Mobility

Android N could stand for No App Drawer: Why that's an epic mistake

Jack Wallen addresses a rumor about the upcoming Android "N," and explains why such a profound change to the platform would be bad news for users.

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Image: Jack Wallen

In a move that has me beyond befuddled, a rumor has started spreading that Android 7.0 (Nougat, Nutella, Nonpareil?) will lose a feature most every user relies on...the App Drawer. I hope this is just a rumor.

Why?

Because without the App Drawer, the Android home screen becomes nothing more than another version of iOS. Every app you install will wind up placing its launcher on the home screen, and it'll be impossible to enjoy stock Android without a tremendous amount of clutter.

So far we've seen two devices unveiled without App Drawers: the HTC One X9 and the LG G5. What's even more odd about this change is the devices won't ship with the option to enable to App Drawer. This doesn't bode well for those that enjoy the ability to customize Android.

Why would Google make such a profound change to the Android platform? In nearly every poll I've viewed, users resoundly want to keep the App Drawer. Yes, the App Drawer does add a level of complexity to the platform; however, it adds a much-needed layer of usability for the user. And although users can still organize their icons into folders on the home screen, the lack of an App Drawer means those that prefer a cleaner home screen will have to turn to a third-party launcher, such as Nova Launcher.

All Android users would have to totally shift gears on how they use their devices. Considering the App Drawer is one of Android's oldest features, users will find themselves having to retrain years of habit. This is not how evolution works. The idea is always to evolve upwards.

Removing the App Drawer would be a devolution that would frustrate and confuse consumers. And if Google is doing this just to pull out something different for Android "N," I say don't bother. Sometimes it's okay to offer incremental improvements. Marshmallow (Android 6.0) is already a stellar release, so making a change just for the sake of change would be an epic mistake.

Unfortunately, that is the culture that surrounds mobility. Consumers expect every new major release to be just that...major. That culture doesn't always serve the various platforms well. Developers and manufacturers wind up removing features that consumers actually use and adding features consumers will never touch. Examples include:

  • Lock screen widgets
  • Camera live effects
  • External storage permissions

The App Drawer would never be on that list, because it's an incredibly useful feature that most users consider an integral part of the platform.

Google knows what it's doing (generally speaking), and maybe the company has amazing new feature that requires the loss of the App Drawer. But no matter how hard I try, I cannot come up with an idea that would require the loss of the App Drawer. Regardless, if Google does lose the App Drawer, I imagine Nova Launcher and other home screen launchers will see a massive uptick in installations.

What do you think?

Should Google retain the Android App Drawer? Let us know in the comments.

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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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