One of the biggest topics of the last few weeks, since the launch of Android 4.4/KitKat, has been the fact that the new launcher, dubbed the Google Experience Launcher or GEL, is not being included on OTA updates for Nexus 4, 7, and 10, and is instead remaining an exclusive to the Nexus 5 for now. I have finally had enough of reading comment after comment from the Android enthusiast community about how they’ve been robbed and other miscellaneous nonsense.
If you actually sideload the GEL onto another Nexus device, you’ll see that they eventually plan to release this to the Play Store in some capacity. This is made crystal clear by the fact that, depending on what device you’re using, one of the “old” wallpapers from each device is made available within the launcher for picking when running on that device. Obviously they intend the other devices to run this eventually.
What power users have to understand is that the GEL is the single biggest jump in the launcher’s user experience since Android 1.0 launched 5 year ago. Very little of it works the way it used to. With the popularity of the Nexus 7 and 10 especially, the overwhelming majority of Nexus users are NOT power users anymore.
Because of that, forcing the new Launcher on people would only end with average users going to Google’s support forums and saying “After I did some system update, my homescreen looks completely different!! This new thing sucks! How do I change it back?!” Anyone who has ever done end-user tech support would agree with me. So, you might ask, why not provide both launchers in the OTA and let people choose? That’s a ridiculous thing to do because the only reaction you’re going to get from most Nexus users is “what the hell is a launcher?” People don’t want choices and people don’t want options. They want their hand held, they want to be told what they want, and they never want it to change once they’re used to it.
Google isn’t stupid. They know people would react in this manner. That’s the crux of why the GEL is exclusive to the Nexus 5 right now. A new device is the only appropriate place to launch such a huge user experience change on people because they never have the chance to get used to “the way things used to be”.
Google also knows that power users want the GEL, and thus they know nothing is going to stop them from getting it. They know power users are going to sideload APKs or whatever else they have to do to. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. They’re correctly putting the burden on power users – the people who can handle it – rather than on their average user. You really can’t fault them for that.
Eventually they’ll put the GEL on the Play Store, even if just for Nexus devices. That way power users who actually know what the GEL is can download it easily. And for people who don’t know what the GEL is? Well, they don’t have to ever think about it. They can go on their merry way with the latest version of Android and the user experience they’ve grown accustomed to. Everybody happy, happy, happy!