Nokia (the part of the Finnish company not included in Microsoft acquisition) just launched an Android launcher – Z Launcher. While Nokia is not allowed to introduce their own new smartphones until 2016, I am surprised that they are acting so fast to get prepared for the future.
The idea of the Z Launcher is to let users to access to the apps they need in one second and bring “Less tapping, More Apping”. The interface is simple enough. There is only one homepage. Time, date and calender events are shown on the top. Then in the middle of the screen we have a list of apps and contacts ( the part I covered with white boxes) which are arrange by the launcher according to the user’s usage pattern. If you use Facebook more often, it will go on top of the list.
There are also 4 icons at the bottom which will follow what you have on the pinned list of icons in your previous launcher and you cannot change it here in Z launcher yet. Nokia mentioned that they are working on it. When you want to find some apps you don’t usually use and forget what’s its exact name, Nokia got you covered too. You can tap the button on the bottom to access to all apps in your phone. The setting page can be accessed from there as well.
With this launcher is that you can draw letters on the middle of the screen to search for the apps or contact you need. Sounds ordinary? The special part of this launcher that it does not simply show the apps only. The suggestion shown will be changed according to the time. So for day time you might have more productivity apps on the list while at night you will have easy access to games and entertainment.
Nokia stated that they have only tested Z Launcher on Samsung Galaxy SIII, S4, S5 and Nexus 5 however I have no problem at all when using it on Xiaomi Mi3. Starting up the Z Launcher will bring you to a welcome page to introduce itself. Click start and you will be brought to a short tutorial. The tutorial is a good guide to the launcher but some features are not introduced.
For example you can actually write a few letters or a word instead of one letter only. You can also draw letters in both upper case and lower case too. Cursive writing is supported as well. However, the software occasionally has problem recognising multiple letters inserted at one time. Drawing “gam” sometimes will result in “garn”. But as mentioned, the launcher is in pre-beta phase and I can totally understand the limitation. This is probably why they did not include these features in the tutorial.
Getting the Installer
The way to get the launcher officially is simple but with a catch. Go to the Z Launcher website with your phone and sign in with your Google account. Then you can download the .apk file to install the launcher. You might need to find out the security setting in your phone for the installation by allowing installation of apps from sources other than Play Store. Then you can choose to set Z Launcher as default launcher and you are good to go.
The catch here is the copy of software is still in pre-beta phase and it might be unstable and buggy. The software is also available to limited number of users only. So you might want to download it as soon as possible if you want to get it in the official way. But since we are using Android, you know you can download the .apk installer from the Internet if you are too late.
[Update] Currently the quota is full. Even you download the apk file from the Internet, you cannot activate the launcher.
The software is still in early development stage and I expect it will be better in the future. I find the idea very appealing and I like the simplicity. I would suggest you to try it yourself as it cost nothing to you. However, the fact that widgets are not supported and I cannot pin my favourite apps at the bottom (at least at this moment) makes switching to this very difficult. Apparently the package is not complete enough to be a truly usable launcher but I do see potential in it. I would like my app list to be exactly like this in the future while the normal home screen is still there so that I can customise to suite my need.
Anyway it’s still great to hear from Nokia and I do hope they will continue their work on this. Starting the software well will help them greatly when they have their own Android phone in the future. Considering the fact that Xiaomi started pushing out the MIUI launcher to other phones before they introduce their own first smartphone and the popularity of MIUI currently, this might be a good example for Nokia to follow.