Third-party launcher apps have been popular for an obvious reason: their ability to provide a superior experience to the stock launchers found in most Android phones. But with the release of Android 9 Pie, Google put all of them at a disadvantage by revamping the recent apps screen and introducing gestures in the stock launcher app. However, things haven’t stayed since then and most third-party launcher apps are improving when using gestures, thanks to Google for making available an API that third-party launchers can use to improve their apps’ experience with gesture navigation.
For those of you who already use Nova Launcher, you might have noticed a notification quoting their inability to implement gesture controls in Android 10. But if you are a Pixel owner and have used the recent Nova Launcher beta release in the past few months, you might have noticed the smooth and fluid notifications when using gesture navigation. These are much similar to the default Pixel Launcher present in your phone. This is because Nova Launcher has used an API, which Google has made available in most Pixel phones, to make the transition from an app back to home screen look much more native. Unfortunately, this feature is not available on any other device from other OEMs.
Why Nova Launcher Works Better in Pixel Phones
As said before, Google first introduced gesture navigation in Android 9, and to make gestures feel as fluid as possible, it needed to make all transitions look seamless. The company also wanted to let users access their entire app list from the recent apps screen. So to do this, Google moved the code that handles the recent apps screen from Android’s SystemUI to Launcher3. Launcher3 is Android’s open-source launcher app that OEMs use to create launchers for their devices. However, any changes that Google does to the code post releasing the first Android version build aren’t used by other OEMs. Because of this, the latest features that come to stock Android don’t appear in other phones.
Having said this, the API that exists in most Pixel phones, which was committed to Launcher3 internally in July 2020, exists in Pixel phones only. So some third-party launcher apps like Nova Launcher and Niagara Launcher are taking advantage of this API to make the gesture navigation as fluid as possible. That’s why the transition from an app back to the home screen in Nova Launcher looks much more native in Pixel phones. On the other hand, the other phones that don’t have this API don’t appear to have Nova Launcher work better.
According to the comparative tests performed by XDA using the latest version of Nova Launcher (v7.0.25 beta) on ASUS ROG Phone 5 and Google Pixel 4, you can clearly see the difference in animations on both screens. Check out the video below to see how Nova Launcher works better on Pixel phones and not in devices from other phone makers.