The annoying thing about Google Now on the Nexus 5 home screen

Google Now KitKat Home Screen

One of the most noticeable changes to the Android 4.4 KitKat launcher -- one that we now know is exclusive to the Nexus 5 for the moment -- is the integration of Google Now into the home screen. Rather than existing as a standalone app, Google Now has a permanent spot in the Nexus 5's left-most home screen panel; even swiping up from the virtual buttons -- the long-standing shortcut to Now -- takes you to that panel.

In my initial hands-on impressions of the Nexus 5, I said the Now home screen integration wasn't as bothersome as I feared it might be. And it really isn't; while an option to hide the panel would certainly be nice, I can understand why Google wants it there and it generally isn't that big of a deal. But there is one annoying thing about its implementation.

With the way the Nexus 5 launcher is set up, the panel next to Google Now -- the left-most panel you're able to customize and control -- is automatically set to be your default home screen panel. That means anytime you hit the Home button, whether from an app or while on the home screen itself, you're taken to that panel.

Android 4.4. KitKat Home Screen Tool

That's a distinct change from the setup we've always had with stock Google Android, in which the center panel is the default home screen panel. To be fair, many casual users probably won't care. Heck, they might not even notice. But for anyone who uses more than two home screen panels, the lack of a centered starting position is counterintuitive -- and counterproductive.

Google could fix this pretty easily by giving the user an option to change the default home screen panel, as many OEM configurations and third-party launcher replacements do. As it stands now, though, while you can rearrange the order of your home screen panels on the Nexus 5, the left-most one next to Google Now will always be the default. Once you pass the two-panel mark, that's simply not logical.

A quibble? Absolutely. Something you could overcome with the aid of a custom Android launcher? You betcha (though it may take some time for the various third-party launchers to catch up and get updated with KitKat-level elements). 

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As KitKat ships by default on the Nexus 5, however, it's a glaring weakness in an otherwise excellent environment. Google gave the Android launcher a fresh look and new features but omitted one important option -- one I suspect a lot of users will find themselves wishing they had.


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