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Google Now Launcher arrives for older Nexus devices

Google has launched its Google Now Launcher onto the Google Play Store, enabling owners of old Nexus devices to get the full Nexus 5 experience.

As part of the stock Android 4.4 KitKat experience launched with the Google Nexus 5 last year, Google provided quicker access to Google Now and a number of home screen interface tweaks.

Now, those modifications have been made available to the wider Nexus-owning world through a free Play Store app. This app also works on Google Play edition phones from the likes of Samsung, HTC, and LG.

The Google Now Launcher makes the Now card system available by swiping right from the homescreen. Previously you had to open up a Google search in order to do this.

Another key addition is voice operation. By saying “OK Google” from the homescreen, you can instruct your phone to accept vocal control, or to initiate a search for term.

As well as these major additions, the Google Now Launcher adds a number of cosmetic tweaks. The navigation and status bars are now translucent, just like on the KitKat OS proper, and app icons are a little bigger. There’s also a new wallpaper picker.

It’s a shame this release isn’t a wider one. The market for new launcher apps as a way to strip your bloated Android device UI back to something approaching stock AI is considerable, and an officially endorsed Google effort would doubtless be massive.

Google Now Launcher is available now for all Nexus and Google Play experience devices on the Google Play Store.

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