KitKat is here! Is that it?
If you’re a Nexus 4 owner who has recently updated to Android 4.4 KitKat, you may be a bit dismayed to find out that the home screen and app drawer hasn’t changed a great deal (save a few accent changes here and there). If you were expecting the Nexus 5 look and feel, with the “OK Google” and “Swipe left for Google Now” features – brace yourself – they aren’t there. So do you need to buy a Nexus 5 just to get your fix? Thankfully not!
The look and feel of your Android device is determined by the application launcher you are using. Most users use the default launcher that came with the phone, and most equipment manufacturers will create a default launcher that is distinct for their brand – it’s why HTC Androids look different from Samsung Androids (they use launchers called “Sense” AND “TouchWiz” respectively), even though they are running the same OS underneath.
Application launchers are just another type of app, and you can install as many of them as you like. It’s one of the lauded features of Android over iOS – the ability to skin the device as you’d like. If you want your KitKat Nexus 4 to look like the Nexus 5, you just need to install the Google Experience Launcher that comes with the Nexus 5.
Installing the Google Experience Launcher
First, download the launcher app. It’s available to download from Android File Host here.
You’ll need to enable application installs from non-market sources. On your phone, go to Settings -> Security -> Device Administration and click on “Allow installation of apps from sources other than the Play Store”:
Click on file to install.
After install, I’d advise disabling install from unknown locations.
Vive la Difference!
A quick run down on the launcher. Firstly, the home screen now has translucent icons and folders:
Long press on the home screen to change wallpapers or add widgets (which are no longer in the app drawer):
The app drawer itself now has larger icons, displaying 20 icons per page rather than 25 from the Nexus 4 launcher. Note the translucent background rather than plain black also:
That “Race Results” app is great – the developer is a really cool guy. You can download the app here.
Another nice touch – if Google Music is running, the lock screen will use the album cover art of the track currently playing:
Swipe left from home screen for Google Now works as well:
Enabling “OK Google”
One last hurdle. Long press on the home screen, and choose “Settings”. From the screen that appears, select “Voice”, then select language as “English (US)”. For some reason this version of the launcher only works when US English is used, but don’t worry, you don’t need to put on a fake accent (try the veal, I’m here all week):
Next, give it a try:
Not for you?
If you’re not fussed with this new launcher and want to revert, doing so is a piece of cake. Launch the Settings app from the app drawer and tap on “Home” under the device menu:
The home screen lists all the launchers you have installed on the phone. Tap on the top launcher to revert back to default Nexus 4 launcher. You can also delete any launchers you have installed by tapping the bin icon.