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Google's got a crazy new launcher in the Android M Developer Preview

We're all still absorbing everything Google announced at I/O today, but it couldn't be more clear that the next version of Android is all about polishing the experience and making Google a part of every nook and cranny of the operating system. We've got a little bit of a wait for Android M to graduate to a full version of Android with its own hardware and everything, but the M Developer Preview images mean we can take a peek at the things Google is working on before that hardware launches.

If you do decide to flash the preview on your Nexus 5, Nexus 6, or Nexus 9, the first thing you'll notice upon opening the app drawer is a wildly different interface. We don't know if this is going to make it into the final version, but so far it's fun to play with.

The first thing you'll notice here, if you're a fan of the Google Launcher experience, is Google Now is not to your left by default. Google Now needs to be activated through the launcher settings, which live a long press away on the homescreen. Outside of this and a few shiny new wallpapers, the homescreen looks and feels quite similar to Lollipop.

Android M Launcher

Instead of the paginated app grid on a flat white card like we see in Lollipop, Google has opted to bring back the alphabetical list view, with a few improvements over the list views of yesteryear. This list puts apps in rows as they apply to the large alphabetical character to the left, and a flick on the screen will bring you to the top or bottom of the list with ease. There's no quick way to jump to a letter like we've seen in other implementations, but the scrolling is fast enough that it's not likely to be an issue. This same list view has been applied to the widgets panel as well, with the same large examples we've come to expect in that window.

Above this alphabetical list you see a search icon for locating something specific, but also a block of four apps that change based on your usage. The drawer updates these icons based on usage, so your four most recently used apps will be at the top for you to access. This may seem redundant with the multitask icon right there, but remember that Google wants you to treat individual Chrome tabs like app pages in this view, so the drawer icons are a fast way to get to apps if you have a lot of Chrome tabs open.

It's a fun change, especially if you're a fan of the scrolling list launcher, but don't get too comfy or concerned just yet. The most important thing to remember here is Google's Developer Previews are not set in stone. We saw plenty of things in the L Developer Preview that changed quite a bit when the final product was available to users, so whether you love it or hate it this launcher is far from set in stone.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

  • Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.....No. Don't like it. I like the horizontal scroll that Lollipop currently sports. ugly.
  • Well thank god there aren't alternatives, amirite?
  • i agree that it looks ugly, but only because it lacks symmetry due to the letters on the left...otherwise, i wouldnt mind scrolling up and down
  • And though it needs a little bit of polish to finish it off, I like it. I much prefer the vertical scrolling setup for apps.
  • +1 Posted via the Android Central App
  • +2
  • +3 = 6
  • IMO i think vertical view makes more sense.. My last phone was an htc phone and the vertical app drawer on sense 6 just made so much sense. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I see what you did there. Though, I prefer horizontal scrolling. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yes I prefer the vertical paged drawer, instead of vertical list Posted via the Android Central App
  • I don't think horizontal scroll would flow very well with the way apps are grouped now by the first letter.
  • the scrolling will make it a pain if you have lots of apps and scrolling what happened to swiping is this the new motif? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Whilst I do like the look of Google launcher, the only issue I have is the huge icons.
  • That's the opposite for me on every other launcher. I love the big application but dislike the puny ones that come stock in some launcher. Posted via the Sailfish iMore app
  • Exactly. If the G launcher allowed me to hide applications, adjust the grid, adjust the icon size, and at least install icon packs (I can't be without Balx) I'd probably use it as my main launcher. Until then its Nova 4Life. Dude. What if the word "NEWS" on the AC widget actually linked to the news page? #nopecuzthatwouldbecrazy.
  • The widget picker looks eerily similar to Nova launcher's widget picker.
  • I was thinking the same thing. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Ummm...I like the wallpaper...?
  • Would like to see what this is like on the N9
  • Somehow I though you was referring to the Nokia n9
    I am not a smart man Posted via the Android Central App
  • Hey boss, you are a bit incorrect on Google Now not defaulting as a swipe to the left. Just like Lollipop if you agree to Google Now in your phone's initial setup it will be there by default. Worked fine for me when setting up M.
  • Anybody got them wallpapers? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Give it a few more hours.
  • There aren't many new wallpapers, just 2 or maybe 3. I'll upload them in the M Dev Preview thread Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'm never leaving Nova Posted via Android Central App on 1+1
  • Anyone have the wallpaper to share ?
  • Check the M dev preview thread on forums Posted via the Android Central App
  • The white background is still horrible.
  • +1 Android All Day Everyday!
  • I think it's cool and u have the search bar in case u have alot of apps
  • Finally vertical scrolling is back. I wish they would give you the option though. I really want to know if they have fixed the mess they call volume control.
  • I always disliked the vertical scrolling. Maybe Google can possibly give options you know to whether you want scrolling to be up and down or left to right and what not maybe include a theme engine or something or even a dark theme... Posted via the Sailfish iMore app
  • Always put in on vertical scroll in Nova so I like it. Would install Nova anyway. Not enough customization with stock. Wish Nova could add the Google Now to the left but there are ways to get around that
  • How do you get around it? I'm using Nova and have dedicated most of one home page the Google Now widget. Is that what you mean? Thanks. Posted via the Android Central App
  • You do know that you can just long press on the home button to get google now, right? Posted via the Android Central App
  • I think it looks interesting. Russell, could we get a video/animation showing how it works?
  • Are you guys testing with the new factory images? If that is what these screenshots are of why is there a Cyanogenmod icon in the app drawer?
  • Wow, I went back and looked again and you are correct...there is a Cyanogen icon listed. Interesting... Posted via Android Central App
  • Oh, I dirty flashed and that app must have been on there before. I didn't even notice until you said something. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Why are they pushing all those horrid white backgrounds on us? That's been my main issue with all this lollipop nonsense to begin with. I'm currently using a Nexus 6 with Action Launcher 3 just to get away from all that bright white. Android All Day Everyday!
  • Because UI design in general has shifted towards brighter backgrounds and flat design across platforms. Much of that has to do with IOS, for better or worse. It's considered more modern and elegant by many.
  • LOL! Because of iOS my butt. Windows, Windows Phone, and even Zune popularized flat design eons before Apple or Google started stealing the design language from Microsoft.
  • Microsoft, Zune, Window, Windows phone... actually defaults to a dark theme in their OS. You are correct that they started the trend towards flat with bold colors, but you didn't even address what acelucero75 was even complaining about.: White backgrounds in the OS UI. The colors are bright, but the backgrounds are black to begin with.. so Microsoft with their flat elements and black background (by default) had nothing to do with the trend towards bright white OS UI backgrounds.
  • ^^^ oh snap ^^^ hehehe
  • I think you are correct on this one. Not sure why you got downvoted.
  • Emo kids are cute
  • But this outta make you happy Diving into M: Dark and light themes, and revamped app drawer too
  • That's great, hopefully to goes to the entire UI like the launcher than simply the settings applications. But hey, it's a start Posted via the Sailfish iMore app
  • Well the settings menus are largely what everyone has been griping about. All that's left really is the app drawer, which is easily solved with custom launcher. The only elements that had black backgrounds on KK and prior were the settings menu's and notification panel. All native core apps and Google apps were about as bright/white as they are now on LP
  • Thanks Android All Day Everyday!
  • Change is good!!!
  • Needs Dark Mode immediately!
  • In Developer Options, you can change the white UI to dark! Posted via the Android Central App
  • Is that an M thing, because I don't have that in LP dev options, or KK. It's probably me....
  • Isn't that just an Invert option? If so, it really blows on LP. :)
  • Nope, this is full blown dark theme (along with light and auto). It's not totally complete yet, you do get white text on white background in a few places but nothing too bad Posted via the Android Central App
  • I really hope there are themes in marshmallow when it's launched. I'm going with marshmallow via AC app.
  • Not a fan of white panels. Nor vertical list view.
    Can't go past Nova for launcher . Using lollipop hd theme. Yet to find better ui.
  • No thank you. I'll stick to Nova launcher with dark theme for now. Posted via the Android Central App
  • This is gonna make alot of people happy Diving into M: Dark and light themes, and revamped app drawer too
  • How is that wildly different again? Posted via Android Central App
  • Thank God for Nova Launcher just in case this thing turns out to be a whole mess.. Posted via Android Central App on The Nexus 5
  • Someone at Google must have really bad eyes. It's like I'm looking at a jitterbug launcher.
  • I didn't have to long-press anything to get Google Now on the left. I swiped over, and there it was.
  • I prefer vertical and alphabetical scrolling of Apps. I seem to find apps quicker using that method versus a launcher with horizontal scrolling. And I'm looking forward to the dark theme. Hopefully it goes well beyond the Settings and Notifications. I think I'd find that look more appealing than the white backgrounds. In fact, I use the GlowModified theme on my Chromebook, and the colorful Google logo and icons really standout over the black background. Posted via AC App on HTC One
  • The theme that you see on Motorola phones looks great, With Apps scrolling on blurred background feels great.
  • ENOUGH WITH THE HUGE ICONS... Posted via the Android Central App
  • I wish that it would be great if we can create folders in App drawer, just as we do in homescreen. Because if there are lot of Apps it takes time to find one you wanna open. And Can't place all apps on home(it makes screen ugly). And scrolling up and down is more fluid.
  • Wow, let me uninstall Apex/Nova right away! Said no android user ever. Seriously is it really that difficult to add a few features; Icon size, Grid size, Gestures, Themes then people would actually use it ahead of the others.
  • That kind of customization ability has always been shied away from by Google. However, that may be sort-of changing. The "UI Customizer" settings menu that is hidden in developer settings of the M Preview is suggesting stock android may be moving toward custom rom style customizability. However, they would be hiding it inside developer options so it doesn't cause normal users issues. This is a wonderful solution IMHO. Don't be surprised to see all the options you mentioned eventually make their way into this menu.
  • It wouldn't hurt them to have at least Cyanogenmod level of customization. I feel like some standard things like clock alignment, font selection, app colors, etc should be pretty stock by now, while setting schedulers and remapping hardware buttons should be a custom rom territory.
  • fantastic....much better than L et al
  • My big hope is that this year they take user feedback on features much more than they did with lollipop. So far, it appears they already very much have. I just want to see it happen before release.
  • You know the beautiful thing about google is that Android is OS. So you can change to ANY launcher you please, so if this doesn't please you. You can change it to any launcher you'd like :).
  • I have Android M up and running on my N5 since yesterday & far a developer preview, I am impressed. I've been an avid Nova Launcher user since my N4 days & I have to admit, I'm using the Google Now Launcher. It feels good with the overall experience, but I know more changes are to come. Glad to here from Google themselves that they will have at least OTA updates to the preview until we get the official image.
  • I like the design of google's launcher, but the icons are HUGE??!! You wouldn't need a search bar and alphabetical scroll if the icons were maybe a 4x7 or 5x8 grid. Instead it's on a 3x4? That's absurd to me. I'd recommend if you like the aesthetics of google's launcher but are disappointed by some of its features/interface to download novalauncher instead. It has the option to enable the same card interface but has some decent options to change the icons, grid size, and layout.
  • Looks like alot of these new launchers have bitten from the Nova apple. Nova 3 beta >29 was a climactic beta experience, these developer previews though helpful, but it's a take what you can get situation. You can't even colour the cards yet i don't think
  • Hay kool. launcher app ..but my ? is do i need a new phone to instal this app..