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The Google Now Launcher is on its way out of the Play Store and developers are now wondering what their next moves are. Specifically, those relying on the launcher as their Android home screen UI.

Certified Android OEMs have access to the Google Mobile Services package which contains essential-carry apps like Gmail, YouTube and Drive. It also carried optional elements like the Google Now Launcher, an advanced version of the stock AOSP launcher that integrated what was known as Google Now (now the “Feed“) into the leftmost panel of the interface. Manufacturers were free to utilize the launcher at their will.

But thanks to a new effort around the “Google Search Launcher Services library,” OEMs can now code in the Feed to be the leftmost panel of their own UI skin on top of Android. It’s being described as “a more scalable solution” — as they say, though, it takes a village to be “scalable” and Android manufacturers have not historically come together as a village.

In a letter to developers obtained by Android Police, Google has scheduled the demise of the Google Now Launcher. The launcher, which has been available as a Play Store app, will leave circulation within this quarter. On March 1, the GMS options package will drop the launcher. Developers who opt for a replacement can utilize the “SearchLauncher” app within GMS that already couples the GSLS library with AOSP Launcher3.

The end user version of the Google Now Launcher will still be supported through updates to the Google search app after it leaves the Play Store — the majority of Nexus devices utilize it and if you have it downloaded, you’ll also get the updates, too. Don’t get your hopes up for seeing the Pixel Launcher move into prominence, though — while it is available in the Play Store, its device base still seems to be stuck with the Pixels.

Now, if those contingent Google Assistant services that supposedly “make” the Pixel Launcher “tick” were to be indexed — as it is when bootlegged on another device, the Feed can’t be popped out.

We’ve transcribed the letter, dated from February 2, below:

Hello Android Partners,

Google Search Launcher Services library allows you to implement easy access to Google Now cards by swiping right on the default home screen of your own launcher. Its evaluation version for Android 7.0 and 7.1 was announced and shared at the end of last year.

Thanks to the partners who have supported the test and evaluation, we are happy to announce that the library is now good for production use. Please feel free to integrate the library with your production launcher, following the supporting documents published on the GMS site. Going forward, we will provide the updated version of the library with the monthly GMS bundle update.

Since the Search Launcher Services library is a more scalable solution, we’re discontinuing the Google Now Launcher over the following timeline:

  • Q1 2017 – Google Now Launcher will be unpublished from Google Play. Although users would not be able to download and install the launcher from Google Play Store, Google will continue to supporting existing users of the Google Now Launcher by updating the Google Search app.
  • March 1, 2017 – Google Now Launcher will be removed from optional GMS. New devices with Google Now Launcher on the system image will no longer be approved. However, partner devices can keep shipping Google Now Launcher if they were approved before the cut-off date. These devices do not have to replace the Google Now Launcher with something else after they’ve updated to [a] newer version of the Android platform.

If your products relied on the Google Now Launcher and you are looking for an immediate replacement, please consider using the SearchLauncher app that is included in the GMS distribution. It integrates the Search Launcher Services library with the AOSP Launcher3, and you may use the app for your production devices.

Please contact your technical account manager if you have any questions.


The Android Team

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