The Google Now Launcher (aka Google Experience Launcher) was initially limited to just the Nexus 5, but Google opened it up to more devices a couple of days ago by releasing it in the Play Store. Unfortunately, that “opening up” only meant Nexus or Google Play Edition (GPE) devices. Very cool devices indeed, but not all that popular. If you’re feeling left out in the cold, don’t fret because you can still get it for you phone or tablet with ease. The best part of it is there are no major stipulations like having to be rooted. However, you will need to be running KitKat for this method or it will not install. If you are, jump past the break to get started.
The first thing you need to do is make sure you have the latest version of Google Search on your device. This app gets updated directly from Google, so chances are that you do. At the time of this post, the latest version is 22.214.171.1249776, so if you reading this months later, as long as your version number is at or greater, than you should be all set. In order to check what version you are on, it’s pretty simple. Go to Settings/Apps (Note: Samsung users will find “Application Manager” under the “More” tab in the main settings page) and either tab or swipe over to “All”. Scroll down to “Google Search” and tap on it. You will see the version number at the top.
Next up is to make sure that your device will allow installation of third party apps (not directly from the Play Store). To do this, just go to Settings/Security and scroll down to “Unknown Sources.” Just make sure it’s checked. On Samsung devices, depending on what version of Android you are running, you will most likely need to tap on the “More” tab in the main settings menu to find “Security.”
Now it’s time to download the APK and install it. The easiest thing to do is just download it directly to your phone or tablet. Just go to this link on your device’s browser (preferably Chrome) and tap on the smaller “download” box.
It will most likely open a new browser tab and you will get a warning, “This type of file can harm your device. Do you want to keep mobogenie_1541.apk?” tap on cancel and hit the back button. You will then get another message: “This type of file can harm your device. Do you want to keep Google Now Launcher 126.96.36.1999417.apk anyway?” Tap on OK to download.
The download will begin and you will see the download arrow in your notifications. Swipe down to see the download progress. Once downloaded, it will say “Download complete” just below it. Now just tap on it and accept the install. Note: you will get a parse error if you try to install this APK on a device running any version of Android lower than 4.4 KitKat.
You can also download the apk on your desktop, but you will have to transfer the file to your device. You can do that via USB, WiFi, or with something like Dropbox or Google Drive. Once installed, click on “Open.”
You will then be given a chance to opt in to Google Now if you haven’t already. After you accept that, you can also choose to have your current icons and folders (on your present home screen) transfer to the Google Now Launcher. If you want to keep them, just tap on “Copy Icons.” If you want to start from scratch, just tap on “Start from scratch.”
You now have the Google Now Launcher on your non Nexus or GPE device. However, it isn’t the default yet. Just hit the home key once. and you will get a prompt asking you which launcher you want to use, the Google Now Launcher or whatever your stock launcher is called. Just tap on “Google Now Launcher” and then tap on “Always.” The Google Now Launcher is now your full blown default launcher. That wasn’t hard was it?
If you find that you don’t like the Google Now Launcher and you would like to revert back to stock, just go to Settings/Apps (Settings/ More tab / Application Manager on Samsung devices) and scroll down to ” Google Now Launcher.” Tap on it and you should see “Clear Defaults” Just tap on that, and when you hit the Home button again, it will give you the chance to select your default launcher again. If “Clear Defaults” is greyed out, you will have to uninstall it. Just tap “Uninstall” at the top. Once uninstalled, your stock launcher will automatically be back as the default.
So that’s it, pretty simple right? Now if you want to learn more about the ins and outs of the Google Now Launcher, be sure to check out our guide. Let us know what you think of the Google Now Launcher after you play with it a bit.