Google is A/B testing a new design or layout for its Pixel Launcher, which is pre installed on its Pixel and Pixel XL devices.
It is still in the testing stage and reports are limited, as it is not sure who are included in the process, as is normal with A/B testing. Those who own a Google Pixel or a Google Pixel XL and find that the home screen seems normal or usual can assume that their device is not a part of the testing procedure.
Fundamental Design Changes
Those who are part of the testing process might find some changes in their home screen, as the new layout brings in some fundamental changes. One of these obvious changes is the pill shaped button for the Pixel Launcher has now been changed. It has been replaced with a new design for the Pixel Launcher. The new design is similar to a previous Google Search tab design and it stretches across the major portion of the screen. This is not exactly the same as the Google Search bar, as the new design for the Pixel Launcher has round edges. It is similar to the design that was being tested in November 2-16. The Search tab is more elongated and probably because of this, the weather widget has been eliminated totally. These changes can be seen in the image below, sourced from Reddit.
No Functional Changes
The change in the design occurred during the roll back to Android 7.1.1 from the beta version of Android 7.1.2. There are no functional changes in the new layout, with just the change in the display of the Google Search bar, removing the weather widget.
No Weather Widget
The new design stretches the whole length of the Pixel screen and it is rounded and not rectangular. The A/B test has also got rid of the weather or date widget, which seemed to be rather useful. It was a feature that was unique to the Pixel devices, as compared to the Nexus devices that did not have the feature. However, some users might find it a relief that the widget has been removed, as they might prefer other weather applications.
Breath of Fresh Air
It therefore seems that Google will be breathing some fresh air on its Pixel devices, with the change in the default Pixel Launcher. The new rounded search bar minus the weather widget will work just like the usual search bar works on the Google Now Launcher. This could prove to be less confusing to users who are new to Android, though the change may not be really necessary.
How it happened
According to mrjiggywiggy, on Reddit, he had downgraded from the beta version Android 7.1.2 and gone back to the Android version of 7.1.1, and the change occurred. Some other users of the Pixel device have also reported the change and state that they had cleared the app data from the Launcher for triggering the change in the Search bar.