With a new Google Pixel phone comes a new exclusive Google Pixel Launcher. While Android remains fundamentally open source, it isn’t news that Google likes to add some special sauce exclusive to its Pixel phones. Fortunately, some of those are easy enough to extract and port to other phones and other Android versions. One of the most popular is that Pixel Launcher, which you can now install on any other phone running at least Android 8.0 Oreo to get a very small piece of the Pixel Pie.
Android 9 Pie is already out, of course, and its version of the launcher has already been spread around. Google, however, was apparently working on a version for the Pixel 3 that had one very minor tweak. The mic icon on the Search bar at the bottom of the screen has been replaced replaced with the Google Assistant’s four-circle icon.
It’s a very subtle change but one that could speak volumes. It still launches an activity that takes in voice input, but now Google wants people to know and remember that it’s Google Assistant at work, not just some voice recognition function. Just like with Search, it puts Google Assistant front and center of Android’s interface, which seems to be the direction Google wants to take things overall.
Conjecture aside, some might want that new Pixel Launcher, just because. Fortunately, they can, thanks to the efforts of the folks over at XDA. Simply download the APK and sideload like any other APK. Of course, there are some caveats.
Most importantly, you are downloading and installing an APK from an unverified source, even if it is XDA. All security disclaimers apply. Second, while this will work with the Google Feed, it will conflict if you already have the original Pixel Launcher installed. That means, ironically, that owners of the Pixel and Pixel 2 phones have to sit this one out unless they’ve rooted their device.