Android Police have reported that Google has sent out emails informing OEMs that Google Now Launcher (GNL) is being discontinued with an almost immediate affect. The post explains that any new handsets with GNL preinstalled will not be certified by Google. Android Police’s post references an email sent to OEMs that explains that they should use the newly released Google Search Launcher Services (GSLS) library which has recently moved from testing into production.
The email from Google states “The new GSLS library can be used to access the Google Now cards by swiping right on the home screen of an OEMs launcher”. Alternatively Google suggests that “OEMs can use the SearchLauncher app which is included in the GMS (Google Mobile Services) distribution. The email also notes two important dates, the first being End of Q1 2017 which is when the GNL will be unpublished from the PlayStore, meaning you wont easily be able to install the GNL on your device after that date. The second much closer date March 1st 2017 is when the GNL will be removed from the GMS builds which OEMs use to get the pre-installed Google Apps. The APK should still be available through XDA Labs in case you want to install it.
This makes us wonder what the fate is of the Nexus 6P and 5X which have GNL as their default launcher. However both of those phones will be out of Google’s guaranteed software update window of 2 years later this year. Android Police also make an interesting comment “.. It would be nice if this meant the Pixel Launcher was going to be opened up to other phones, but I’m not holding my breath.” — it would indeed be nice to see such a sleek launcher take over Google Launcher’s role. Alas, one of our favorite launchers is going away, but its current state is good enough to keep us satisfied until a worthy replacement comes along.