Launched 10 years ago, Google Now Launcher has been one of the most popular alternatives to OEM pre-installed Android skins, prized for its Android-pure experience and the speed with which it runs even on less-than-powerful devices.
Prized by many users for its low resource consumption, Google Now Launcher debuted with the Nexus 5 series of phones, equipped at the time with Android 4.4 KitKat. Available for installation and as a separate app, Now Launcher offered a minimalist alternative to the customised interface applied by Android device manufacturers, often improving device performance.
In the meantime things have changed, with alternatives like Nova Launcher offering a modernized design and more features, the solution provided by Google eventually became irrelevant. Unofficially, users can substitute Google Now Launcher with Pixel Launcher, a portable version of the standard interface shipped on Google Pixel and Pixel 2 phones.
Marked as early as 2018 as incompatible with most devices and locked from installation, Google Now Launcher hasn’t been among the easy options for cosmeticising the Android interface for some time. But the app has remained in the custom collections attached to Google accounts held by users who have used it in the past, and can be reinstalled on at least some of their devices
According to clues extracted from the code of Google’s most recent beta release of the app, the Android developer will completely disable the old Now Launcher at the end of this month, with devices still using it automatically switched to the default skin that shipped with that firmware version.
Apparently, the main benefit from the removal of the Now Launcher code is the slight reduction in install size for the Google app, contributing to perhaps insurmountable performance improvements for the rest of Android devices connected to Google services.