Google has offered the option to install its own Google Now-based app launcher on any Android device since August 2014, but it appears that’s about to change. According to a leaked email sent to Android Police, Google is planning on removing the Google Now Launcher from the Play Store by the end of Q1 2017, and will stop approving new devices that try to ship with the Google Now Launcher on March 1st.
Google Now Launcher was primarily designed for Google Nexus line of reference devices, but was best known for being a quick and trusted way to cover up ugly Android skins from manufacturers and replace them with Google’s clean, consistent Material Design language. While the leaked email notes that Google will still be supporting the app through updates, it will no longer be offered through the Play Store.
It’s possible that with Google killing the Now Launcher, the company could be expanding the new Pixel Launcher that it also develops for other devices — currently, it’s exclusive only to Google’s recent Pixel and Pixel XL. As of now though, users will have to turn to other third-party solutions like Nova Launcher to re-skin their Android devices going forward.
We have reached out to Google for confirmation, and will continue to update this post with any further developments.
Update February 3rd, 1:40PM: Google has declined to comment.