Is Google Actually Killing The Android App Drawer?

Android Nerds Are Freaking Out Over Rumours That Google Is Killing the App Drawer

On February 27 at 2:10am Google Maps published a tweet seen 'round the world — or at least in fanatic Android circles. The tweet included a purported leak that shows a build of Android missing a critical feature: the app drawer.

For the unfamiliar, the app drawer is a uniquely Android feature that keeps all the software tucked away from the home screen. It's mostly seen as a useful tool to help keep Android phones organised. When watching the very, very beginning of the Maps' small clip above, you'll see that the familiar circle icon that brings up the app drawer is missing completely.

Android Nerds Are Freaking Out Over Rumours That Google Is Killing the App Drawer


Android Nerds Are Freaking Out Over Rumours That Google Is Killing the App Drawer

As you might imagine, a Twitter meltdown ensued:

And there are many, many, many more tweets where that came from.

Google has since said that the video was an inaccurate mockup, and that it doesn't represent any future Android updates. But it does little to temper fears that it may soon be an endangered Android feature, because the app drawer's been disappearing for a while now.

Phone makers, like LG, Samsung and Sony, have been toying with ways to eliminate the Android app drawer, effectively priming the hysteria pump for this unfortunate Google slip up.

On the LG G5, the app drawer is completely missing and a Samsung Galaxy Labs option also lets you delete the drawer if you want. I've even noticed smaller Android releases have also deleted the app drawer. Combine this slow disappearing act with the fact these same Android makers are inching perceptively closer to being more and more iPhone-like in material and design, and it's understandable that some Android fans are sensing a hostile software takeover.

Here's the thing: the apps drawer is one of the biggest differentiating factors between Android and Apple iOS. Where Apple has always designed its mobile OS to have every single app on the homescreen, Android has always taken a different approach. After all, you wouldn't put every single app you download on a desktop screen, so why would you want to clutter up your smartphone in the same way?

The Android app drawer is a way to keep things like icon packs, launchers and other app debris out of sight. It fulfils Android's ultimate promise of customisation, which is why the rumour of its demise is equally confounding.

Google, of course, could always just make it optional, following instep with LG and Sony. Similarly, woe-filled Android users could just install an app drawer-friendly launcher, of which there are several. But such an idea would ultimately concede that iOS was right from the very beginning, and I don't know if you know this, but Android fans don't like conceding that iOS does anything better.

For now, Google says that the App Drawer Freakout of 2016 is misplaced mayhem. Of course, they wouldn't tell us one way or the other until they show off Android N at Google I/O in May. Either way, it's becoming increasingly clear that the companies making Android phones think iOS might be onto something. We'll see if Google feels the same way in a couple months.



    It's almost as if you can't just get customer launchers, or even a ROM with an android.

      I know, right? I don't think it's nerds that are complaining about the loss of the launcher, because us nerds know that we can just download a different one. Nova has been my go to launcher for the last 3-4 years.

      Last edited 03/03/16 12:44 pm

    Huawei hasn't had an app draw for years. I don't see the problem. if you don't like it.. add a launcher. that's the beauty of Android

    "Android makers are inching perceptively closer to being more and more iPhone-like in material and design,"
    Come on man, that was universally an Android thing at least two years before it showed up on iphones. Iphones were still doing those horrible textures long after Google went flat.

      He clearly meant the physical design of phones, not the UI. Featureless black slab of aluminium and glass is clearly where it's at hardware fashion wise at the moment.

        "material Design" is what they call the UI style I though.

          It is. Except there's an "and" between the two words in this article.

    This won't happen!

    Android and WP both use the list of apps, and their users like the home screen customisation this brings. I bought a WP because of how the home screen looks like nothing else out there. (literally, as there are only about 12 WP users worldwide!)

    Personally I find ios to be boring, untidy, and old fashioned! It's barely changed in 8 years, I can't imagine innovators like google going down this route.

    Far more likely if it is true is that google have a way to bring up apps without touching this button, maybe if you use your thumb on the screen it'll bring up the app list, or an easy gesture.

    Either way, android has more users than any other os, they don't need to copy anyone, and to get rid of core functionality would be a mistake I can't see google making.

    Last edited 03/03/16 1:47 pm

      I just moved back to iOS because I couldn't deal with how few Windows Phone apps existed, and how awful android is by default (I want my phone to work nicely when I buy it, not after customising that could make it better/worse through trial and error). The thing that frustrates me most about iOS though is that all the apps are just there. I organise the first screen, everything else is a shitfight. I also don't really value folders, the only things I put in folders are all the default Apple apps I can't delete but don't use, so I never have to look at them again.

        What is awful about Android by default? It's a serious question. The Nexus 6P is fantastic straight out of the box, in both software and hardware.

          1. It wont speak over Bluetooth audio stack. huge issue for me. Both Windows Phone and iPhone allow HPF prompts, I tried pretty much every app in the Play Store that apparently bypassed this, they were all awful, none of them worked reliably or well. A few of the manufacturers used to make apps to get around this, they've just given up with them on the latest version.
          2. Inconsistency of UI. Holy crap, why does everything look different? OEM apps, Google apps, third party apps, it's a total shitstorm.
          3. Upgrading. Seriously, Updated my brand new phone from lollipop to marshmellow a couple of weeks after buying it, then booting my phone took ages from that point on because it would always be "getting apps ready". Mind you, it just seems I was lucky to GET an update.
          4. Rooting / custom roms. Why would I want this? Breaks NFC payment, many many apps block access these days if they detect a root/ custom rom. Plus I honestly can't understand why I'd want to make my phone potentially unreliable on top of everything else wrong with it.
          5. Camera apps. Sure OEM's MIGHT make a decent app, or you can pay for some bloated do everything app, but Google can't even make a usable app, one of the worst camera apps I've used. I took to using snapchat to take pictures and saving them because they were better quality than googles apps.
          6. Emoji's. Seriously wtf. I can't tell the difference between the vast majority of the android emoji's, who thought having them look like a shitty face painted on a thumb was a good idea? But android is customisable right? Nope. You need to root it to change emoji's. Thanks google.

          Really it just came down to the fact it's not nice to use, it's a compromise in usability, and the Bluetooth thing was a massive issue for me after a windows phone that would just talk over Bluetooth and after ditching the android now having an ios that speaks over Bluetooth when asked. Android reminds me of being a teenager and skinning the crap out of windows and stupid crap like that. It's a phone, a communications device first and foremost, and should just work in the nicest way possible without spending days screwing around with it.

            Wanted to echo that sentiment. I've tried mnay times to get away from iOS and each time I come back because I just don't like Android for much the same reasons. The worst is having to root and install a custom OS to get rid of absurd bloat and recover battery life, as I had to do with the few Galaxy Notes I tried over the years. Android has quite a bit more flexibility and utility over iOS but I don't have the patience to dick around with my phone to fix multiple issues that pop up. I have a custom built desktop for that!

      WP8 phone user here. I am getting rid of my Lumia 920 for an S7. Can't wait!
      The lack of updates and app diversity is appalling. The Denim software pretty much killed it.

        Yeah I'd love an S7 but can't really justify the cost - over $1100!!

        I get bored of phones every 2 years so would rather get either an S5 cheap on contract or a moto g outright!

          I've had my Lumia since launch. It's had one screen replacement, headphone jack and new back cover. The secondary microphone for voice commands no longer works, the web browser is rubbish and clunky ( i have tried a few, the response time is just too slow) so all in all I can justify the latest and greatest for myself this time! =) Pretty excited actually.

            Haha let me know how great it is when you get it, might sway me to go for it too!!

              I'll throw a reminder in my calendar for next week Friday. If I can get my hands on one.

    I currently use Total Launcher and rather than an App Drawer as such, I have one "page" on my homescreen which contains all my apps, sorted by some dark magic which puts the apps I want to use at the top. While I can filter by tag or a letter in two taps.
    I've also used launchers like Aviate which do similar (i.e. putting all apps on a page). With Google putting Now on its own page, it's not that much of a stretch to imagine them doing the same for "all apps" and honestly, I think I prefer it that way. And it maintains its differentiation from iOS.

      I originally read that as you used "Telstra" launcher... I thought "This guys got issues"!

    Once I set my phone up I rarely go to the app draw so losing it isn't a big deal. However I'm worried that all my apps will be stacked on my home screen. Hopeful if the app draw goes they find a way to organise or remove app icons. If it doesn't work go a launcher.

      You realise that is kinda the point of the appdraw? So the stuff you don't care about doesn't clutter up the stuff you do?

      You realise that is kinda the point of the appdraw? So the stuff you don't care about doesn't clutter up the stuff you do?

    Android fans don’t like conceding that iOS does anything better.
    That's because it doesn't. I used an iPhone as my work phone for three months - they were the worst three months of my life. I prefer Windows phone os to iOS.

    "....such an idea would ultimately concede that iOS was right from the very beginning, and I don’t know if you know this, but Android fans don’t like conceding that iOS does anything better...."

    Every iPhone user I know has a "junk folder" where they hide all the icons they don't use.

    That sounds like the closest approximation of Android's app drawer that's possible on iOS, which is a total vindication of Google's approach.

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