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Upgrading my Android phone to the Google Now launcher (standard with Android 6/Marshmallow)

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Thomas Zucker-Scharff
Veteran in computer systems, malware removal and ransomware topics.  I have been working in the field since 1985.
Once again I push the limits of my phone.  An introduction to the Android Google Now Launcher.
I like to keep on the bleeding edge when it comes to the tech I own.  It is not only more interesting, but it is also the nature of my job.  Many times people come to me with devices they just purchased and need set up.  If I am unfamiliar with the operating system because I haven't kept up to date, that looks bad.  So when I saw that Android Marshmallow (6.0) was not likely to get pushed to my device, a Samsung Galaxy S5 from Verizon, I was a little upset.  But when I saw that I could at least download the new Google Now launcher that is standard with most Marshmallow installs, I decided to go ahead and try it out.

I downloaded the launcher from the Play store and followed the instructions on the screen.  I didn't really read what the information had to say, I was too anxious to get started.  It probably said that it was about to get rid of all the customizations I had made to the Touch Wiz launcher.  If it didn't say that, it should have, because that is what happened.  Suddenly, I had a very clean home screen!  I would now have to reorganize the few hundred applications I had on the device. This exercise had a silver lining, it made me learn more about the launcher very quickly.

In the title picture above you can see the two launchers side by side (after some customizations on each).  Google Now has some interesting features.  The most obvious one is the grouping.  Not only does GN group in circles instead of using folders, instead of having to create the folder by dragging an application shortcut over to the create folder link, one merely has to drop one icon onto another and a group (unnamed) is created.  This is a better way to implement the group feature.  iOS has done it this way for ages, it is about time Google did the same (the first time I tried to create a group on an android phone I thought I could simply drop one icon onto another and it would work, so I am happy it finally does). 

Another change I like is the way widgets are displayed before putting them on screen.  With the Touch Wiz launcher each app had a folder of widgets and you would need to open the folder in order to see what widgets were inside (beyond seeing just some very small thumbnails), while the Google Now launcher displays each widget under the name of the app.  In other words you don't need to open a folder of thumbnails in order to see the widgets within, they are already all displayed.  If there is not enough room to display them all they scroll off the screen to the right (you can see a separator bar if there are more widgets than are displayed).

I am not yet comfortable with the icon for all applications (changed from the square to the circle) being in the middle instead of on the side, but that remains a "getting use to it" thing.  I am a little disturbed that, at least so far, I have been unable to get rid of the Google Now screen that is one swipe to the left of the home screen (which you can no longer change - apparently the home screen has to be the one next to the unchangeable Google screen).  The google search bar is located at the top of every screen, and I haven't figured out a way to get rid of that either.

So far I have been able to create as many home screens as I need, which is great.  Although I still can't change the home screen from any but the one to the right of the Google Now screen.  I have been able to move any home screen I want to that spot though.
00.jpgSince this is only a launcher change, I haven't had any problems with applications yet, but I am so used to where applications were that getting used to the new locations is a little difficult.  Besides these small points, I like the Google Now launcher.  It definitely needs to be more customizable, though.
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Expert Comment

by:Darr247
Hmmm... I have Marshmallow on my S5 and the Now launcher isn't standard (which I take to mean is included by default).
Here's what my home screen looks like.
Marshmallow Home screen (click for larger)
By the way, you should try to embed the comparison shot in the article, as the title totally obscures it when viewed on handheld devices. (Going to check it on my laptop, next.)
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by:Thomas Zucker-Scharff
I didn't have much trouble going to the Now launcher and recommend it.  I like it better.  I now have a Note 5, so it doesn't matter anymore.
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