Google unveiled Android Kit-Kat a little over a month ago and its been enough time for me to really play around with a few features of the new OS update to Google’s already rock solid mobile OS experience. The news from my end however has me somewhat worried. After playing with the new GEL launcher on my Nexus 7 and LG G2 (apk link can be found below), it seems that Android’s stock experience has taken a bit of a step back.
After multiple iterations of the stock experience I fell in love with Jelly Bean, the features were innovative and made for a clean look and user experience. The biggest change with Jelly Bean was easily the looks. It brought Android from a cesspool green to beautiful pale blues, and it streamlined the whole user experience so that it felt uncluttered and feature rich. Most of all though it became easy to use, which for many was the biggest complaint(more a concern) about switching to Android.
With Kit-Kat however I find the opposite to be the case. The looks are still there, but I feel as if Google took a page from Apple’s book. Don’t get me wrong I still find it to be a better overall experience than IOS, but in many ways its becoming IOS(ish) in terms of the launchers feel and operation. This has me slightly worried about where Google is planning to take Android.
The biggest issue for me is how cluttered the experience feels in 4.4 compared to 4.2 or 4.3. Adding home screens took me a few minutes to actually figure out, whereas adding screens in 4.2 was simple and easy to figure out. Another gripe that really bugs me on GEL(Google Experience Launcher) is the dots that indicate the currently selected screen. It takes up so much space on the screen and makes it feel smaller and more cluttered. Whereas with Nova or Apex you can either get rid of the screen indicator or use the small bar that disappears after a few seconds. GEL has no such options and you are stuck with those horrid dots taking up screen space.
Google now is simply a swipe to the left, and as this does make it easier to access its far too similar to IOS left swipe to search. Its something I hated on IOS and although I understand Google trying to integrate Now into the experience as much as possible its just as easy to say ok google to get to the same page. Not to mention they don’t give you the option to remove it at all, this is against the whole idea of Android. Stock Android no longer feels; well stock. It feels forced and is now very close to being as bad as an OEM skin like HTC’s Sense or Samsung’s Touchwiz. What made stock Android so great is options and the bare bones nature of the OS. Now it seems that Google is trying to take Android in a direction similar to Apple. Which in all honesty is fine, but when you take away the ability to make simple changes to the experience it’s no longer Android.
Now I am not naive, every Android user should know that the launcher on every Android device is easily replaced with a whole host of different launcher apps like Nova or Apex. They offer more options, give you more control over functionality, and provides just as good of an experience as the stock launcher that ships with the phone. However, thats not the point. Nexus devices were supposed to show the stock experience of Android and with Kit-Kat it just feels as if stock Android is taking a step back rather than furthering the philosophy Google once portrayed. Either way Google seems to be making Android more like IOS in terms of how it functions, and that is not what I signed up for.
(I’m not responsible for damage to your device, installing APK’s from the internet can be dangerous and you do so at your own risk)