Android 4.4 KitKat on Nexus 7 and 10 doesn’t come with Google Experience Launcher


Nexus 7 KitKat update

With the Nexus 7 (2012/2013) and Nexus 10 now receiving their Android 4.4 KitKat updates over the air, some of you might notice that your homescreen is just a tad different than what we saw on the Nexus 5. Specifically, the absence of the Google Experience Launcher (or as I refer to it, the Google Now launcher).

Looks like Google is pulling the switch-a-roo, opting for the good ‘ol fashioned 5-screened layout in the Nexus 7 and 10. Gone are GEL’s infinite homescreen pages and trademark transparent app drawer and system bars. They’ve all been replaced by the traditional solid black bars and drawer we’ve seen since Ice Cream Sandwich.

We’re guessing the reason Google went this route was due to differences in hardware. The “always listening” Google Now search bar in GEL probably required optimizations found in the Nexus 5’s Snapdragon 800 CPU. But then again, why not at least add the fun new transparent bars?

If you think about it, it almost seems like Android tablets are getting a more “stock” version of Android 4.4 KitKat than the Nexus 5. Anyone upset that their tablet’s homescreen wont be infused with Google Now goodies? Protip: Nova Launcher’s latest beta still provides transparent system bars.

Images via: Reddit

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. Interesting change up

  2. Cue the gnashing of teeth in three…



  3. One of my favorite google experience changes is actually the App Tray icon. I never liked the ICS one. Oh well, that’s what Nova is for.

    I’d like to hear reports on how the Nexus 7 is running with this new update. Performance, memory usage, battery life, etc.

  4. Nexus 7 and 10? OMG I have to confess: I have just purchased an iPad Mini with Retina display!!! Will I still go to heaven? o.O

    1. There’s a special place for folks like you. :-P

    2. enjoy your cave, limited world and a corrupting company ;)

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      Apple omits (censores?) some words you’d like to send :)

      Because of Apple we have to pay more for eBooks in the whole world!!! – Apple played ‘central role’ in ebook price-fixing conspiracy

      Apple Inc is using anti-competitive iPhone sales tactics and technical restrictions to squeeze out rival smartphone makers from the European market?

      Greedy Apple – Because of the trust Apple+Microsoft+Adobe you have to pay more for IT in Australia!!

      Apple is a company you CAN NOT trust a word, confirmed by a judge: U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal says court cannot believe Apple in privacy case.

      Don’t trust Apple, Verizon with your data, says EFF’s privacy report.

      Disastrous iPhone’s security – iPhone is most vulnerable, least secure smartphone in the market, security firm finds.

      Infected Appstore is the reality, Apple just doesn’t know that.

    3. no.

    4. No… lol.

  5. This shouldnt surprise anybody. Pretty sure they’ve said the Nexus 5 launcher was limited edition exclusive to the Nexus 5 from the beginning.

    1. GEL is in the Play Store. Download it. Google chose not to force a new launcher on existing devices. Think for yourselves, people. Don’t regurgitate info you read from other people.

      1. Not sure why you replied to me. I’m merely “regurgitating” Google’s statement. I do like how you act all knowing though, except that last I knew you’re wrong. The GEL is not in the play store, and in order to get the GEL it requires installing three APKs in a particular order and doesn’t work on all phones.

  6. and so the fragmentation of AOSP android begins…

    1. More like continue rather than begin

  7. Now i don’t care for KitKat anymore.

    1. As you shouldn’tshouldn’t

  8. what’s the point of updating then…. dislike the move by Google. more fragmentation.

    1. Download the launcher. They made it available in the Play Store. This has nothing to do with fragmentation. They decided not to force the new launcher on people. You have choice with Android. Download it and run it.

      1. I am not sure if you are being sarcastic, but there is no Google Experience Launcher in the Play Store. If you know of it can you link it?

      2. wtf is wrong with you? are you seriously mentally ill? i keep scrolling down comments and you keep saying it is in the playstore and everyone keeps telling you it is not yet u still post the same sh!t…Phandroid needs background checks for some posters…..

      3. Where?

        EDIT: The link doesn’t even work if you copy it. =.=
        I clicked on Google Inc. to look for all there apps and didn’t find any launchers. Not even anything pre-Kit Kat.

    2. Goofle just can’t innovate.

      Sad really ™

      1. LoL!! The trademark symbol.

  9. Good. The GEL on the Nexus 5 sucks. I prefer my home screen in the center. Sorry Google but trying to force me to use Google Now won’t make me use Google Now

    1. Agreed. I prefer the center home screen as well. First thing I did with the N5 was ditch the launcher. At least give me a choice…

      Wonder if this version can be dropped onto the N5.

    2. I’m with you bub. It’s just a matter of time before Android users realize how lame it is doing it iPhone’s way.

  10. I can’t decide which bothers me more: that my Nexus 7 won’t get everything that the latest Nexus device has, or that the latest Nexus device isn’t running “stock” Android, but I’m leaning toward the latter.

    1. Interesting points

    2. How is it not running stock Android? Because of a launcher? Does that mean if you put Apex Launcher on a Nexus device it’s no longer running stock Android?

      And I’m not even being sarcastic. I’m trying to understand your point of view.

  11. ” The “always listening” Google Now search bar in GEL probably required optimizations found in the Nexus 5′s Snapdragon 800 CPU”

    Nope. GEL and the always listening search bar run great on my Galaxy Nexus

      1. Battery life won’t be as good unless there is a low power core in the CPU. But it will work.

    1. I think this is in reference to the always listening when the screen is off feature available to Snapdragon 800 phones.

      1. Yeah. Hopefully something that Google takes advantage of in an update to Google Search or GEL.

        The Nexus 5 can definitely listen for commands when it’s asleep while using virtually no battery. I think Google is just trying to figure out an elegant way to implement it.

  12. i dobut it has anything to do with hardware. im on a tmobile note 2. still running 4.1.2 and i installed the apk that you guys pulled off of the nexus 5. i have no problems with it running ajd the google now voice always on. i assume this is not given to other devices so that people go for the nexus 5

  13. You already wrote an article about this a week ago phandroid, why again?!

    1. Did they time travel a week ahead of time then?

  14. I wish I at least had the option to have the transparency in system bars. I think it looks really nice.

  15. Considering they’re fragmenting their own OS updates I doubt developers will utilize the transparent bars as there will be so few able to use it.

  16. Nice. Fragmenting android even more, on purpose. The only possible (and obvious) explanation is greed. Trying to sell more nexus 5s. Yet they still kept the price low. I give up. Who knows what the heck Google is doing anymore. All I know is I don’t like it. I’m off the nexus bandwagon. Bought a G2. If I could get decent hardware elsewhere I’d jump the android ship altogether.

    1. I agree completely, I said screw the N5 and went the G2 route. I been on Android so long, a change up May be nice

      1. Me too. I had the Nexus 5 for one day and I did and even trade for a G2. Not looking back.

    2. The launcher is in the Play Store. It has nothing to do with fragmentation. They decided not to forcibly cram a new launcher down your throat.

      1. No it’s not.

        1. It will be, just wait.

          1. As I said, if Google announces that it will be, then I’ll wait. Until then, what am I waiting for? Rumors and speculation to come true? Sorry, I’m not into that.

    3. It’s always been this way. Google delivers a new version and there are some hiccups and they work them out and now most things can be fixed with app updates and not a new rom. Part of being in the nexus program is getting all those updates. A year from now rom updates will be meaningless as Google creates a seamless experience across all their apps on all KitKat 4.4 devices, including low end devices. It’s not about the Android experience as much as it is about the google experience. Like it or root your phone and install CM. You still have plenty of choices.

      1. No matter how much you preach about it, app updates are NOT the same as os upgrades and will NOT replace them. You don’t get any new features on the device itself with app updates.

  17. So much for Kit Kat being able to run on hardware with half a gig of RAM….why can’t my Nexus 7 with 2 gigs of ram have a transparent nav bar?

    1. Because they had to give people something to cry about

    2. It’s just the launcher…

    3. I really want the bars. Tired of the black bars. Don’t mind them leaving out the launcher..

  18. [I know it’s a monster, but please read! I try to explain this entire situation. :-) ]
    This makes some sense, since Launcher3/GEL is wacky on non-Nexus 5 devices. I’ve played with both on the Nexus 7 (OG/grouper/2012) w/ ParanoidAndroid 4.4 and with GEL only on the Nexus 4 w/ stock 4.3, and each is a bit strange.
    On the Nexus 4, widget sizing is weird, but that’s the only strange thing I can see. (Test this by installing the Launcher3/GEL, and put a Power Control or Digital Clock widget on a home screen.)
    On the Nexus 7, (and other tablets) there is a laundry list of problems: Over scroll is blue, the app drawer and folder icons haven’t been replaced with the new look, the spacing seems off, the widget sizing seems a little off, and the Search Bar is not centered on the screen. (Extract Launcher3 from a PA build or use GEL to see this.)
    The Quick Start Guide confirmed this situation a few days ago, and by the state of the code and apps right now, it may be a while yet before we see GEL on anything but the Nexus 5.
    (As for the rest of the devices, they will use a slightly tweaked Launcher2, the same as always, just with a gray highlight on things being dragged, and overscroll. Just to give you an idea of when the two launchers were forked, and how development has progressed, Launcher3 doesn’t have the de-blued overscroll and highlights on tablets! I think this means that the features for the N5 were rushed, so that’s why KitKat is a little unfinished on other devices, and only coming out now. Tellingly, the leaked GoogleHome.apk is 0.9.something and Google Search crashes on other devices.)

    1. Would you agree that it further fragments the Android experience?

      1. Somewhat, but at least they told the Verge that they’re considering bringing GEL to other devices, and considering that it mostly works on the Nexus 4, in 4.3 no less, it is potentially a downloadable app, like Chrome on the Galaxy Nexus. (But a downloadable launcher seems sort of discontinuous with how Google releases stuff; though KitKat was “android for everyone” or something like that and I could be completely wrong.)

        (Unlike Bluetooth 4.0 on Galaxy Nexus 4.3 never happening; that was a sign of things to come, as was never patching the clipboard bug in 4.3.)

        Launcher3/GEL seems like it was developed just for the N5, but it could be improved. We should watch what happens to the Launcher3 source whenever Google rolls out new source.

        The problem with GEL coming to the N4 built-in that I see is that Google doesn’t like usurping the experience on older devices; Nexus 4 official firmwares of KitKat will most certainly have the Messaging app, because it’s what people are used to. Galaxy Nexus official firmwares have the Browser, again, because it shipped first. I expect that even if Photos replaces Gallery, the N5 will have it till the end of days, but then Nexus 6 will remove it, and only ship Photos. (Technically, parts of Messaging exist on the N5, but those are for legacy support, just like BrowserProxyProvider [I think] on devices without Browser.apk.)

        [Speaking of the above, If you have an N5, I’d love to see if we could launch the Messaging app through an Activity chooser, like the one in Nova Launcher.]

        1. To the contrary, Google has increasingly been making upgrades available to everyone through the Play store as a downloadable app. Although apps like Maps and GMail have been there almost from the beginning, apps like the calendar and the camera are fairly new to the store. Others, like Search and Talk (now Hangouts) happened along the way. They still need to make the dialer and the launcher available, but it seems to be their solution to fragmentation. If most of a system’s default apps can be upgraded, then the “version number” becomes a less relevant argument. Versions become the source of graphical changes, security updates, code optimization, and updated hardware profiles; while apps take care of things that people want to do with their phones (such as video chatting through Talk, Google Now, etc.)

    2. Kitkat wasn’t delayed it took the same it usually takes to reach older nexus devices.

      1. True. I tend to forget about the initial one to two week delay. Thanks!
        (I maintain that this delay exists for optimization, since the focus was on the flagship, things have to be checked over one more time for other devices. )

        Side note: The Nexus 7 [2013] forking of the main Android line in 4.3 seems to me the biggest internal goof-up in a long time, where the new hardware couldn’t be reconciled with the old, since KitKat became a priority. In all technicality, a lot of stuff in 4.3 seems a backport from the K release, to give OEMs an easier upgrade path that was still Jelly Bean, and since KitKat wasn’t ready, or the N5 was intended as the KitKat flagship. (i.e. Verizon software issues with the N7[2013] deb/LTE model)

  19. I don’t really care about how many people get mad at me for this, but I don’t see the point. The launcher isn’t that great. You get 4×4 icons per screen on a screen that easily fits way more. Google Now is awkwardly mixed in. It just doesn’t take advantage of the screen real estate very well. I happily installed Apex on my N5 and went on my merry way. Disabled Google Now too because it doesn’t do anything for me personally. All sports cards come up generally after the game is over. I have to search for the “next game” or else I’ll never see it. It still has too many issues for me to rely on it. Oh, and leaving location services on allows it to suck battery like a vacuum cleaner.

    1. New Search coming out on the 17th i think. We’ll see how amazing it is or isn’t.

    2. I really don’t get the grid. When they started the 4×4 grid, phone screens were 3 to 4 inches. Time for a 5×5 grid imo

    3. I completely agree. The Gnow integration seems wonky. It doesn’t allow any better / quicker access than in 4.3. Personally Gnow isn’t useful to me so I can’t comment if it is improved or not. The launcher also requires SOMETHING to be on any screen which drives me nuts. To add screens you have to add a widget or icon. Want a blank homescreen? Well you can have it, but it will be the only screen you have (unless you make some clear icons). The best thing about the launcher is the long press options it gives. That’s about it.

  20. Battery life is horrible with Nexus 4 with Kit Kat.. Probably the GEL

    1. Lies

    2. I haven’t noticed a difference.

    3. easy. maybe because you’re using a PORT for the N4! Wait for the official and stop complaining.

    4. Probably not the official update… -__-

  21. Really, people? The launcher will be in the Play Store soon. It’s obvious what Google did. For EXISTING devices upgrading, they obviously didn’t want to change the launcher and screw people up. I commend them for doing this. It has nothing to do with fragmentation. You can run the Google Experience Launcher all you want. Unbelievable!

    1. It’s not in the play store.

      1. Let’s just say it will be very soon. Everyone should calm down.

        1. Indeed. While there is some work left on Launcher3/GEL, there is hope that it will be released in the Play Store. (Or, more accurately, the Launcher app/GoogleHome.apk that enables it in Search 3.x.)

        2. I’ll say that as soon as Google announces it.

          1. I have a feeling hes right. If you install the GEL apk onto a tablet it is displayed in tablet form launcher.

        3. We’re pretty calm I’d say, you on the other hand need to quit posting incorrect information over and over. Calm down and think for yourself.

  22. So everyone that said Google experience launcher sucks is crying they don’t have it? You guys are all getting 4.4 it’s not fragmentation by excluding a launcher and if apps start using transparent bars you should be able to see them on Kitkat geese!

  23. Protip: Nova Launcher’s latest beta still provides transparent system bars.
    Id be a little upset if I didn’t get the launcher but…..Nova is a better launcher anyways.

  24. Great, so I don’t want to hear any more of this ‘Google users get all functionality with updates’ BS, when compared to iOS.

    1. Not quite the same, as Google stated from the beginning that the launcher on the Nexus 5 is not a Kit Kat exclusive, but a Nexus 5 exclusive. They’ve essentially created their own skin to go over the new OS, exclusively on that phone.

      1. How is that not the same? Its exactly the same. They did an update and left certain features exclusive to only the new device.

        1. Umm no… the Google Experience launcher isn’t stock Android anymore than Touchwiz or Sense are.

          1. OMG we simply take the apks and whatever libs are required and install it on your devices

        2. It’s a lot like Siri when the iPhone 4s came out. It was exclusive to the iPhone 4s. I’m willing to bet the Google Experience Launcher will be on all nexus devices going forward

          1. And navigation. I forget when Apple finally introduced turn-by-turn navigation (4 or 4s?), but it was exclusive to that device. Even though my wife’s original Droid Eris could do that…..

          2. You obviously meant Siri, not navigation. Turn-by-turn is available to any iOS device that can run iOS 6+. That’s when apple dropped google maps app in lieu of their own maps app. Siri was initially available only for the iPhone 4s though.

          3. Actually, I meant what I said. Just like Siri, turn-by-turn navigation is only available on 4S or greater. From Apple’s own website:
            No idea why that is, because even low-end Android phones (e.g., Eris) from over 4 years ago were doing that natively.

        3. It’s not quite the same, because as I stated, the launcher on the Nexus 5 is NOT stock Android, nor stock “Kit Kat,” and Google stated that from the beginning. It is a skin they put over Kit Kat on that one device. Like someone else pointed out, it is similar, in a way, like how Siri was put on 1 device, and not others, though not really, because with Siri, the intention was always to roll it out to other devices later. Google may decide to do the same, but as of now it’s not baked into the OS, just a skin, that is rumored to be released onto the Play Store. Not exactly sure what you’re not getting.

          1. I’m not exactly sure what you’re not getting. Google IS android. Just because they make a feature for the N5 only and declare it separate from android, that makes it ok? Then they’ll do it more and more and we’ll end up with an extremely fragmented android experience even among the nexus line? No. Not good.

          2. Not everything Google is Android. The Gapps (Play Store, Play Music, GMail, etc) have never been part of AOSP, companies need Google’s permission to include them in devices. I seriously doubt Google would be stupid enough to make more and more things exclusive to particular device.

    2. Cry me a river

  25. Google stated this from the time the Nexus 5 was released. This is not news. When speaking with The Verge about the release of Kit Kat and the Nexus 5, Google brought up the new Google Experience Launcher and said that it is a Nexus 5 exclusive. They stated then that you won’t find the launcher on any other device.

  26. Why is it using the old launcher 2 instead of launcher 3? Launcher 3 looks just like gel without the gnow integration.

  27. There’s a lot of fragmentation, great amount of choices, but kit Kat doesn’t seem to solve it.

  28. Does anybody know what that widget on the left screen is? I thought it was a stock widget of kit Kat but just realized that it wasn’t the moment I updated my N7 to kit Kat.

    1. Looks like Chronus to me.

        1. Thxs

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    Download CyanogenMod installer app and get access of your device and install as many custom rom as you want.

  30. uhm… maybe I’ll try cyanogenmod on my Nexus 7 then, KitKat seems unappealing all of a sundden.

    1. But what if CM is running Kit Kat?

  31. Jesus Christ people let’s just bash a entire os because of a transparent bar really that’s hilarious. This is so funny to read all comments. Even switch phones over the lack of a transparent bar. Lol

    1. Those people are mofos. I mean if you really want any of that, you root and get it yourself. That’s what Android is about. Being able to get things yourself. You shouldn’t have to rely on OEMs to put things on your device.

  32. How in the world do you setup the home screen?

  33. Woohoo! More sensible functionality than the iPhone.

  34. Nova is better anyways, so this is no biggie.

  35. As I recall , In Previous articles Google has already mentioned they weren’t going to add the Google Experience Launcher for testing Purposes(Which mean’t later on they would add it) . I don’t know why you guys were expecting for the GEL to be in this update..

    1. Wished some of it came down. I can see dropping the “always on” google now piece because of the lack of that optimized hardware but there is no reason the clear trays couldnt come with…

      1. I second that. But I guess Google thinks the Transparent bars wouldn’t be that hot or cool with the android community. Hopefully they come to their senses and bring us those goodies to our nexus devices soon enough.

  36. If you install the GEL Launcher APK and set DPI to 361 or higher, you get the full GEL experience with no keyboard popup.

  37. The “always listening” Google Now search bar does not require any fancy hardware. It works beautifully on the 4.4 Shiny ROM port for the Verizon Galaxy Nexus.

    1. But what about battery? I mean the SnapDragon 800 has a low power core. I’m sure it would work fine on anything else, but your standby time may suffer.

      1. That would be a logical assumption, but Google must have made optimizations elsewhere in the code of 4.4 because my Active and Standby time have both improved on 4.4. That raises another question too, is Google Now “always on” listening even when the screen is off?

        1. I thought Always Listening was only working while you were on the Home Screen. If that isn’t your case, I think the ROM Developer may have made some modifications.

          1. That is very possible, I know it’s mostly AOSP but baldwinguy77 did make some “necessary” modifications.

  38. Kinda defeats the purpose of buying a Nexus… which I say as a frustrated owner of a Nexus device.

  39. Okay, so from reading through the comments, I’ve gotten utterly confused. Is Google Now “Always Listening” part of the launcher, part of Google Now (Google Search), or part of the OS?

    If it’s part of the OS, then that would mean anyone on 4.4 should be able to use it. If it’s only on the Nexus 5, then I can understand the fragmentation issue. If it’s not then it doesn’t create fragmentation in the OS.

    If it’s part of the launcher, is the launcher part of the OS, or is it an apk like all other launchers? If that’s the case then it still doesn’t create fragmentation since it’s all based on having this launcher installed.

    If it’s part of Google Now, the application, that would mean you just need this version of Google Now. Though I highly doubt that’s the right answer.

    I’m seeing people upset about not being able to have “this”. What is this? The launcher? The launcher isn’t integrated into the OS, so where’s this fragmentation issue people keep complaining about?

    1. The Google experience launcher is apart of the Google search app but to unlock it you need an apk that isn’t available on the play store. The thing that people don’t understand is that KitKat and the Google experience launcher are separate. The nexus 5 ships with the apk needed to unlock it just like the nexus 7 and 10 shipped with the old launcher and every other device ships with its launcher. Google has been migrating their app apks, which used to require an ota update, into the play store. Google I think is still working on some bugs with the GELauncher for tablets and other different sized devices before releasing it onto the play store. I am running the GELauncher on my nexus 7 with 4.3 and the google now listening works the only things I don’t have is the transparent bars and it doesn’t fit correctly in landscape (presumably because of the way landscape is handled differently on phones and tablets)

  40. im going outside the box on this one…

    im keeping my nexus 7 on 4.3 with Nova and pretending none of this debacle happened. It runs amazing as is and really what will kit kat do? oh joy a transparent notification bar….big effing deal. and frankly since blyue is my favorite color i prefer the holo blue look. thanks Google but no thanks on this one..i will wait for Licorice or lemondrop or lollipop or whatever

    1. Read about the improved performance KitKat will bring to all devices (ported or official) and you might just “re-upgrade”. Install the Nova Beta and choose a blue Holo theme if it means that much to you…

      1. i still havent figured out the theme colors in nova…i change them and nothing happens it seems on my note 2…i go from blue to green yet see no changes anywhere.

        1. ya..nova color changes only in their menus but not in the settings menu of samsung or nexus…they stay their own colors..

  41. The Google “experience” launcher most definitely does NOT require the Snapdragon 800. I’m running it on my rooted S3 and it works just fine. It may use less battery with the 800, but it certainly doesn’t require it.

  42. i dont want my device always listening to me buuutttt i would like the swipe to the left google now

  43. Hardware requirements? Is this a joke? What kind of hardware it would require to work that shitty launcher? WTF GOOGLE?

  44. OTA? Google specifically said the rollout is initially for Wi-Fi versions of the 7 and 10 tablets only, for now. That’s NOT OTA.

  45. Anybody knows the name of the widget with weather, battery mail and alarm displayed at the picture? please! Thanks in advance!

    1. DashClock

  46. When will the uptade come for the nexus 7(2012) in Austria?

  47. I Bought A Nexus To Get Latest Updates, and this (One Of The Major Features in 4.4) Is Being Left Out Of It. what a Joke.

  48. iOS = Stable OS, No Fragmentation
    Android = Unstable OS, Malware, Fragmentation
    ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

    1. You really need to leave the drugs alone… They have you speaking looney.

      1. Hello pot, My name is kettle

  49. Maybe Google thinks that 4.3 suits better on n4, n7 and n10. I rather prefer the 4.3 design, on my n4, of clocks and widgets over the n5.

  50. Same issue with the Nexus 4. Incredibly ticked off. I was running the Nexus 5 port for a while on my 4 and loved it. Now I upgrade to the “latest official” stock Nexus 4.4 and I feel majorly dissed. Come on, Google, what gives??

    1. You could easily install the GEL apk and have it running on the N4…


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