Skip to main content

How to install the slick Google Now Launcher on any Android phone

google now launcher android how to
Image used with permission by copyright holder

When the Nexus 5 came out it had a clean, elegant new look with slick transition animations and easy access to Google Now. The launcher had super-sized icons, offering greater clarity at the cost of allowing you to display four across the screen instead of five. Google also bumped the widget tab from the app drawer, but the big news was the Google Now integration. You can swipe left to right on the home screen to access Google Now or you can just say “OK Google” and it bursts to life.

It turned out this aesthetic and functionality wasn’t part of stock Android 4.4 KitKat. It was an entirely new launcher, originally called the Google Experience Launcher. Owners of other Nexus devices may have been disappointed that the stylish look didn’t roll out as part of the updated platform, but Google has released it as a free download in the Play Store called the Google Now Launcher. As long as you have a Nexus or Google Play edition device running Android 4.4 or above, then you can go ahead and download it.

Google Now Launcher for Android 4.3 Jelly Bean devices

If you have a device running Android 4.3, you can still get the launcher, but there are a few extra steps. You only need to install one file if you have Android 4.3 on your device.

  1. To see what version of Android you have, go to Settings > About phone.
  2. Check that you have the latest version of Google Search. If you fire up the Play Store and check in My apps you’ll be able to see if an update is needed.
  3. Download the files from XDA Developers and extract the GoogleHome.apk file.
  4. Go to Settings > Security, or maybe Settings > More > Security on your Android device and scroll down to Unknown sources to check the box.
  5. Send the GoogleHome.apk by email, Dropbox or Google Drive (or whatever you want to use) and then tap on it on your phone to install. When you hit the Home button you should be prompted to choose your launcher.

Google Now Launcher for other Android devices

Other Android phones can run the Now Launcher, too. You don’t have to root your phone to get it working, either. You will need Android 4.4 if you expect the launcher to work perfectly, but it will work with earlier versions, at least partially. You probably want at least version 4.1. It works flawlessly for us on a Galaxy S3 with Android 4.3. Be warned that installing it on devices running earlier versions of Android may result in flaky behavior, so do it at your own risk.

  1. Download the APK files in this XDA Developers thread and extract them.
  2. Go to Settings > Security, or maybe Settings > More > Security and scroll down to Unknown sources to check the box.
  3. Email the APK files to your phone, you could also use Dropbox or Google Drive, tap on them in the right order to install each one. Install PrebuiltGmsCore.apk, then Velvet.apk, and finally GoogleHome.apk.
  4. You’re done, hit the Home button and select the launcher.

Using the Google Now LauncherGoogle_Now_Launcher_2

If you’re wondering how to get widgets now that the widget tab is gone from the app drawer, you can long press on any blank space on a home screen or tap the Menu button and you’ll get Wallpapers, Widgets, and Settings.

Go into Google Now and select Settings at the bottom right. In Voice you can choose whether to have “OK Google” launch the Google Now service. You may have to change your language to English (US) to get it working.

If you encounter force closes using Google Search then change your language to something other than English and then change it back again and the problem should be gone.

Let us know how you get on with it in the comments below.

Simon Hill
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Simon Hill is an experienced technology journalist and editor who loves all things tech. He is currently the Associate Mobile…
Google just announced 10 huge updates for your Android phone
The Home Screen on the Google Pixel 8 Pro.

Google I/O, the annual everything-Google-software fest, has kicked off. As usual, Android takes center stage. From enhanced privacy and Google Wallet upgrades to theft detection and app safety checkups, there’s a lot to look forward to here.

From Android 15 features to more general Android updates, here’s a breakdown of all the major Android announcements from I/O 2024.
Making life easier with Google Wallet

Read more
How to play YouTube in the background on iPhone and Android
YouTube Premium on iPhone.

You can play YouTube videos in the background on Android and iPhone devices very easily if you're a YouTube Premium subscriber. Just start playing a video, turn off the screen or navigate away and it'll continue playing, no trouble. But playing videos in the background is also doable even without a premium subscription. You can use picture in picture, or a specific browser.

This makes YouTube a great rival for some of the best podcast apps on iOS and on Android. Here's how to get YouTube playing in the background on your phone, whatever device you have.

Read more
How to find your phone number on iPhone or Android
Someone holding up an iPhone 14 to their ear.

Let's face it: Most of us don't call our own phones very often. If you're like most people, this means you probably don't know your own phone number off-hand, especially if you rarely give it out to people or haven't had it for long, such as after setting up a new account or changing your number after moving to a new town.

To make things even more complicated, many modern smartphones let you set up more than one line using an eSIM, which gives you more than one number to remember.

Read more