Google introduced its own app launcher in 2014 featuring its personal assistant Google Now, and now it is said to be killing it. The California-based Internet giant is reportedly removing the Google Now Launcher from the Play store, while the Pixel Launcher will still be available but only for Pixel smartphones. The move is said to happen at the end of Q1 i.e. March this year, however those who already have Google Now Launcher installed will continue receiving updates from Google.
In an email sent to GMS partners, Google explains that Google Now Launcher will be discontinued over the timeline starting Q1 2017 wherein it will be unpublished from the Google Play store - however it will continue receiving updates via the Google App for Android. This could be indication that there will be no major updates coming to the Google Now Launcher, but just few tweaks here and there inside it.
In addition to that, according to the email, starting 1 March 2017, the Google Now Launcher will also be removed from Google Mobile Services (GMS), which are used by OEMs to build their own Android device. New devices with Google Now Launcher will not be approved by Google but there's a way out for OEM partners who would have to use Google's Search Launcher Services library for their own stock launchers.
The Google Search Launcher Services library has been under testing for a while and it's now available for OEM partners to use. This will let the OEMs append Google Now panel as the leftmost screen of their launchers. Sony is already making the use of this service for its launchers. However, the OEMs that use Google Now Launcher as a default launcher in their devices, like Moto smartphones, will have to obtain the Launcher3 from Android Open Source Project (AOSP) paired with Search Launcher Services library, and add the search services, or develop a brand-new launcher. That said, it's also uncertain about what Google has planned for the Nexus devices that also rely on the Google Now Launcher.
Anyway, the third-party app launchers like Nova Launcher, Go Launcher can be alternatively used as well. As we mentioned, one of the two launchers from Google - Pixel Launcher - will still be available, but only for the Pixel smartphone users. There's no information whether Google is planning to open use of Pixel Launcher by other devices.