The rumors have been pretty hot for a while that Google is going to make some notable changes to Android when it launches the Pixel phones on Oct. 4.
We have some more evidence of what this will look like thanks to a deeper dive into several different Google APKs. The speculation is that much of the hinted features will come forth with Android 7.1 and a new Pixel Launcher, both to be unveiled with the Pixel and Pixel XL.
The teardown by Android Police is of course no guarantee of what’s to come, but the site has a pretty good track record of calling their shots.
Why this matters: The break from Nexus to Pixel is more than just a name change. The phones will be marketed as the best of Google’s hardware and software working together and should include several features to make them stand apart. We’re already seeing hints of this with the promise of launcher shortcuts and a host of new round application icons.
The new feature that would impact you the most directly if you part with your cash for one of the new phones is launcher shortcuts. Essentially this would offer a series of actions that you could initiate by performing some type of gesture on the app’s icon. That could be a hard-press on a pressure-sensitive screen, or a short swipe down, or a long-press...you get the idea.
Much like 3D Touch on iOS, you’d see a menu of specific actions you could take. Android Police created their own mockup of the type of shortcuts you may see based on evidence garnered from various teardowns.
There isn’t any indication whether the Pixel or Pixel XL will have a pressure sensitive screen, so these would likely be launched with some sort of gesture.
You may have noticed in the above mockup that all of the app icons were round. That’s not a coincidence. Evidence indicates that the Pixel Launcher will force all the icons to be circular, much in the same way that icon packs can change up the look on anyone’s home screen.
If this moves forward, we’d expect to see some developer guidelines for how icons can be properly configured for this change. Some may not be thrilled, as the freedom to create icons of any size and shape is one of the hallmarks of Android. Of course where some see freedom, others see clutter. Samsung adopted a similar interface with the latest version of TouchWiz on the Galaxy Note7.
The evidence matches what we’ve expected Google to do with Nougat and its latest phones by adding in further differentiation to the stock Android experience. It’s a solid appetizer as the main course awaits on Oct. 4, when Google unveils its new phones at a San Francisco event.