A huge reason that Android stands out as it’s own is how the home screen works. Unlike other mobile operating systems which have homescreens that are either composed entirely of widgets, or a lack thereof, Android stands out as the one where you can choose and truly make things your own. Want everything but the kitchen sink within reach? You’ve got it. Want absolutely nothing except a widget and a couple essential apps? That’s fine too. However things are starting to change with a growing trend on Android devices of removing one of their signature features, the app drawer. Some users could care less, others are mere seconds away from starting a riot. However, is it really all that big a deal? No, not really.
Ok, so let’s take a step back. Where did this all start? Short answer, Chinese OEMs. In order to look like, well to look like iOS, numerous Android OEMs from China made the decision to remove the app drawer from their software. When they made it to the US, many kept this change. Examples would include the Honor 5X.
However now things are taking an unexpected turn. A rumor came out early this month claiming that Google themselves would be removing the app drawer from Android in the upcoming “N” version. Shortly after that it was confirmed that LG would be shipping the upcoming LG G5 without an app drawer, and after that, the Galaxy S7 was found to have an option to remove the app drawer. Other devices such as the HTC One X9 and Sony X series also includes options to remove the app drawer.
So what happens when you remove the app drawer? It basically turns the Android home screen into that of iOS. All your apps are on the homescreen with the option to place them wherever you want and and also to use folders to organize them. Of course you can still place widgets as well.
Since this rumor hit the web, Android users everywhere have been up in arms regarding the topic. Some users are one step short of aiming pitchforks at anyone who is even considering the change, and others couldn’t care less. While I know many of you are absolutely opposed to this change, but personally, I don’t think it would be all that bad.
I personally used the Honor 5X, a device without an app drawer, as my daily driver for over three weeks. While there were many software elements on that phone I wanted to change, the home screen really wasn’t one of them. I wasn’t even tempted to install the Google Now Launcher or Nova, I stuck with the stock launcher. It was as simple as taking a few minutes to organize things. A couple folders and two extra pages later, and I was completely happy with my setup. I didn’t feel like I was less efficient or my home screen was more cluttered either.
So why is this change even being considered? Of course quite a lot of users are quick to assume it’s for no reason short of just trying to look and feel more like iOS. However there’s more to the story than that, you have to look past a fanboy’s point of view to see that.
LG has already stated that they made this change to keep things as simple as possible for their users. Here’s the thing, they’re right. App drawers may keep things simple for anyone who is a “power user” or even just a fan of Android in general, but for the average consumer, it makes things more difficult. I’ve taken the time to teach several people how to use Android tablets and smartphones, and the app drawer always confuses them. They get the point eventually, yes, but for the average person without many technical skills, adding another layer to the software makes things more difficult.
For many users of course, they rely on the app drawer. It’s crucial to their setup and they simply couldn’t live without it. For other users, they truly couldn’t care less and might actually benefit from that change.
Personally, I doubt Google will be killing off this feature. I have no doubt at all that OEMs will continue to at least offer the option to turn it off, but it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, however if it somehow does, it really won’t be that big a deal.