Google tests a newer Pixel Launcher version with the Google Assistant icon on the search bar
The Pixel Launcher, the pre-installed launcher app on the Google Pixel and Android One devices, doesn’t receive very many updates because it would be annoying for users to have to relearn how to use their launcher app. The launcher has undergone a few notable changes since its initial release, though. The release of the tall, 18:9 Google Pixel 2 XL prompted Google to move the Pixel Launcher’s search bar to the bottom. Next, Android P Developer Preview 2 integrated the recent apps screen with the launcher, resulting in seamless transitions between your installed and recent app lists. While we don’t know if Google plans on revamping the launcher yet again for the release of the Google Pixel 3, we do know that they’re at least testing changes to the search bar for the upcoming Pixel 3. Now, we have found an updated version of the Pixel Launcher that changes the standard microphone icon in the search bar to the Google Assistant icon.
Another notable change: The icons on the search bar remain colored regardless of the wallpaper.
As you can see in the screenshots shown above, the installed version of the app is 9-4889482. The latest version available online is 9-4836503, so the version that we have installed is newer than the one that’s currently available for the Google Pixel 2. This updated Pixel Launcher APK was discovered by XDA Senior Member paphonb, a member of the team behind the Lawnchair launcher and who is also notable for being one of the first to port the Google Pixel 2’s Launcher app to non-Pixel smartphones and older Android versions. The launcher APK was pulled from the official Android Pie image for the Android Studio Emulator. If you are interested in installing this updated APK, we’ll have a separate post detailing how to do so as there is one caveat: Google signed this version with a different signing key than the one used on the standard Pixel Launcher, so it will not install on top of your existing installation!
While this change to the launcher isn’t a big deal, it is interesting to see that an updated version of the launcher is floating around online. Android P Developer Preview 5 and the official Android Pie release removed the original microphone button from the launcher’s search bar, but it seems that Google plans on bringing it back with an updated icon. Although, we did confirm that the icon does not change when you choose something other than Google Assistant as the default assistant app, so it would be strange to choose Amazon Alexa as your assistant app and continue having the Google Assistant icon on the search bar.