Here’s why Sony’s launcher gets to use Google Now and others don’t


The latest update to Sony’s Xperia Home brought a very interesting feature: the same Google Now panel that can be found in Google’s own launcher. Has Google finally opened their arms up to welcome all launcher developers to implement Google Now?

Not really. Sony seems to have been a special exception for the time being as Google has made specific APIs to allow the implementation of this functionality. The API, as noted by Nova Launcher developer Kevin Barry, has several restrictions in place that make it hard for them to take advantage.

For starters, the feature can only work for a launcher that’s installed as a system app, which is impossible for users to do without rooting. Even with root, Barry notes that modifying your file system to include a launcher as a system app is dangerous, especially for those who aren’t exactly sure what they’re doing.

And even with the absolute trust of his users to know what they’re doing, what’s going to stop Google from breaking the API down the line, thus rendering the functionality useless and potentially break the app?

Long story short: there’s a private API for adding a Google Now panel to any launcher app, but there are far too many hoops to jump through and risks to take for anyone other than Sony to implement. Fingers crossed that will change down the line.

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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