Following the leak of several of the Pixel apps from the upcoming Pixel 4, some are now available to download.
Thanks to some enterprising work from 9to5Google, the APKs for the Pixel Launcher, along with the Pixel Themes and Pixel Wallpapers apps, are available for download. However, it should be noted that downloading APKs from external sources is risky, especially when it’s pre-release software like this.
With that warning out of the way, let’s dive into the apps. First up, the Pixel Launcher.
The leaked launcher from the Pixel 4 doesn’t appear to have any significant changes at first glance. It’s mostly under-the-hood updates to introduce compatibility with the new Pixel Themes app and the latest wallpapers.
However, one small change does stand out: the Pixel Launcher now includes a gesture for opening the notification panel. Like many third-party launchers, the Pixel Launcher now supports swiping almost anywhere on the home screen to open the notification shade.
Considering the Pixel 4 will ditch the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner for face unlock, this is a welcome change. Previously, users could swipe on the fingerprint scanner to open the notification shade.
You can grab the APK from 9to5 here if you want to try it out. It was extracted from a pre-release Pixel 4 and should work on any Pixel device. However, there is a bug that disables the home gesture for some users. You can still use the back gesture or the recents menu to get back to the home screen, but be aware that installing the APK may cause you some grief.
Pixel 4 live wallpapers
Pixel devices always launch with a slew of exciting and unique live wallpapers. Often, these include breathtaking views of places on earth or fun wallpapers that react to how you touch or use the device.
The APK is a port of ‘Pixel Wallpapers 19’ and includes nine new backgrounds from the Pixel 4. If you install the APK, you’ll find these backdrops in the ‘Come Alive’ and ‘Living Universe’ sections of the wallpaper app.
‘Doodle,’ ‘Compass’ and ‘Sights From the Sun’ wallpapers make an appearance in the APK and are highly customizable. There are also abstract ‘Garden’ wallpapers featuring rocks, cacti and leaves. Finally, the APK contains a few fantastic geography wallpapers.
You can test out the new wallpapers for yourself by downloading the APK file here. No bugs reported as of yet, but your mileage may vary.
Pixel Themes app
Over the course of the Android 10 beta, we saw evidence of an upcoming theming platform for Pixel devices. Many of the options are included on older Pixels with Android 10, but they’re buried in ‘Developer options’ in the Settings menu.
Theming tools include the ability to change the shape of icons, customize fonts and pick the ‘highlight’ colour for menus and status icons.
Diving into the underbelly of the Settings menu to adjust these things isn’t the best experience. Thankfully, the Pixel 4 will bring a new Pixel Themes app for customizing these features.
Those with older Pixel devices can get the Pixel Themes app as well, but you’ll need to install a couple of APKs and use some ADB commands to activate it.
To start, you’ll need the ‘Styles and Wallpapers’ app from 9to5. It’s an update to the Google Wallpapers app on your phone. Installing this APK adds a Material theme to the app and includes dark mode support. Additionally, you’ll need to install the Pixel Wallpapers app from above (here’s another link to it).
Next, you need to install the Pixel Themes APK from 9to5 as well. If you just install this and don’t install the other APKs, your device will crash every time you try to open the wallpaper picker.
After installing all the APKs, when you open the wallpaper picker, there should be a new ‘Style’ tab. That’s where you’ll find the Pixel Themes app. You’ll be able to look through the themes and see what you can customize, but you can’t apply any options without entering an ADB command:
adb shell pm grant com.google.android.apps.wallpaper android.permission.WRITE_SECURE_SETTINGS
Now you can create and set your own themes. It’s worth noting, however, that the app still isn’t perfect. Currently, setting the ‘default theme’ doesn’t work because it tries to use one of the new Pixel 4 wallpapers, which rely on Google’s servers. Selecting the ‘Keep Current Wallpaper’ option fixes the issue, though.
Again, installing these APKs come with risks. Whether security or simply risking bugs, it’s probably best that you install these on a device that isn’t your daily driver. Alternatively, if you’re not sure what you’re doing or if you’re not familiar with installing APKs and using ADB commands, it’s probably best to avoid these for now. After the Pixel 4 officially launches, these features will likely trickle down to older Pixels via software updates.