It appears that Google is preparing to kill off the Google Now Launcher, which is stock Android launcher since it was released and there is no clear alternative offering in sight.
Android Police found a memo that Search Giant sent to OEM partners. The memo mentions that Google Now Launcher will no longer be available in Play Store starting the first quarter of this year. If a company want to keep using features of the launcher (such as information cards) that may continue to do so, but general users won’t be able to download the launcher from Google.
Google Now Launcher is one of the best launchers available in the Play Store, and it has been an easy way to replace crappy third party home screens for more than a year. Considering it has almost 50 million downloads on Play Store, it is not very clear that why is Google taking these steps.
The clean, reliable and considerably fast launcher has been on my phones and my tablets since last six months, and while there are no fancy lighting effects on the launchers like some available ones in Google Play Store, it has never been annoying to me either.
If you have a Google Now Launcher installed on the phone, it will continue to work, but don’t expect Google to update and add now features anymore. Google may launch the Pixel Launchers for all Android phones, but I am not going to bet on that.
If you are looking for alternatives, I would suggest Microsoft’s Arrow Launcher that I recently reviewed.