App Shortcuts are cool, if you can get them. Problem being most can’t.
App Shortcuts — the little dropdown menu of shortcuts sorted into specific activities — came with Android 7.1 rather than 7.0, and haven’t been widely implemented in the 4 months since it started rolling out in the Android 7.1 developer preview. It’s half Force Touch, half gestures on steroids, and all awesome when implemented properly. There’s just a few problems with getting it implemented properly: we need more devices that can use App Shortcuts, and we need more developers who are willing to enable it.
That’s where Nova Launcher comes in.
Nova Launcher brought App Shortcuts to all users on Android 5.1 and above with the Nova Launcher 5.0 release in December. This means that if an app supports App Shortcuts, you’ll see them when you long-press an app on your home screen. If an app doesn’t, then you’ll see the traditional app/icon options.
There’s a hell of a lot of the latter and not nearly enough of the former, but if you’re a Nova user, you should see which apps of yours have Shortcuts for you to use. Beyond the usual Google apps, there’s a smattering of other apps with shortcuts enabled, like Twitter and Evernote.
Why this is important
We’ve had Android 7.1 since December, and it’s on a whopping 0.3% of devices. That means that while App shortcuts are cool, there are very, very few people who can use them right now straight out of the box. There are very few developers who can use them straight out of the box. However, because Nova Launcher opens up App Shortcuts down to Android 5.1, it’s available not to 0.3% of the Android world but 55% of the Android world.
Third-party launchers back-converting features like these help developers who can’t afford a $1000 Pixel, allowing them to test App Shortcuts and see which ones work best for their apps. And developers need to thoroughly test App Shortcuts before implementing them because they’re only supposed to offer four shortcuts, and if one is useless or broken, they’re wasting a quarter of their potential.
Making a 7.1 feature available on 55% of Android devices also means that developers have more incentive to get App Shortcuts added to their app sooner rather than later, because more users can take advantage of them.
I wish that more 7.1 features could back-convert as easily as App Shortcuts can, (like image keyboards), but I’ll take what I can get. And as long as launchers like Nova keeping bringing more goodies from the newest Android versions to the not-so-new Android devices most of us own, it’ll make the poor state of Android updates a little more bearable.