Android

Nova Launcher Has Been Acquired by an Analytics Company. Is It Still Safe to Use?

Nova Launcher is a name that has become synonymous with customization in the Android realm. Although the options for third-party launchers were never scarce, nothing quite came as close to the sheer flexibility and number of features that Nova Launcher has offered.

In a blog post in mid-July, Nova Launcher announced its acquisition by Branch, a mobile links and analytics company. What does this mean for the future development of Nova? Will you be seeing significant changes in one of the most beloved Android launchers? We’ve rounded up everything you need to know about the acquisition and if you should worry at all.

Nova Launcher Gets Acquired by Branch

Kevin Barry, Nova Launcher’s creator, made quite an announcement that has most of its users worried. Branch has acquired both Nova Launcher and Sesame Search which is Nova’s search engine.

While Sesame’s search capabilities have been fairing well for Nova Launcher, Kevin expressed just how much easier things can get with the backing of a powerful enterprise such as Branch.

The acquisition brings Branch’s expertise to Nova’s search engine, possibly improving search results for apps, contacts, and shortcuts within apps. You can download the latest beta version which has the new changes integrated.

What Is Branch and What Does It Want With Nova?

Even though Branch is a popular name among app developers, most consumers might never have heard of the company. For those uninitiated, Branch is an analytics enterprise that specializes in deep linking and mobile measurement.

If you’ve ever clicked on a link that has taken you to a specific function inside an app, that’s what Branch specializes in. Several organizations directly depend on Branch’s resources which comprise billions of deep links and an understanding of user engagement.

Acquiring something as trivial as a launcher can help bring an astonishing amount of data to the analytics company. We’ve already been seeing improved local search results on Android since the past few iterations and Branch claims it can improve this further.

Branch wanted a reliable test bench to work on and the already well-established Nova Launcher just happened to be a great option. Nova Launcher’s huge userbase can enable Branch to test new and exciting features before they can be rolled out to the masses.

So essentially, Nova and its community will be acting as glorified beta testers and Branch will heavily rely on the feedback from these users.

Kevin has stated that he will avoid making substantial changes to Nova Launcher and instead will be testing new features out gradually. A/B testing is also an approach that Nova Launcher wishes to take where two different groups of users will be using different versions of the same app to see which adoption rate is more successful.

Should You Be Worried?

As expected, this acquisition stirred up quite the controversy among Nova’s community. Throughout the years, Nova Launcher has catered to the power users among us, bringing a feature-packed experience for free.

Users could pay a one-time fee to unlock even more features in Nova Launcher Prime. Thankfully, Nova has made a few things very transparent. It will continue to operate as it always has and there will be no subscription-based charges to haunt its users.

The creator has also highlighted in the announcement how his vision for Nova was and is to offer power user features to the masses. Features that are a result of this collaboration will be added as separate options that users can disable. You can disable Branch’s search integration and revoke its access to your contacts under Nova Settings > Search > Branch.

Obviously, a big analytical company taking over a service that is always running on your smartphone is a valid cause of concern. Launchers require a lot of permissions to function properly.

Many people in Nova’s subreddit have expressed their dissatisfaction with this acquisition. We have also been keeping tabs on the community’s reaction on Nova’s official Discord server and there’s a lot of understandable paranoia about users’ privacy going forward with Nova Launcher.

There Are Always Alternatives

While Nova Launcher is at the pinnacle of customization when it comes to Android launchers, there are countless other options that you can try. Only time can tell how this acquisition will affect Nova’s legacy going forward.

For those who absolutely can’t risk their privacy by putting all their faith in the hands of an analytical company, the Play Store is home to other launchers that are just as powerful as Nova.

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