Google Nest Hub Releases App Launcher
Google has released a new app launcher for the Nest Hub, Nest Hub Max and Lenovo smart display that arrays the Google Actions as icons in rows across the display. The interface is reminiscent of the one on Android devices and can be pulled up by swiping from the bottom of the screen.
The app launcher is part of a firmware update first previewed last month, as demonstrated on Reddit. Pulling up from the bottom of the screen shows a few apps in a row and a ‘see all’ button that will lay out 21 first and third-party apps in a grid. The native apps cover the gamut of Google’s creations, include Assistant and a mix of communications and informational services such as Duo, Meet, Games, News, Podcasts, and YouTube, as well as YT Music and YT TV. Netflix, Pandora, Spotify, and Zoom also have buttons on the launcher, and Google indicated that any eligible app can qualify for the launcher.
“The Actions Launcher is a smart display feature allowing users to easily and predictably launch Actions by touch,” Google explains in its developer notes. “We aim to include as many Actions in Actions Launcher that meet our bar for consideration as possible.”
The launcher makes “predictably” launching the apps look much like the screen on an Android device. It adds to the list of ways a user can open Google Actions, supplementing the existing choices of voice commands and the suggestions cards in the tabs found by swiping left from the clock or suggested by the smart display when its algorithm decides its opportune. Google Action developers who want to be included on the launcher have to have a visual element and a kind of lobby without needing to mention specific content like a song for a meeting space to open it.
The app launcher is the latest addition to the variety of ways users can access and manage the apps on Google Nest devices. That the apps don’t have Google in front of ‘Assistant’ and other branded software is notable since the company has also begun experimenting with voice commands that eliminate the ‘OK Google’ wake word as a necessity. The quick phrases feature is under development for about 20 commands for Google Assistant, with the Voice Match tool confirming who is speaking. Both quick phrases and the app launcher are presumably aimed at making opening apps more efficient.
Creating a menu of icons for the Nest smart displays also builds on the game-focused update Google unveiled in December for its smart displays. The revamped games portal included an updated lobby with recently played games and showing off some of the recently featured and top-ranked games. Users familiar with the Google Play Store or Apple App Store probably found it a familiar look, just as the app launcher simulates a smartphone screen of apps. The app launcher appears to only be for the Nest Hub Max right now, though it should appear on the regular Nest Hub soon if previous updates are a guide.