With the latest preview of Android O, we see the new TV Launcher experience is getting more polished. Many small tweaks have been made. After spending some time with the new launcher, it still feels like it lags too much on my Nexus Player, although that will hopefully be remedied in the final release. We’ll cover some highlights.
App Drawer Improvements
When you hold down on the home button, an app drawer appears on top of any other app. It seems to take over for the previous menu, which showed your most recently opened apps. The app drawer now hides away the Play Store and Play Games apps as a blank card with a plus inside. Hovering over shows you these options to open the app and discover new software.
Additionally, the long press actions now take a new UI which resembles what they previewed at I/O. It shows three bubbles per app which let you move it around the drawer, mark it as a favorite, or uninstall it. System apps can’t be uninstalled. It looks nicer than before, although I found difficulty getting out of this UI. Using a standard Bluetooth gamepad, no control would exit this menu directly. It’s a pretty odd quirk. Please star the bug in the issue tracker so it gets brought to the attention of the developers.
I wonder whether this will eventually support new types of launcher interactions such as notifications and shortcuts that are part of the Pixel Launcher. Right now the TV apps haven’t supported these features, so few if any apps have actually implemented them.
Home Screen Changes
The main screen itself has undergone some changes. For one, the apps that appear in your “Apps” row are no longer simply the first six. You can favorite and unfavorite individual apps while maintaining your own order. Also notably missing is a notification panel. It’s unclear why that has been omitted in this build, unless standard notifications were not meant to appear. It is also possible that notifications will be hidden away in the app drawer, where they’ll appear similar to the Pixel Launcher.
With this preview, the background of the launcher now changes colors based on the currently selected “Program”. There are no APIs needed for this; it’ll work for any image. You can see it in action in the video below. The delay seems rather long, making it hard to notice immediately. This response time may be tweaked in the future. It does add a bit of a nice flair to the otherwise barren background. However, it still feels a little empty, especially when you’re at the top.
This was a pretty brief look at some of the most obvious changes since the beta release in May. There may be far more changes under the hood. Let us know in the comments below if you have spotted anything else.