ZTE embraces Google Now Launcher for all new Android smartphones

Smartphone manufacturer ZTE has announced plans for a new breed of Blade Vec 4G that uses the Google Now Launcher for its home screen. The Blade Vec 4G was announced in late June in Europe and launches in Hong Kong later this week. When it does, it will be running Google’s own Google Now Launcher as opposed to ZTE’s usual customized UI.

Based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 400 SoC, the Blade Vec 4G doesn’t have the most impressive spec sheet but it’s not too shabby, either. The phone packs 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, a 1.2 GHz CPU, a 5-inch 720p display and a 13-megapixel camera. There’s also a 2-megapixel camera up front as well as Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi, and GPS.

ZTE says it has worked closely with Google to load the Google Now Launcher onto a number of other smartphones, one of which will also be “unveiled” alongside the Google Now version of the Blade Vec 4G. What’s not clear is if the European or international versions of these devices will eventually get the Google Now Launcher.

Going forward, ZTE plans to pre-load the Google Now Launcher on all of its Android 4.4 smartphones, so while it sounds like the company is definitely trying to transition to GNL for all of its future phones, the announcement made it sound like only the Hong Kong version of the Blade Vec 4G will utilize it.

Though Google affords OEMs a lot of freedom when it comes to custom skins and UIs, the search giant’s own Nexus line, coupled with the rise in demand for Google Play Editions, has led a push for cleaner versions of Android with fewer customizations. Unfortunately for users, custom UIs are often the only way in which OEMs can differentiate their Android offerings from the competition, which means these UIs are often very different from each other. Right now, we’re seeing a lot of device manufacturers try to walk that fine line between minor enhancements and an Android experience that doesn’t feel too different from stock, like Motorola, HTC, and now ZTE.