On the Google Now Launcher API

UPDATE June 14 2017
Things have changed, still unofficial and experimental but give it a try http://www.androidpolice.com/2017/06/14/exclusive-nova-launcher-finally-gets-google-now-integration-apk-download/

Original post:

There’s been a lot of discussion about this so I wanted to acknowledge it.
We’d love to have Google Now as a page in Nova Launcher. Unfortunately that’s not practical (at least not yet).
Google added an API to allow device manufactures to include Google Now in their launchers, but currently the Google app limits clients to just system apps (the launcher that comes preinstalled on your device) and potentially it’s legally licensed just to Sony.

What about the patriksletmo’s github repository?
This is simply decompiled code from the Sony Launcher. It’s not legal for anyone to distribute and it still only works for system apps. It does not change anything.

What about root?
Technically, in theory, it’d be possible for a cleanly rewritten implementation of the API to be used by a third party launchers like Nova Launcher, if root was used to install the launcher as a system app. But this is not a good idea.
1) It might bother Google. The limit in the API is intentionally done, bypassing that restriction might cause some issues on their end, and make them less interested in working with third party launchers at all.
2) Google could easily break it at any time, either intentionally or accidentally. The API is likely still in development, they might make breaking change and notify Sony but not anyone unofficially using the API. They also easily could block third party launchers in other ways if they decided the system app check was no longer sufficient.
3) It’d break other things. Installing another app as a system app breaks OTA updates, breaks Android Pay and breaks uninstalling. Additionally, most users, even root users, don’t know the implications of installing an app as a system app and don’t know how to do it. +Cliff Wade would be overrun with support requests.

What about the future?
That’s the glimmer of hope. I can’t think of any long term reason why Google would not want third party launchers to include Google Now, and if they’re supporting the API for OEMs anyway they likely will open it up. Hopefully this is a test run, and they release support for third party launchers in the future, without any root shenanigans. Unfortunately things like this don’t always move quickly and it could easily be another year or two before we’d see such a thing.

What can we do?
Plus one this post if you want Google to open the API up for Nova Launcher to use. I’ll send them a link so they can see the interest and hopefully that encourage them to prioritize opening up the API.

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