That update corresponded with an update to the Google Now Launcher - the home screen experience that comes standard on Nexus 5 phones.

Today, Google has made that launcher available to the Nexus 4, Nexus 7, Nexus 10, and Google Play Edition phones that run Android 4.4. If you have one of those phones, you can download from Google Play right now.

So what's in the Google Now Launcher? From the release notes:

googlenow launcher

• 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.

In short, Google's launcher moves Google Now from its current location (swipe up from the bottom of the screen on some phones) to the leftmost home screen. It also improves the Google search bar, and adds an "always listening" (as long as your phone is on the home screen) ability to say "OK Google" to start a voice search or command. There are a few minor visual tweaks, too.

Unfortunately, you can't install this launcher on any 'ol phone with Android 4.4 and get a nearly-stock experience. This is just for those phones that have the stock Google interface to begin with. I'm sure some enterprising enthusiasts will make an APK available for anyone with a phone running KitKat, or perhaps, Google will get gutsy and enable its official release more broadly.

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